By Sarah Mac Donald - 17 August, 2014
People go on pilgrimage in the hope of finding something that this world, with all its pleasures and skills, cannot provide the Bishop of Raphoe has said.
In his homily in Knock on Saturday, Bishop Philip Boyce warned that wealth and technological advances do not still the hunger of the soul and its thirst for truth and love.
“The human heart was made for something greater, more lasting and beyond the material,” he told thousands of pilgrims who attended Mass in the basilica.
He warned that the heart is ever restless and searching, ever ‘on pilgrimage’ until it finds the God who makes sense of all things and who answers all the cravings of the human spirit.
“We go on pilgrimage in the hope of finding or preserving this gift of peace within us,” the Bishop stated.
Referring to the Gospel reading of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, Bishop Boyce said Christ is forever meeting women and men at the well, at the spring of living water welling up to eternal life.
“Pilgrims at Knock make this experience and return home on their journey of hope with renewed energy for their pilgrimage through life.”
Discussing the nature of pilgrimage, Bishop Boyce said a pilgrimage is a journey in hope. “Our vision and thoughts are directed to the goal of our journey.”
He added that it leads to the joy of forgiveness and conversion, and to the partial fulfilment of our hopes.
The reaching of our destination, whether it be Knock or Compostella, Lourdes or Fatima, Guadalupe or Lough Derg, “is only a foretaste and a sign of that better world, the homeland where all our longings will be satisfied at the end of life’s pilgrim journey.”
Noting that over the past fifty years the number of people who frequent local church services has “gone down noticeably” in the Western world, the Bishop said that at the same time the number of people who go on pilgrimage to shrines in secularised countries has steadily increased.
Millions go to Lourdes, to Fatima, to Jasna Góra in Czestochowa, to Compostella, to Guadalupe and to Knock every year, he said.
He suggested that the reason is that journeying to a holy place brings the pilgrim hope of a deeper encounter with the living God and new hope and energy for the onward journey.
“Shrines or approved places of apparitions are like stations or stopping places on the pilgrimage of life. What makes them holy is above all the prayer and penance, the reconciliation and conversion of a countless number of pilgrims. Knock is such a place of grace and holiness in Ireland,” the Raphoe bishop stated.
Recalling Pope Paul VI’s description of places of pilgrimage as “spiritual clinics”, Bishop Boyce suggested that just as a person who is ill goes to a hospital or clinic hoping for a cure, pilgrims journey to a shrine in the hope of being relieved of the consequences of sin and of deepening or regaining divine friendship and spiritual health.
“A Shrine like Knock is not simply a holy spot where some spiritual practices are done, whether it be the Stations of the Cross, or saying the Rosary as one walks around the Apparition Chapel, or going to Confession and attending Mass – although all of such things are important and form part of the pilgrimage, but it is above all a place where Christ is encountered, where God is met and where Our Lady shows us the power of her intercession,” he said.
As a place of encounter with the Lord of life, any shrine, and Knock for the Irish faithful in particular, “is a clear sign of the presence of God at work in the midst of his people, for there, through his word and the sacraments, he gives himself to us.”