The season of Advent is filled with holiday travel, often under the darkness and chill of winter -- gathering things to prepare for Christmas, attending parties, and visiting loved ones. While I am quick to regret my own busyness, wishing to just be still in hopeful anticipation of the Christ Child, I am reminded that Mary and Joseph, too, were busy with travel in the weeks leading up to the birth of Jesus. They were traveling to Bethlehem to register for the census. Joseph, filled with duty and responsibility for his family, cared for Mary, late in her pregnancy, throughout the journey.
Their travel was a pilgrimage, for Mary and Joseph were going to a sacred place, the place where Christ was to be born. I imagine that their journey was not seamless -- struggling to find a room to stay in, Mary's discomfort of riding on a donkey while pregnant, and the uncertainty of the months to come after giving birth to the Savior. But they faced each unknown with complete trust in God and His plan.
What a more perfect time than Advent to undergo a pilgrimage of our own -- our own journey to a sacred place, our own experience of discomfort that forces us to rely on God in a greater way. While Advent itself can be seen as a spiritual pilgrimage, physically walking on a pilgrimage is a great way to enter into the experience that Mary and Joseph underwent while preparing for the birth of Christ.
The Archdiocese of Washington will host its annual Walk with Mary pilgrimage on Dec. 14, a great way to not only bear witness to our Catholic faith in the streets of the nation’s capital, but to gather as a community to honor the Blessed Mother. In a way, to walk with Mary is to take her by the hand and lighten her load as she prepares to give birth to her Son, our Savior.
The walk begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington, D.C. and continues for 2.5 miles to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where the faithful will gather for a Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. The event takes place in rain and shine. For more information, visit the Walk with Mary website at adw.org/walkwithmary.