Pilgrimage – A Sacred Journey

There is a definition of a pilgrim as “one making a pilgrimage to a place of religious significance or a shrine of particular devotion; one praying to get closer to God, maybe fulfilling a vow, perhaps in petition of some special favour, or in penance”.  Fairly broad ranging!  Pilgrimage is in effect a mini-model of our larger Christian journeys, the pilgrimage of life.

Shell – Symbol of Pilgrimage

One of the great symbols of pilgrimage is the shell that has become the emblem of the Camino pilgrimage to Compostela.  In going on pilgrimage the hope is that the shell of our hearts would be filled and over-flow abundantly with the human and sacred reward of that special journey.  In the words of Sr. Walter Raleigh:

“Give me my scallop shell of quiet

My staff of faith to walk upon,

My scrip of joy, immortal diet,

My bottle of salvation;

My gown of glory, hope’s true gauge,

And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage”.


Pilgrimage is about letting go. Letting go of the things that can enslave us in our normal routine.  The heart of the pilgrim journey is trusting in providence and leaving anxiety behind.

Pilgrimage – Tradition

The reality of Pilgrimage is deeply rooted in our religious background and history.  From Abraham in the ancient far-east to Jesus on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the constant desire of the Jews to go the great temple, to be close to the “Holy of Holies”.


Down through the millennia of Christianity the tradition of pilgrimage has expanded and blossomed.  Assisi, Avila, Bobbio, Canterbury, Chartres, Czectochowa, Ephesus, The Shrines of France, Fatima, Glastonbury, Greece, Iona, Turkey, Israel, Russia, Lindisfarne, Liseux, Lourdes, Manresa, Mexico, Medjugorge, Montserat, Norwich, Santiago de Compostela, Taizé, Tours, Vatican City, Walsingham, Westminster Abbey and other locations.

Native Pilgrimage

In Ireland places like Lough Derg, Clonmacnoise, Glendalough, various holy wells, pattern days developed on the back or our reputation of being the Island of Saints and scholars.  In our own county places associated with Saints Flannan, Senan, Conaire, Caimin, Imy, Brigid, Cronan, Martin of Tours; Killaloe, Kilrush, Scattey Island, Inis Cealtra, Canon Island, Ballynacally, just naming a few!

Goal of Pilgrimage

It is our belief that the pilgrim journey in travelling, in being with others, in that movement inward can lead us to becoming more integrated psychologically, socially, spiritually. Interestingly, Pilgrimage is not all about the end product, our final destiny.  On the way to Compostela you are constantly greeted by fellow travellers with the words “Beun Camino”, have a good way.  The journey, the way, the quality of travelling is just as important as the end product. From a Buddhist perspective, the pilgrim becomes more “Buddha-like”, from a Jewish or Islamic view, one becomes more “holy”; from a Christian perspective, one becomes more “Christ-like”.

The great Irish Missionary Columbanus reminds us again that pilgrimage is a model of the bigger journey of life and our search for our true final destiny.

“Let us concern ourselves with things divine, and as pilgrims ever sigh for and desire our homeland; for the end of the road is ever the object of the traveller’s hopes and desires, and thus, since we are travellers and pilgrims in the world, let us ever ponder on the end of the road, that is of our life, for the end of our roadway is our home”. 


On Sunday next, May 22nd pilgrims will journey from Killaloe diocese on the annual pilgrimage to Our Lady’s Shrine at Knock Knock.  It’s always a very special day.  With the new motor-way Knock in now very accessible from county Clare.  A bus is available for pilgrims from Ennis, details from Ennis parish office.  Two official Killaloe pilgrimages are organised for Lourdes as usual this year, one to Lough Derg in Donegal along with many local pilgrimages, Canon Island, Scattery, Holy Island, Drumellihy, St. Brigid’s Well along with more local occasions and pattern days.  You are warmly invited to join any or all of these special occasions.

The Welsh Poet – R.S.Thomas expressed the hope that the sacred journey would be “Something to bring back to show you have been there; a lock of God’s hair, stolen from him while he was asleep; a photograph of the garden of the spirit”.   As has been said, the point of travelling is not to arrive, but to return again to Thomas “to return home laden with pollen you shall work up into honey the mind feeds on”.

Beun camino on your pilgrim journey!

Fintan Monahan – Bishop of Killaloe

Clare Champion Article 20th of May 2022