The pious custom goes back centuries and has inspired numerous saints over the years.
Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary in the month of May is an ancient tradition, going back hundreds of years. Among the numerous devotions that developed over time was the custom of visiting a Marian shrine, church or grotto.
The pious tradition has inspired numerous saints over the centuries and deepened their affection for the Blessed Mother. For example, St Josemaria Escriva after one such pilgrimage was inspired by the event and made it a part of his growing spiritual movement.
Having decided to go to [the Shrine of Our Lady of Sonsoles], I wanted to celebrate Holy Mass before setting…During the Mass…I asked our Lord Jesus to increase in us…our love for Mary…When we were on the train, my thoughts kept spontaneously returning to the same idea: that our Lady is no doubt pleased with our affection, crystallized as it is in substantial Marian devotions…But in the month of May, something more was needed. Then I thought of the ‘May Pilgrimage’ as a custom that must be incorporated.
Consequently, Marian shrines around the world receive a flock of pilgrims each year during this month characterized by beautiful weather. In particular, the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal is one of the most popular during May, coinciding with the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 13, 1917.
Pope Francis will be making his own May Pilgrimage to Fatima this week, paying homage to Our Lady on the 100th anniversary of the apparitions.
In general, pilgrimages are excellent ways to revitalize our faith. They remind us of the journey we are all on towards Heaven and reconnect us to the true, good and beautiful. The Catechism highly regards this practice as a way to boost prayer life.
Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer. For pilgrims seeking living water, shrines are special places for living the forms of Christian prayer “in Church.” (CCC 2691)
Pilgrimages take us outside of our normal surroundings and are meant to be different and unfamiliar. Often we need to be jolted out of our every day humdrum to experience something “other” than ourselves.
May Pilgrimages don’t have to be extraordinary or involve traveling around the world. It could be as simple as traveling to the nearest church dedicated to Mary or finding a local shrine, however small, to visit. The goal is to make it a deliberate event by which you honor Mary in some way.
In a month when we celebrate Mother’s Day, shouldn’t we try something different and make an extra effort to honor our spiritual mother?