After I posted Monday I had a few inquiries about the pilgrimage itself and a lot of “Wait, what there are pilgrimages here in the states?? Why haven’t I heard of them?” So I figured I would do a couple of posts on my experiences as a pilgrim and the pilgrimage I’ve completed in particular.
The Pilgrimage I took part in is called the Pilgrimage for Restoration and it goes from Lake George to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, NY. (Fun Fact: Lake George is historically known as the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament).
It is a Catholic pilgrimage but it’s not exclusionary, anyone can make pilgrimage with the group if they want to. Just be advised, there is Catholic mass every day, Catholic prayers are said, you are in groups of Catholics basically the whole time. If you’re not exactly into Catholicism, it’s not really the way to avoid dealing with us Catholics haha.
Unlike other pilgrimage trails, like the Pilgrimage to Santiago De Compostela in Spain, it is only done in groups and it is only held once a year, usually around September 17th-20th. This is because the feast day for the North American Martyrs (to whom the Shrine is dedicated) has their feast day soon after on September 26th.
Pilgrims at the Pilgrimage for Restoration are generally sorted into brigades dedicated to a particular Saint. Some are all men’s brigades (St. Isaac Jogues, and St. Joseph) others are all women’s brigades, (Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Joan of Arc), and then you have the co-eds brigades one for young adults (The Sursum Corda Young Adults Brigade Dedicated to St. Philip Neri), one general co-ed for all ages (St. Michael’s) and a modified pilgrimage for families with small children (Holy Family Brigade). You can choose whichever brigade most suits you as long as you follow the rules (example: young adults brigade is for young adults for 18-to 35, other example: you are a dude, you cannot go in St. Joan of Arcs brigade…sorry) But no matter where you go you’ll definitely make friends, and the pilgrim spirit of charity and community will definitely make you feel welcome.
Pilgrims go to bed early and rise even earlier! Step off times are usually around 6:30 in the morning so that means to attend mass and get underway you’re waking up and breaking camp and eating breakfast from around 4:45 am to around and 6:15 not a lot of time to do a lot of stuff. You’ll see a lot of glazed expressions mindlessly shoveling porridge into their mouths…but don’t worry you look exactly the way they do. 🙂
Once we’re walking we keep a pace of around 108 paces per minute that’s a fairly steady walking pace even up hill. I recommend seeing how long you can maintain the pace before you decide to come on pilgrimage, everyone gets tired eventually but the slower we go the longer it takes to get to camp and especially on the last day making time is essential to get to the final mass at the Auriesville Shrine. For those that TRULY can’t walk any further they offer support vans for people to rest, and sometimes towards the end of the day they’ll shuttle those are entirely maxed out to camp a bit early.
At the end of each day we end with a song and some prayers before we all storm the showers (I’m not joking, showers are like gold on pilgrimage). You make camp and then mill about with your brigade, eat some pilgrim food or camping meals you’ve brought and probably take a few ibuprofen (I have a system two ibuprofen before bed to help me sleep and two in the morning to get me going).For achey feets they also have nurses and footcare specialists there to bandage up your feet and get you back out there and walking.
I’m not going to lie to ya. It’s grueling, a lot of walking, expect blisters, muscle pain, fatigue, sunburn and a lot of other maladies but there’s nothing more fullfilling than seeing a pilgrimage through to the end. There will be singing, prayers, laughter, commiseration and even a talent show!
That’s the basic day-to-day stuff about going on pilgrimage. I will probably do two more posts, one on spiritual preparation and one about packing for a short (three day) pilgrimage.
The website to learn even more about the Pilgrimage for Restoration and to register is here.
And as they say to all pilgrims. Come to Restore! The Rest Will Come!