Marian Pilgrimages in the Month of May
“If we look at the world, at the People of God, during this month of May, we will see devotion to our Lady taking the form of many old and new customs practiced with great love. It makes me very happy to see that this devotion is always alive, awakening in Christians a supernatural desire to act as ‘members of God’s household.'”
St. Josemaria Escriva
Christ is Passing By, no. 139
A Marian Pilgrimage in the Spirit of St. Josemaria Escriva
On May 2, 1935, St. Josemaria Escriva and two friends went on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Sonsoles in Avila, Spain (shown in the picture above). St. Josemaria desired to show an outward expression of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the month of May, which the Church traditionally dedicates to her.
Pilgrimage to shrines of our Lady, especially in May, are a centuries-old tradition. On this pilgrimage, however, St. Josemaria found the answer and saw how an intimate pilgrimage, with one or two friends, would be a singular way to honor Mary and to deepen one’s devotion to her. From that moment St. Josemaria spread the devotion of the Marian pilgrimage among his spiritual children in Opus Dei and all the faithful who desired to grow closer to her.
“Seeing how so many Christians express their affection for the Virgin Mary, surely you also feel more a part of the Church, closer to those brothers and sisters of yours… My own experience and yours are proof of the effects of sincere devotion to our Lady. I remember how in 1933 I went to visit a shrine in Spain, the shrine of our Lady of Sonsoles. It wasn’t a pilgrimage in the normal sense: nothing noisy or elaborate, just three of us. I respect and love public demonstrations of devotion, but I must admit I prefer to offer Mary the same affection, the same enthusiasm, in private visits or with very few people — a more intimate sort of thing.
During that visit to Sonsoles I was told the origin of the name of the shrine. The statue had been hidden during the wars between Christians and Moslems in Spain, and after a number of years it was found by shepherds. According to the story, when they saw it they exclaimed: “What beautiful eyes; they are suns!” [Spanish: son soles]” (Christ is Passing By, no. 139). Continue reading…
HOW TO MAKE A MARIAN PILGRIMAGE
Today we can follow the same details from St. Josemaria’s pilgrimage in 1935 as we make our own Marian pilgrimages during the month of May:
- Read the devotional guide May Pilgrimages in the Footsteps of St. Josemaria to help you prepare for the pilgrimage (click to download)
- Find a local shrine or church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Invite a couple of friends or family members to accompany you
- Keep a spirit of prayer and penance (going at least part of the way on foot, if possible, and offering up little inconveniences along the way)
- Pray one set of the Mysteries of the Rosary on the way there and another on the way back. Pray the Mysteries of the Rosary for that day of the week, plus the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the shrine itself, or before the picture or statue of Our Lady that is visited
Additionally, it is helpful to remember to:
- Bring a rosary
- Bring a booklet to help you pray and meditate on the Mysteries of the Rosary (See Praying the Rosary with St. Josemaria Escriva)
- Think about all the special intentions and prayers of thanksgiving that you want to bring to Mary
- Pray for the intentions of the Pope and the needs of the Church
- Pray for the intentions of those who are with you on the pilgrimage