Pilgrimage as a Lifestyle

blog lifestyle pilgrimage prayer Oct 25, 2023

Blog by Gem Fadling

About a month ago, I enjoyed a week in Italy with a group of 15 wonderful women. We were on a pilgrimage.


People have been going on pilgrimage for centuries. While it is a physical journey, it is also an inward exploration of the soul. Pilgrimage is a chance to connect with your inner life, your most deeply held beliefs, and your relationship with God in a focused and intentional way.


Again, I’m so grateful for the gift of my Italy pilgrimage. But I'd like to talk about how we might engage a spirit of pilgrimage in our every-day lives. I don't think it's a big stretch to say that we have a brief journey here on earth and that, in a way, we are all on a pilgrimage.


The American Heritage Dictionary defines pilgrimage as “a long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.” This definition is a wonderful theme for living a life. So let’s look at a process for taking part in this way. This process can be used if you have intentionally set aside a couple of weeks or months, but it can also be used as a way of engaging your everyday life.


Set an Intention

In this busy and distracted world, intentionality can easily fall by the wayside. But it’s important to give yourself some time in prayer to find an intention. Intention and desire go hand in hand. You might begin by asking, What do I want? or What am I hoping for? As you linger and ponder those questions, an intention may arise.


For example, when pondering your desires and hopes, you might realize you really miss engaging beauty. So an intention might be: As I enter this journey, I will allow my eyes to see and my heart to take in the beauty around me.


Life can be busy, and we sometimes move at a pace that doesn’t allow for taking in the beauty around us. Pilgrimage is a time of slowing, usually to walking speed. Engaging beauty at this slower pace is a welcome invitation.


Engage Self-Reflection

At face value, the term self-reflection can sound selfish or self-centered. But one could argue that self-reflection is a pathway to love. The greatest commandment itself says to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. “As ourselves” might be a big missing piece in how we engage this beautiful invitation. How will we love others if we do not know how to love ourselves?


I understand that most of us have mountains of past experiences that make this difficult. But I'm encouraging you to engage this part of your story. Do the work necessary to become unencumbered by past hurt. Open yourself more fully to the love of God as you are able. God's love for us helps us to love ourselves. And as this relationship continues to be refined, our love for others increases and can become purer.


Self-reflection is therefore important and necessary soul work. Pilgrimage is the perfect opportunity to engage in self-reflection because you've already made the choice to set aside time and place and focus. There will be hours to let your mind wander and allow the Spirit to bring up some inner dynamics. This can happen naturally when you're moving at a walking pace and when you have an open heart that's ready to receive.


Become Open, Aware, and Willing

In our book What Does Your Soul Love? I talk about “The Posture of Transformation: Open, Aware, Willing.” Being open, aware, and willing is a beautiful way to make your way, and it's especially effective when going on pilgrimage. Check in with yourself:


  • Are you open in body, mind, and soul for whatever invitations God might bring?
  • Do you choose to become more aware and to notice what is going on around and within you?
  • Are you willing to engage that which rises to the surface?


Open, aware, and willing is a wonderful posture to engage on pilgrimage and in life.


Deepen Your Faith

Pilgrimage can be a time that deepens your relationship with God. This almost goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, because this is a focused time of remembering God is with us and within us.


Time and space have been set aside for this very purpose. No one's making any promises about what will or will not occur or how many messages you will receive. It's not about that. It's just pure and simple devotion. It’s saying, “Here I am, Lord. I give you myself and I receive you as you offer yourself to me.”


And then we open our hands and let go. We do not control or manage what God does or does not do. There is such beauty, grace, and peace in opening ourselves and walking with a listening heart. Even this act, in and of itself, can grow our soul and our faith.


Cultivate Presence

Ah…presence. It’s an invitation that constantly gets beaten out of us by our driven culture. How many times have you heard me talk about how grace is found only in the moment? And yet, it’s quite a challenge to be present in body, mind, heart, and soul. Practicing presence is a central invitation because it bears fruit in our relationships with God, others and our work.


A pilgrimage gives you a chance to practice presence. At a walking pace, you're taking in what is happening. And as you set aside time for worship, prayer, journaling, and pondering, presence has a chance to flourish.


Pray the Prayer for Pilgrims

I hope you’ll accept this invitation to embrace pilgrimage as a way of life. I pray that something I’ve shared has lit a small fire somewhere inside you.


  • Engage life with intentionality.
  • Make time for self-reflection that leads to love.
  • Become more open, aware, and willing.
  • Deepen your faith by receiving what God is giving.
  • Cultivate presence in your life.


Awhile back, a friend sent me the following “Prayer for Pilgrims” by Murray Bodo:


I am not in control.

I am not in a hurry.

I walk in faith and hope.

I greet everyone with peace.

I bring back only what God gives me.


What a perfect stance when engaging in a pilgrimage--and an even greater posture for living a life.



  • Try on the Prayer for Pilgrims this week. Each morning, simply say it aloud and let it penetrate your heart and become your intention for the day.


I am not in control.

I am not in a hurry.

I walk in faith and hope.

I greet everyone with peace.

I bring back only what God gives me.