Pilgrimages with Children: A New and Redefined Chapter of Life

Baby's First Pilgrimage

I converted to Catholicism in 2016. The first time I heard about Catholic pilgrimages, my mind immediately flew to marvelous excursions abroad. In 2017, my husband and I made one of those dreams a reality and traveled to Fatima, Portugal and Lourdes, France. We prayed at some of the most beautiful churches, attended Mass in Portuguese and French, took in the local culture, and spent quiet time in prayer and Adoration. In 2018, we had our first child. I knew our days of 8-hour flights, time zone differences, and long walks through narrow, twisted, cobblestone streets would be put on hold, at least for the time being. But, I was determined to redefine my previously formed concept of “pilgrimage.”

A pilgrimage need not be extravagant or exotic. That is not the purpose. Pilgrimages aren’t vacations, rather they are journeys to holy places and meant to draw us toward God. Using that definition, I could become a pilgrim anywhere and bring my daughter along to share in the experience.

My Catholic Keepsake Baby Memory Book has a placeholder for "first pilgrimage" and I always try to stress that it doesn't have to be a fancy trip to Italy! The above photo that we placed in our daughter's book is so special to me because it represents one of the first pilgrimages I took with my daughter when she was about 9 months old. We were out of town and with the day to ourselves. Typically, that would mean hopping on Google to search for the coolest local attractions… zoos, parks, etc. Instead, I took a different approach – which churches in the area had Adoration? I found one about 45 minutes away and we decided to take a little journey… to a holy place… aka pilgrimage 😊 We went to Adoration and then walked around outside, finding a little Marian statue and taking photos together. It was wonderful. With more time left in our day, we then visited a nearby walking trail which was such a hidden gem and quickly became one of our favorite places to go as a family.

Was it different than visiting European cathedrals? Yes, and one day I hope we are blessed to do this as a family. But, that won’t stop us from going on little pilgrimages now! I’m amazed at the number of churches, cathedrals, and shrines within driving distance. We are looking forward to when the pandemic ends and we can start going on these little pilgrimages again. 😊

A version of this post first appeared as an Instagram post for @littlevoicesbigprayers.

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