Once the Carnival revellery dies down, the Christian penitential season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. This is followed by 40 days of fasting, in imitation of Jesus Christ's fasting in the wilderness before He began His public ministry. It is also the time to remember Christ’s sufferings and prepare for His Resurrection through prayer, abstinence and fasting.
In Goa, the beginning of Lent is marked by a 'Walking Pilgrimage' (Bhavarthachi Yatra), organised by the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. This annual penitential pilgrimage is held on the first Sunday of Lent, and is generally attended by over 20,000 devotees from across Goa, who are up on their feet from the wee hours of Sunday, covering the journey on foot.
However, due to the Covid pandemic, these numbers have decreased greatly due to restrictions in the number of people.
A special Way of the Cross is generally held in all the parishes in Goa in preparation for the pilgrimage. Goa Velha, Mandur, Verna, Cansaulim and Vasco are the five centres from where the faithful begin the walk, well before dawn. They begin the Walking Pilgrimage at 3 am and reach their destination (old Sancoale Church, Sancoale) by about 6.15 am, covering a distance of approx 10 km.
At the church, there is an Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a Eucharistic celebration. At the Cross Square in Sancoale, people can write and drop their petitions in a special 'oven'. At the end of the mass, the bishop blesses these, and they are raised to God along with the fragrance of incense.
The pilgrimage is organised at Sancoale because the son of the soil, St Joseph Vaz, during his spiritual journey in Sri Lanka, walked and shared the message of Christ, and also wrote a letter of bondage at the old church in Sancoale.
The purpose of the event is to understand the salvific value of suffering, to spread the joy of being a Christian, to gain God's grace in our difficulties, and is also an occasion for personal conversion.
SOME THOUGHTS FOR THIS YEAR
The Convenor of the Event, Fr Ligorinho D'Costa explains, “As Christians are about to enter the season of Lent, the annual 'Walking Pilgrimage,' once again, is the perfect opportunity to prepare for an enriching spiritual renewal. The experiences of the past few years have motivated the Archdiocese to continue this practice. Lent is a season of grace which invites us to work on our shortcomings. The annual Diocesan Lenten Walking Pilgrimage is being organised in this spirit. It is an opportunity to remind us that we walk as a community to prepare ourselves to experience the joy of Easter, here, on earth. The walking sacrifice could also be offered to pray for peace in the world, especially in Russia and Ukraine.”
He explains that due to the pandemic, the walking pilgrimage this year will be in the following format:
FAMILY LEVEL: At the Family level, we advise families to:
Recite the rosary of Our Lady, St Joseph, Divine Mercy and other pious prayers
Reflect on Bible passages related to Pilgrimage, for eg, Joumey of Abraham, Our Lady's visit to Elizabeth and the Passion narrative from the Gospel of St John
Read the life of the saints
Meditatively pray and reflect on the 14 Stations of the Cross
Some acts of service
A visit to the sick, the old and the lonely
Meditatively pray and reflect on the 14 Stations of the Cross with the neighbours, if the situation permits
Have a meal together with your family or family could share some service-oriented touching experiences among the members.
Fr Ligorinho adds, “Let's prepare ourselves with a good confession. As a ward, community, let us walk from our house to the parish with a spirit of penance and as we walk, let us recite the rosary and reflect on the life and suffering of Christ.”
This year, a few representatives from each parish will walk to the Old Sancoale Church.
For those who cannot participate physically, the event will be available by the Diocesan Centre for Social Communications Media, Goa, on the Diocesan Youtube Channel, CCRTV, GCTV etc.
WATCH THE WALKING PILGRIMAGE HERE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYj2tNu1co3Kk8Gj9S_yLog