XXVI Walking Pilgrimage
from Great Meadows, NJ to the American Czestochowa
in Doylestown, PA August 8-11 2013
Walking Pilgrimage to The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa from Brett Botula on Vimeo.
The pilgrims journey 60 miles across the course of 4 days and 3 nights. They start out from Great Meadows, NJ, and make their way down to Doylestown, PA, where the Shrine is located. During the 3 nights, the pilgrims camp out in state parks and on farmland.
While the number of pilgrims is sizable, the experience of walking is intimate. The pilgrims are staged in 3 groups, which as the days go on, become like walking villages in their friendly camaraderie. After the pilgrimage, I asked a Franciscan friar about his experiences along the way. He said, "I had some very anointed conversations." I like how he put that -- anointed conversations -- that very much captures what occurs on the road, through the forests, and at night in camp. You would misunderstand, however, if you imagined all the pilgrims were extraordinarily pious. That is not so; and not a few devout people are struggling with big questions, deep sorrows, and painful doubts. What makes the pilgrimage unique, in my experience, is that this questioning and "wrestling with angels", occurs while passing through gently shifting landscapes of fellowship: through talk, through silence, through song and prayer, through sacrament, through the reflections of the wise, through listening to the story of the person walking alongside you; and all this, within a spirit of goodwill, which continually pervades the journey.
The roots of the pilgrimage to venerate the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the "Black Madonna", reach back hundreds of years into the devotional life of the Polish people. The American Czestochowa, the current Shrine and monastery, were dedicated in 1966. In 1988, the very first walking pilgrimage group in the United States, departed from St. Peter & Paul Church in Great Meadows.
Seventeen Polish Catholics left Great Meadows in 1988. Fast forward, and 3,000 pilgrims, of every kind of background, including a Spanish speaking contingent, arrived at the Shrine, 25 years later, (in 2012, the year I shot this video), to celebrate mass and honor Our Lady of Czestochowa.
It makes you wonder what is the attraction, to what on the surface, you would assume is just some sort of "ethnic" festival? I don't have a simple answer for you. But I hope this video provides you with at least a hint, an inkling, of some small aspect, of what draws people from such diverse backgrounds, to make this sixty mile trek, to make a visit to Our Lady.
This year's pilgrimage dates are August 8-11, 2013
"All Creatures" performed by Sarah MacIntosh, from her album "Then Sings My Soul" © 2004 Horizon Music. http://sarahmacintosh.com
"Offertory" performed by Luke Spehar from his album "No Other Way" © 2011 Luke Spehar
© 2013 Franciscan Renewal Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved.
© 2013 Brett Botula. All videography rights reserved.