If we make a pilgrimage, we join with other people and journey with them. And it is surely important that we not simply journey side by side, with each person concerned only about himself, but that we are on the way together and, by this fact, recognize the deeper truth about our lives: that we are, in fact, pilgrims in time, but can be so only if we journey together. We join other people and journey with them. But more than that: we want to see heaven, we seek something greater, for the human soul thirsts for God, for the living God. The places of pilgrimage have marked a kind of geography of faith in our country, that is, they make visible, almost tangible, how our forefathers encountered the living God, how HE did not withdraw after creation or after the time of Jesus Christ, but is always present and works in them so that they were able to experience HIM, follow in his footsteps, and see him in the works HE performed. Yes, HE is there, and HE is still there today. It is from this inner encounter with the Lord that there originated the places and images of pilgrimage in which we, so to speak, can participate in what they saw, in what their faith provided for them. And so, through the images that they left us, we can see the reality: we can see the Mother of the Lord, and in her, the mirror of the mercies of God, we can also, as it were, behold the living God in order to learn from HIM who we are and what we must be if humanity is to survive. There is in our land today very little evidence of a militant atheism that openly attacks belief in God as there was in years gone by. It is, so to speak, no longer worthwhile, because God seems to be silently disappearing from Europe.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (pp. 164–165). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.