pilgrimage vs. retreat

Pilgrimages go — move — from point a to point b. {Or they are without an articulated destination — peregrinatio, wandering.}
Retreats stay in one place for the retreat-time, though one might travel to get there and get home. Stabilitas, constancy.

There is a “site” for most pilgrimages: a destination to come close to and go away from. Modernly, it’s all for “come toward” and come-away is brief, yet the place is still important.
The “site” for retreats is the retreat-location. Which might or might not be inherently important.

Pilgrimages go through other places, intersect with everyday life. The morning is breakfast (together?) & make-ready for the trail; the evening is dinner and unwind from the trail (together?).
Retreats are meant to NOT be in everyday life.

Pilgrimages are very much not everyday life, though.

In pilgrimage, the core activity is walking from A to B. Also praying/conversing with God. Perhaps encountering other people with a heart of hospitality (though you are the object).
In retreat, there are core activities that belong to the retreat site: exercises, silence, encounters. There’s a program for participants to do.

Because pilgrimages are walking, they are body-time, embodied.
Retreats don’t predicate body engagement, unless it’s planned-for.

Both use serendipity: time as expansive. There’s no place you have to be; where you are is your proper place.

How Was This A Pilgrimage?
There wasn’t a destination-site. I didn’t make a “to.” Not true: the “to” I made — Know Where I’ll Be Next Fall For My Next Phase — I didn’t believe I’d arrive at. I made, I think, an honest effort to travel in that direction. It’s the nub of my fretting, however, so I’m unpersuaded how virtuous that was.

I did more walking than not. I chose walking-things for all but one day, and walked a backup on the unchosen day. Two of the days I walked A LOT. I was hot and sweaty, which kept me as anchored to my body as I tend to be.

I wanted to be transformed. I didn’t expect to be transformed, and I suspect on-call transformation. No winning.

On the days that were not hiking-days, I wasn’t any more body-grounded than usual… on a pilgrimage of walking, I would be in my body every day. I am not embodied unless I have intention.

cross-stitch project: an art-glass window at Frank Lloyd Wright's Oak Park house
cross-stitch project:
an art-glass window at
Frank Lloyd Wright’s
Oak Park house

I encountered people I don’t usually encounter — which in pandemic is SUPER-WOW. These people are folk I met through faith-things and usually talk faith-things with… one theology & doctrine (& study), one the life of the cloud of witnesses. Which feels artful in hindsight; I scheduled these times for the sheer pleasure of their company.

My silence was too short for me. I suspect a Usual Pilgrimage would not have any silence for me, however, unless I made a very specific intention and hung a sign around my neck. If I did Usual Pilgrimage with My Sweetie (who is used to/expects my weaving words throughout our hikes) I would need to make that part very formal.

We were to add indulgent-seeming things, and I added a movie: The Princess and the Frog.

rock, pectoral cross on wood table

Pilgrims wear badges: I wore a pectoral cross all five days.
Pilgrims often take a rock along-with and leave it (with the leaving-behind thing) at the end. Which I did — leave the rock at the end, as well as the leaving-behind-thing. At least part of it. 

I began my pilgrimage by walking a labyrinth at John Knox Ranch. I closed my pilgrimage by walking a labyrinth at Presbyterian Church of Lake Travis. That seemed a sound choice… the enactment of it didn’t feel as lovely as writing it did, which on reflection fits in with the rest of the experience.


I still can’t tell whether this would be called a pilgrimage. Or not-called a pilgrimage. But I don’t think it was a retreat. After all, I didn’t retreat from anything, but tried to hang right in, the whole time.

Perhaps the time was, ultimately, a repetition of my being ‘in but not of the world’ (1 John 2:15-17). That’s something that takes a lot of practice, so building my muscle memory is time very well spent.

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