What is a pilgrimage?

A Pilgrimage to a Very Special Shrine!

The former Byzantine Catholic Bishop George Kuzma of the Eparchy (diocese) of Van Nuys, directed the establishment of a Marian Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, with an Annual Pilgrimage to be held every summer. St. George Byzantine Catholic Church and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Shrine were designated as official Pilgrimage Sites for the Jubilee year.

Why a Pilgrimage?

The pilgrim and the journey known as a pilgrimage was, from earliest times, a unique expression of the Israelites worship of the One God. The annual religious feasts of the early Hebrews were often celebrated in the context of elaborate pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

In the Gospel of Luke, we see how even the Holy Family participated in a yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem in order to observe the feast of Passover as was prescribed by Jewish custom. “Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom” (Luke 2:41,42).

In much the same way, Christians during the first few centuries after Jesus’ death and resurrection journeyed from Europe and other parts of the globe to the sacred sites of the Holy Land. Eager to grow in their understanding of Jesus and identify with His early life, our Christian ancestors frequently set out from their homelands for the places made holy by Jesus when He walked the villages and towns along the Sea of Galilee.

Since that time and throughout the spread of Christianity, Christians have been on the move, traveling the world over to experience first-hand the ordinary places made extraordinary by the presence of God. They claim these sacred places as their own, no longer belonging solely to the secular order, but to all people whose faith has made them a part of the events which occurred in them.

imageWhat is a pilgrim?

Originating from the Latin peregrines, the term pilgrim evokes the one wandering in search of a deeper reality; one determined to discover a more profound truth about the events and circumstances which define human existence. The Christian pilgrim proclaims to the rest of humanity that what the world offers is not sufficient to satisfy all of human longing. It is necessary to look elsewhere, even if it takes us far from home. The very act of a pilgrimage reaffirms that indeed, we are in the world but not of it. “We have here no lasting city” (Heb. 13:14).

And so, the pilgrim and the journey of a pilgrimage points us in the right direction. Within the confines of time and space, a pilgrimage enables us to realize that in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we are capable of also finding God, if only we venture to seek Him out. “Everyone sojourning in the flesh is passing through this earth to a mysterious state of future bliss …. the Pilgrim’s progress is toward no earthly destination.” Thus, a pilgrimage may be defined as a journey made to some place with the purpose of venerating it, or in order to seek supernatural aid, or to discharge some religious obligation.

America’s newest shrine

A Shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help has been built in the Pacific Northwest. Pope John Paul tells us that all Christians are invited to become part of the great pilgrimage that Christ, the Church and mankind have made and must continue to make in history. The Church teaches us that through shrines, the means of salvation are provided more abundantly to the faithful. Shrines are thus like milestones that guide the journey of the children of God on earth. In a shrine, you and your family can reconnect with Our Lord by reliving the adventure of our Christian ancestors in seeking out the places in which the Lord has made Himself known. If you are planning a vacation to the Northwest, include a visit to the Shrine as a way of enriching your faith and appreciation for our Christian ancestry.

An icon of Our Lady of Tenderness  written by St. George parishioner  Dani Sauley

An icon of Our Lady of Tenderness written by St. George parishioner Dani Sauley

Why a shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary?

The Virgin Mary is the living shrine of the Word of God, the Ark of the New and Eternal Covenant. In fact, Saint Luke’s account of the Annunciation of the angel to Mary nicely incorporates the images of the tent of meeting with God in Sinai and of the Temple of Zion. Just as the cloud covered the people of God marching in the desert (cf. Nm 10:34; Dt 33:12; Ps 91:4) and just as the same cloud, as a sign of the divine mystery present in the midst of Israel, hovered over the Ark of the Covenant (cf. Ex 40:35), so now the shadow of the Most High envelops and penetrates the tabernacle of the new covenant that is the womb of Mary (cf. Lk 1:35).

Indeed, Luke the evangelist subtly links the words of the angel to the song that the prophet Zephaniah raises to the presence of God in Zion. To Mary, the angel says: Rejoice, you who are filled with Gods grace! The Lord is with you! Mary, do not be afraid… You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son… (Lk 1:28-31). To Zion, the prophet says: Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! … The Lord is king among you, Israel, you have nothing more to fear… Zion, have no fear… the Lord your God is there with you, the warrior-Saviour.” (Zeph 3:14-17). In the “womb” of the daughter of Zion, symbol of Jerusalem, site of the temple, the presence of God is made manifest.

As St. Ambrose tells us: “Mary was the temple of God, not the God of the temple; hence only he who was at work in the temple is to be adored.” For this reason, “the Church, throughout her life, maintains with the Mother of God a link which embraces, in the saving mystery, the past, the present and the future, and venerates her as the spiritual mother of humanity and the advocate of grace,” as is shown by the presence of numerous Marian shrines all over the world, which constitute an authentic “missionary Magnificat”.

In the many Marian shrines, the Holy Father states, “not only individuals or local groups, but sometimes whole nations and societies, even whole continents, seek to meet the Mother of the Lord, the one who is blessed because she believed, is the first among believers and therefore became the Mother of Emmanuel.” This is the message of the Land of Palestine, the spiritual homeland of all Christians because it was the homeland of the Saviour of the world and of his Mother. This is the message of the many churches in Rome and throughout the world which have been raised up in the course of the centuries by the faith of Christians. This is the message of centers like Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima and the others situated in the various countries, and it is the message of this first shrine of its type in the Pacific Northwest.