When people hear the word “pilgrimage,” many think of far-off destinations, such as Lourdes, Fatima, or Santiago de Compostela. Today, in the digital era, we have the opportunity to make a pilgrimage without ever leaving our hometown. In fact, the U.S. Bishops are asking Catholics to consider making a digital pilgrimage with the intention of the respect for and protection of all human life.
Christians have been making pilgrimages since the Apostolic Age, motivated not only by the desire to venerate holy relics and places, but also to make a prayer out of their journey.
Whether they are walking for a month across France and Spain to Santiago de Compostela or flying to Mexico to visit the apparition site of Our Lady of Guadalupe, pilgrims make sacrifices often resulting in aching feet and weary bones, but also in an increased love for the Lord and gratitude for all of His blessings.
As wonderful and spiritually enriching as these opportunities are, monetary, physical and family circumstances often keep us from embarking on such journeys. However, just because we can’t trek 30 miles per day, we can still undertake a pilgrimage—a prayerful and sacrificial journey for a special intention.
This January 22nd marks the anniversary of the infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion throughout pregnancy. Forty-two years later, over 56 million children’s lives have been ended, and their parents, grandparents, siblings and many others suffer in the aftermath.
Of course, the unborn are not the only ones whose lives we should petition God to protect. We should pray regularly for the hungry, those without shelter, persons with disabilities, and all who are vulnerable. Increasingly, as more states consider legalizing doctor-assisted suicide, we should also pray that all those nearing the end of their lives may receive care that respects the sanctity of their lives. The Church recognizes and joyfully proclaims that each person’s life has value—from conception to natural death.
It is with this intention for the respect and protection of human life in mind that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops invites all Catholics to make a 9 day digital pilgrimage. “9 Days for Life” will take place January 17-25 (the nine days surrounding the anniversary of Roe v. Wade). To participate, visit www.9daysforlife.com and sign up for daily alerts (accessible via email, text message, or an app) or download and print the novena.
Together, people across the country can unite in prayer for the protection of life at all stages.
Along with daily prayer intentions, “9 Days for Life” also provides reflections, suggested acts of reparation, and additional resources. One important aspect of pilgrimages is that the participant grows spiritually and perhaps even develops some resolutions by the pilgrimage’s completion. “9 Days for Life” seeks to foster a deeper understanding of the value of life and encourages participants to continue to pray, support and advocate for life long after the pilgrimage’s end.