Monday, 13 December 2010

An outing to London.

Off to London last saturday to speak to the Confraternity of Pilgrims to
Rome. I really nice bunch of people. They all seemed to have walked
considerable distances, except the cyclists who had ridden even further.
The meeting was held in St James Church rooms at the side of the campus.
I think that I was disappointed with the church, which I had a little while
to look around before I was on. There was nothing about St James.
and nothing about modern day pilgrimage to Santiago.
I gave my talk about the Portsmouth Pilgrimage as part of a major
route to the tomb of St James. They were receptive, but it became
clear that they were rather daunted by the idea of a full blown Santiago
pilgrimage in the UK.
So much has been lost over these last 6oo years.
That is longer than the Moorish occupation of Spain! It is indeed a
long way to reach backwards. To the days before the reformers,
who had little understanding in these matters, who condemned
Pilgrimage as idolatry.
On the other hand here we were in a Church dedicated to
St James. Yes, it is a Wren church, but it takes it's name from the
locality and that comes from the ancient palace of St James,
the official royal address of our Sovereign Lady. All ambasadors
present their letters of authority to the court of St James. I
think we can go a little further. England is the only
place that had, and some say still has, a piece of St James, the
relic of his hand given to Reading Abbey by Henry I. This is
some believe the same hand that is in Marlow Roman Catholic
Church today. No other country has such presence of St James
as we have.
So looking back over the centuries, what must the devotion have
been like in those days. We have much to recover.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Is this the end of things!

If the following should seem a moan, I am sorry. It is meant to be an honest
reflection on the moment. As you will see it is a long time since I blogged.
In fact it is six weeks now. I expect that I have dropped off the radar
of many, which is a pity. Readers are hard to come by. I once talked to
a fellow blogger about what agonies I went though about getting a
readership together. She was much more successful than me and
had, by my standards a vast following. As I described my feelings,
the way I search to see who has visited my pages, she nodded her
head, she did the same thing. What comfort, I am not alone.
So where have I been all these weeks! The answer is,
nowhere. I have been holed up in Northampton. I have purchased a new
computer. I am deeply in love with it as it is an AppleMac. Clean, well
designed, fast and full of new toys. Getting it sorted has been a trial
and a joy. It thinks the way I do, unlike anything that
Mr Gates has had his hands on. But that is only the excuse. The
truth is that I have been out of sorts with planet pilgrim in all
its many forms!  You are wondering why this should be.
For that answer to have to go back to a few days before I went off
on the last pilgrimage. To the beginning of October.
It had been a warm week, summer was having its last flourish.
Then on the Saturday it rained. Warm gentle rain that brought a
welcome freshness to the day. So Liz and I went to Tesco.
On my feet I had a pair of my beloved crocks. They were
a little old and so had a rather worn underside. Walking into
Tesco over the zebra crossing my feet went from under me and
I went down on my knees. I landed in the prayer position. And
it hurt, especially in my left knee. I went on with the days'
business. The pain seemed to quickly go. And a few days
later I went on the pilgrimage from Porto. During that time my knees
began to tell me the damage that I had done. I didn't believe them
and carried on as best I could. Now I have found out that I
have torn the ligaments on the inside of the knee. I am also told
that it will take two months minimum and up to 12 months to heal.
I may also need a graft to bring about true recovery. So I hobble along,
cruising from furniture to doorpost like a child learning to walk. All
my plans for the next Camino in tatters, wondering if and when I will
walk with ease again.
The walk from Porto was a wonder, if rather painful at time. I had
some thoughts about Jacob. He was the guy who wrestled
with God all night until the dawn when God touched his hip and
made him lame. Ever after that he walked with a limp, to mark him out!
As the days unfolded I found my thoughts turning back to that story.
Is this my future? Then it came to me a few days ago.
Pilgrimage is meant to mark you. You should never be the same
again. I have wrestled with the Camino for six years now and I now
carry the scars in my body of those fights.
But does it have to bring the walking to an end?

Monday, 1 November 2010

We're back and not a little changed!

I am back from the Camino Portugues and from a short holiday in South
West England. Did you miss me. A month has gone by, where has it gone?
 I see that this blogger is delivering another strange format once more.
 How do you guys do yours and produce such a good
shape? It always gives me trouble and I have to spend hours sorting
 in out. Anyway enough of the moans. The pilgrimage was good. Mixed
weather. Good company,but not an easy trip with many reversals.
 This time I had a real problem with my left knee.As leader I felt
that I had to go on as best I could, whilst keeping up with the group.
Therefore I walked over 100k in some pain.
The walking was not too difficult, the legs kept swinging
back and forth. Any lateral pressures would produce sharp pains. This
was on top of a constant base line ache. It really taught me the meaning
 of pilgrimage as a lifestyle..... We keep going, because we
keep going and that is what we do. And we do it until the day
that we walk  into heaven. The pain is nothing compared to the joy of
that day. And it was wonderful to get to Santiago 
and rest. Now two weeks later, it still hurts, but is getting better.
On arrival at Santiago I said that I am not going to go again.
As I said it I knew that I didn't
really mean it. Perhaps I could walk from Northampton to Santiago
next year via Portsmouth; Santander; Oviedo; Lugo ....
... It does have a certain appeal.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Only a few days now

The City of Porto.

