What is a Pilgrimage?
The pilgrimage is a journey from home to a sacred place in order to find God. The physical movement accompanies a similar spiritual conversion: detachment from self in order to reach God.
The pilgrimage is the Christian life in miniature: one abandons home, routine, habits, and preoccupations in order to move towards God, either alone or with the help of others. In this movement, each step, even each stop is an approach towards the goal: the attainment of God by the gift of self in sacrifice.
The Church has always encouraged pilgrimages as tremendous opportunities for conversion. She has done so by multiplying shrines in all parts of the world and attaching many indulgences to pilgrimages made thereto.
Why the Pascua Florida Pilgrimage?
In the year of Our Lord 1513, Ponce de Leon discovered Florida and planted the Cross in its sands. Soon after the Spanish founded the oldest city of the United States: Saint Augustine.
On September 8, 1565, the first Mass ever celebrated on what is now U.S. soil was officiated by Fr. Francisco Lopez - on the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady. With Our Lord Jesus Christ, the missionaries brought His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and erected her first shrine in these lands, Our Lady of La Leche. Mothers from everywhere come to her in order to receive the gift of life and safe delivery, oftentimes bringing their newborn to her in thanksgiving at a later time.
Between 1549 and 1706 eighty-six Native Americans, priests and religious, men, women, and children were martyred for the Faith in this part of the country. In this lies one of the greatest reasons for the sacredness of the goal of this pilgrimage.