What’s a Pilgrimage?

A pilgrimage is a journey for spiritual reasons but with a material goal—a shrine, a church, a mountain. It comes from the Latin word for pilgrim, peregrinus, from “per-ager,” meaning “through the territory.” A pilgrim, therefore, is someone who leaves home to travel “through a territory” that is, by definition, “not-home,” and so has the wider meaning of alien, foreigner, stranger.

But peregrinus (stranger) is different from hostis (stranger), the root for the hospes of hospitality. Hostis is the stranger from the host’s point of view—the stranger who knocks at your door. Peregrinus is the stranger from the pilgrim’s point of view—the one who does the knocking. The pilgrim leaves home in order to experience being a stranger—speak a different language, eat different foods, encounter different expectations—to experience otherness as the other.

The walk into the medieval village of Conques is stupendous; see here for a French program on it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5wTBKI8Irk.

On hospitality, from God’s Hotel, published in Hospitalero: On Hospitality