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'Sacred Journeys' Documents Religious Pilgrimages

Bruce Feiler is pictured in Lourdes, France for the PBS series "Sacred Journeys," which begins airing tonight. (pbs.org)
Bruce Feiler is pictured in Lourdes, France for the PBS series "Sacred Journeys," which begins airing tonight. (pbs.org)

Bruce Feiler is well known for his book “Walking the Bible.” In his new PBS series “Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler,” the best-selling author accompanies Americans on pilgrimages to six of the world’s holiest sites.

The first episode airs tonight and focuses American troops wounded in war as they travel to the French city of Lourdes, where the waters are said to have healing power.

Feiler told Here & Now‘s Robin Young, “these are people who are physically healed, and yet they’re longing for something else.”

According to Feiler, fostering a sense of community was important for those on pilgrimages.

“What they wanted was permission to open up, to allow themselves to express what happened,” said Feiler. “There’s this community that develops on the road and that somehow gives people permission to have the emotional experience they are seeking.”

Other episodes in the series feature pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Mecca and the Japanese island of Shikoku. Feiler noted that pilgrimages are a way for people to discern their religious or spiritual beliefs.

“It’s a way for people to say ‘I’m not just going to accept, doubt, question. I’m going to get off my sofa and go myself and decide myself what I am going to believe,’” Feiler said.

The people who go on pilgrimages are often in periods of transition in their lives, he noted.

“In moments of transition, that’s when perhaps we open ourselves up to someone or something higher and guess what — that’s exactly the story that’s mimicked in all the scriptural stories,” he said.


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