Forming a Pilgrimage is both simple and rewarding.  Each time we visit a Church or Monastery we open up the opportunity to experience growth and the strengthening of our Orthodox Faith.  During visits to monasteris, it is not uncommon for relics of saints to be brought out for veneration or to have the opportunity to meet fellow pilgrims. These events open doors to us, which in turn enliven and enrich our lives. Orthodox Christian communities in the Unites States are wonderfully diverse in their origins and customs and we owe it to ourselves to seize every opportunity or better yet, to create opportunities to visit these places so that we can explore our faith through these journeys.

Thse pilgrimages are a chance to leave the world behind if even for a few hours and to delve a little deeper into our faith.  In Eastern Europe, it is not uncommon to find teens and young adults making such journeys during the summer months, sometimes travelling for weeks, exploring, learning and living life!  Now it is our turn to experience the joys our brothers and sisters in CHrist have experienced. You can for a Pilgrimage to a Monastery or Church near you!

First things first!  Do a little information gathering . You can serach for monastiers near your town using the internet and sites like www.orthodoxyinamerica.org 

Once you have selected a site, it is time to discuss your plans with your parish priest and seek his guidance.  Here is a brief planning guide to help make your first pilgrimage a success:

  1. Research potential sites, look for web-sites or make a visit yourself.
  2. Seek your Pastor's guidance and ask him to bless your endeavor.
  3. Contact the Monastery or Church you are planning to visit, set a date and a time for your visit, and plan to attend a service during your visit.
  4. Promote your event.  A small group of 10 to 20 seems to work best and is manageable for most monasteries.
  5. Keep everyone informed.  Modest dress  is mandatory when visiting a monastic community.  Women are to wear dressses or skirts of a length that covers at least to the knee, pants are generally not permitted and arms and heads should be covered.  Men are to wear long pants and their arms should be covered as well.  Members of the clergy should wear a Cassock and Riasa. If the community your are visiting has other requirements, be sure to inform your pilgrims.   Finally, make contact with everyone planning on make the pilgrimage the week before the event.
  6. Cell phones should be left behind, or at least in the car (remember, you are taking a breadk from your daily routine!)
  7. On the day of the pilgrimage, deaprt early so that you arrive on time.
  8. Remember to offer a monetary gift to those you are visiting and above all relax, pray and enjoy the day.
  9. When you return to your Church, don't keep your experience a secret, share your journey and encourage others to come along on your next Pilgrimage.
  10. Throughout the United States, there are monastic communities both large and small, historically significant churches and Orthodox sites all open and welcoming to pilgrims.  Now is the time to begin planning your own Pilgrimage. 
  11. Use the Witness Stand Blog to seek assistance in planning your pilgrimage and/or to promote your event.  Simply respond post a comment  to this article with your question or the information you would like to make available.  

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