Another season of recollection and penance is Lent. Beginning with Ash Wednesday - anytime between February 4 and March 10 - it is a six-week period characterized by increases in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
One common devotion during Lent is the praying of the Stations of the Cross. This devotion grew out of a desire to walk the road to Calvary with our Lord by those who were unable to physically travel to the Holy Land themselves. Learn more about this history here.
If you are able to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during Lent, it is an opportunity to walk the same road as our Lord on His way to Calvary, pray alongside Him at the Rock of Agony, and celebrate the Eucharist at the site of the Last Supper. The events of Christ’s Passion will never be the same after following in His footsteps and seeing the event of Scripture with your own eyes.
Another relevant pilgrimage site to visit during Lent is the enclave of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska in Poland. Nestled between Krakow and Wadowice, and a favorite pilgrimage destination for Pope John Paul II, this unique location became a site of pilgrimage in the 17th century, when the Palatine of Krakow built a replica of the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. It was designed to be a place where those who couldn’t travel all the way to the Holy Land could visit to see what the sites there actually looked like. This complex has grown over the years to encompass replicas of other sites in the Holy Land, including the Holy Sepulchre, Herod’s Palace, and the House of Pilate. Today 43 chapels and shrines honoring the Way of the Cross, the Mysteries of the Rosary, and the 7 Sorrows of Mary, amongst others, are scattered throughout the area.
Of course, any pilgrimage is an opportunity for reflection and sacrifice, as the Lord calls us to follow him more deeply each and every day. Throughout our Lenten journey, we can pilgrimage near or far and offer up any of the inconveniences that come our way for our own sanctification and that of others. Even a pilgrimage as close as our parish church to pray and reflect upon the Stations of the Cross is a gift to us during this contemplative season.
As Pope Pius XII wrote in his encyclical, Mediator Dei (On the Sacred Liturgy):
- During the days of Septuagesima and Lent, our Holy Mother the Church over and over again strives to make each of us seriously consider our misery, so that we may be urged to a practical emendation of our lives, detest our sins heartily and expiate them by prayer and penance. For constant prayer and penance done for past sins obtain for us divine help, without which every work of ours is useless and unavailing.