Humankind is on a continuous journey toward communion with God – a pilgrimage that will never be complete until we reach the end of our earthly lives. Within the great pilgrimage of life itself, there are numerous smaller opportunities and reasons to go on physical pilgrimage to holy sites throughout the world. While many pilgrimages are made in supplication, there are also many made in thanksgiving for prayers already answered. Popular sites for pilgrimages of thanksgiving include the Shrine of St. Gerard in Italy, and the Marian apparition site of Lourdes, France. While these journeys require much planning and forethought, there is one pilgrimage that each of us can make this Thanksgiving day.
Shrine of St. Gerard Majella, in Materdomini, Italy
St. Gerard is the patron saint of expectant mothers, a patronage that began after a laboring woman who seemed close to death asked that St. Gerard’s handkerchief be brought to her and placed on her stomach. She had met Gerard as a young girl and had kept his handkerchief with her after he accidentally left it behind at her family’s home. After it was placed upon her stomach, her pain ended and her child was born healthy and with no further complications.
St. Gerard’s shrine in Materdomini is approximately four hours from Rome and easily accessible via bus or train. Some pilgrims go to ask for intercession for a healthy pregnancy, but many go to give thanks for prayers answered. In fact,there are thousands of ribbons and pictures throughout the shrine – sent in or brought by pilgrims from around the world to symbolize the answered prayers of healthy children.
Last May, a Tekton pilgrimage group went to Materdomini and one pilgrim in particular was moved by the experience. His father was named after St. Gerard, due to the answered prayers of his grandmother. The man went to the shrine to offer thanks for the life of his father, and for his own life – which never would have been, without that answered prayer. Upon returning home, the Tekton pilgrim shared that he felt blessed by the opportunity to offer his own prayers of thanksgiving at this final earthly resting place of St. Gerard.
Another destination frequented by Tekton pilgrims offering thanksgiving is the grotto of Mary’s apparitions at Lourdes. Hundreds of candles are lit daily asking for Mary’s intercession and protection, but many are also offered in gratitude for her intercession, loving guidance and motherly care. Thousands of pilgrims gather in the evenings to participate in a candlelight rosary procession – their multilingual prayers rising together in praise, supplication, and thanksgiving.
Your Local Parish Church
Though a spiritual journey to a far-off country offers unique blessings and graces, a pilgrimage does not have to span a great distance to bear great fruit. During every Mass, we have the opportunity to pray in thanksgiving for all the blessings we have received. We also pray for our fellow pilgrims who travel this journey with us.
In the words of Eucharistic Prayer III:
Lord, may this sacrifice, which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of the world. Strengthen in faith and love your pilgrim Church on earth: your servant, Pope N., our bishop N., and all the bishops, with the clergy and the entire people your Son has gained for You.
From the Greek word, “eukharistia,” which means thanksgiving, the Eucharist is our ultimate offering of thanks. This Thanksgiving Day, why not make a pilgrimage to your local parish to participate in the ultimate celebration of thanksgiving: sharing in the Eucharist at Mass with other pilgrims on this journey towards our heavenly home?