I'm out of the office this week, I tell people.
"On vacation?", they ask.
"No, I'll be on pilgrimage."
"Yes. I'm walking from Oshkosh to Holy Hill. It's a distance of 65 miles."
"What?????? You're walking???"
Yes, I am. The tradition of the pilgrimage is one of the oldest in our faith. Here is some explanation:
The Israelites were fond of pilgrimages. Their annual religious feasts often required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Jesus, Mary and Joseph obediently and religiously participated in the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Passover (Lk 2:41-42). In much the same way, Christians would journeyed from all corners of the glove to the sacred site of the Holy Land to grow in love for God’s Son. By the Middles Ages, the pilgrimages to holy places and shrines were a central part of popular religion. Setting out on a pilgrimage has become a metaphor for life itself. We are all on a journey towards Heaven and we have to continue faithfully on that journey. A pilgrimage always points us back to the miracle of Christ, who by his Incarnation hallowed time and space. To go on pilgrimage is to enter deeply into this mystery and to experience Christ not only as Lord, but also as our companion on the journey.
Holy Hill sits on the highest peak of the Kettle Moraine (which is a chain of hills and pot-shaped valleys that begins in the Whitewater area and extends northeast to Door County). Early Irish and German settlers revered the hill. There is even a legend that a French hermit used to live there. The settlers erected a white oak cross at its peak. This was later replaced with a small wooden shrine. Today the shrine is a minor basilica and visited annually by half a million people. It is under the care of the Discalced Carmelite Friars, a religious order noted for its prayer and simplicity. You can find more about this beautiful shrine by visiting www.holyhill.com
On Tuesday, May 26th., twenty people will set out to walk to Holy Hill. We have broken the journey into five days of walking. You can see our route on the Google maps. We are carrying with us as little as possible, just sleeping bags and a change of clothes. In true pilgrim spirit we depend on the hospitality of others for lodging. We will be sleeping in church basements or rec halls along the way. God willing, we will arrive at Holy Hill on Saturday, May 30th. We have a Mass scheduled for 3:00pm in the Shrine Chapel. Please pray for our pilgrimage, and especially for good weather!