Walking the Pilgrim’s Path
A pilgrim…travels through the landscape, leaving behind all that is familiar on a journey to discover new territory, both physical and spiritual.
An Invitation to Explore the Spiritual Practice of Pilgrimage
Kathy Spaar, Former Pilgrimage Coordinator
Winding its way through the Olmsted Woods is a stone path named the Pilgrim’s Way. Landscape architect Frederick Olmsted said he designed the walk through the woods so that those who walked the path could feel the leaves of the trees brush off the dust of the city, allowing them to enter the Cathedral renewed. Olmsted’s invitation to take this pilgrim path offers each of us a possibility for renewal and a way to connect to the ancient stream of pilgrims who have journeyed long distances to express their devotion at a holy shrine and to seek more fully the healing presence of God.
Walking is what pilgrims do; they pray with their feet. The word for pilgrim is derived from the Latin peregrinus: per meaning “through” and ager meaning “field” or “land.” A pilgrim, therefore, is someone who travels through the landscape, leaving behind all that is familiar on a journey to discover new territory, both physical and spiritual. Pilgrimage is at the heart of the major religious traditions and one of the rich treasures of the Christian experience. One of the early church leaders, Augustine of Hippo, touched on the essence of pilgrimage as a spiritual practice when he said, “It is solved by walking” (solvitur ambulando). The outer journey of walking leads the pilgrim inward to that deep place of stillness where one’s innermost self flows into divine life and all things are made new.
The Cathedral Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage invites both individuals and groups to explore a time of pilgrimage during their visit to the Cathedral. This experience includes a contemplative walk on the Pilgrim’s Way through Olmsted Woods, the Bishop’s Garden, and selected parts of the Cathedral.
Cathedral Crossroads is another Center program that offers an opportunity each month to walk a labyrinth in the quiet sanctuary of the Cathedral nave. A labyrinth is a sacred pattern that was built into the floors of many medieval cathedrals for pilgrims to walk upon their arrival. Christians who could not make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem would instead travel to these cathedrals to walk the labyrinth as a spiritual pilgrimage, symbolizing the journey to the Holy Land. The labyrinth in the floor of the nave at Chartres Cathedral in France is the most well known of the medieval designs and is the pattern used in the canvas replica here at the Cathedral.
For many Christians today, the desire to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is just as strong as it was in medieval times. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus through the land of Galilee and the city of Jerusalem can be a faith-shaping experience. The Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage also offers periodic pilgrimages to the Holy Land, led by former Cathedral Canon John L. Peterson.
In each of us there dwells a pilgrim soul waiting for the call to set out on its journey. The Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage invites you to explore how the Holy One is calling you.
Let walking become your prayer,
Let journeying be part of your song…
Then everywhere will be changed,
Every place will be transformed.
—David Adam, “The Invitation”