What typifies a Catholic pilgrimage?

The Commission for the St. Olav Celebrations, "Olsokkommisjonen" is planning to publish a leaflet and a book about Catholic pilegrimages to sacred sites in Norway and the Nordic countries. The proposed publications are the result of a Pilegrim-seminar hosted at Katarinahjemmet (in Oslo) 24. and 25. February in 2012.

[Translate to Engelsk:] Olsok på Stiklestad 2011. Foto Jan Erik Kofoed

[Translate to Engelsk:] Pilegrimages have become very popular in recent years, and they take many forms. In the search for traditions on which to lean it is easy to opt for superficial props. The pilegrim may for instance dress in medieval-looking costumes with a hat and staff which are imbued with special values. Some claim that the road is in itself the goal. The insight gained while walking is more important than the sacred site one is walking towards.

From a Catholic point-of-view this seems insufficient as a basis for a pilgrimage to a holy site, and the need has arisen to clarify what ought to characterize a Catholic pilgrimage.

Repentance and penance were often the motives for a pilegrimage, according to Chancellor of Trondheim Diocese Unn Madsø, one of the participants at the seminar. Pilegrims were often people who suffered from serious diseases and who embarked on a pilgrimage hoping it would help cure them. Or they may have recovered from disease and wished to express their gratitude to God. Veneration and love of a Saint was also a common reason for setting out.

It is hoped that the written material which is being prepared will serve as a support for both Catohlics and others who wish to embark on a pilegrimage, and who would like to shape the experience in accordance with old, Christian traditions. According to Unn Madsø, the first publication will be a small booklet/leaflet about St.Olav and Olsok pilgrimages. This will be followed by a more detailed book about pilegrimages in Norway and the Nordic Countries.