 The River Douro
The Cathedral in Porto
I am nearly done. I have prepared the pilgrimage for the group
that will be leaving on Sunday morning. I still have to buy a few things.
These are mostly art materials for the group. This pilgrimage is to be
a prayer school and will included prayer through the creative. I
have never led a pilgrimage quite like this. It is my aim to
discover more of the experience of prayer that we call pilgrimage.

A few days ago I came across a rather interesting definition of
a true pilgrim. It did not depend on walking or on staying in the
right places, in fact it stayed well away from any definition of
that kind. Rather it focused on the heart of the pilgrim. Most
especially what happened after the return. It said~ A true pilgrim
is one who takes the lessons gained on pilgrimage and applies them
to their lives when they return. Now that is an interesting one, is
it not? By that definition there are not as many real pilgrims around
as we would like to think. And more than that, horror of horrors, some
of the real pilgrims to Santiago went on a coach!

So it is of great concern to me that more than an interesting time is
had by all. If you will, perhaps you will pray for us. That there
maybe a real encounter with our Lord Jesus that changes lives and
makes a difference to us all when we return. And we will pray for

Thursday, 23 September 2010

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I do not think that it is possible for anyone in the UK to have missed thevisit of the Holy Father to these shores. To many peopleit was a surprise that it was the success that it was. I followed the blogs on the internet for some weeks before hand. They were full of doom and gloom about the arrangements. Critics where complaining about how much it was going to cost. Why should the tax payer foot the bill and why was it a state visit? They discounted the Vatican state as an anomaly of history, an over grown house with pretensions to grandeur. So to pay any need to these Job’s comforters, was to believe that organizationally it was going to be a disaster and for that matter no one was going to turn up! Thank God the reality was different. God’s rottweiler turned out to be my grand dad in a funny dress. But the power was in what he said. The full significance has yet to be seen and I believe that a great deal has been done of that moves us towards unity with our brothers in Rome.
. The most significant part, for me, of the visit was that afternoon, when he spoke to the great and good in Westminster Hall. As he said in his speech, this was the place of Sir Thomas More’s trial. Thomas More was a courtier of Henry 8. He found himself in the position of choosing between following the teaching of the church about marriage and divorce and doing as Henry demanded,. Most especially was it possible for Henry to be rid of Catherine of Aragon, his wife. He decided that he had to follow his conscience. So he was tried and found guilt of treason and put to death. . The underlying question was, ‘Where is ultimate authority‘?. The Church or the state! The Pope’s speech made it clear that God’s law comes before our laws and is the model on which they are built. So the pope was saying that Church teaching comes first. . If this was not enough, having addressed the MPs etc in Westminster Hall, he goes across to Westminster Abbey and joins a service that is led by the leaders of the churches in England. That is, without those who have been in the previous meeting in Westminster Hall. In other words he addresses the Church. Those who exercise power in Westminster were not evident. It is not their place to interfere in the affairs of the church! . The overall message was that the Church is free of civil control and must exercise a prophetic ministry to guide the nation. Now for a church that is supposed to be The Established Church, with the Queen/ Parliament in Charge that was a big statement. A revolutionary change. I for one, welcome this shift. . The shackles of the secular power are loosening. Sir Thomas More would have been delighted

Monday, 20 September 2010

Today is the first day of the new year for Peterborough Pilgrims to Santiago. Yes, I do know that it is the 20 September, and as far as I know, there is no precedent, any place ,for this date to be the beginning of anything. So why is it the new year? Simple. Today is the the day I have started to make mint jelly for the clergy of the Diocese of Peterborough. I guess the you would like a little more information. Every other year, I make a large pan of jelly/chutney/ jam. This is packed in small jars and given to the diocesan clergy on their annual day conference. On the jar is a note with an invitation to come and hear about pilgrimages to Santiago, with a view to joining us next year. The invitation is for them and anyone in their congregations. You might think that a simple flyer would be enough. It isn't. Like school kids, it will be lost/ forgotten about before it gets home and has no chance whatsoever of getting beyond them. So a jar of something carries a label with the details on it. The jar gets handed over to the cleric's wife, who reads the label and the information gets passed on. It also comes out from time to time and sits on the dinning table of the home it has entered and reminds the family of its true purpose~ to get to new pilgrims and invite them to a tea party to hear about Santiago. Job done! It does work. We have had several folk join us by this method. So today is the start of the new season for us. We have number of pilgrimages planned for next year. They may change but these are the plans so far. Easter week and the following week; Porto to Santiago July 23 2011 depart; Northampton to Portsmouth 10 days; option to walk to Santiago via Santander Oviedo, Primativo, Santiago; circa 35 days from Northampton, plans to be developed in the light of interest. Early September; Sarria to Santiago. especially for the partially sighted and less than able. This will be an extended week. These pilgrimages are open to everyone. Would you like to join us? Well do!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

We may be behind, but we are coming!

This picture might be on the Mesata in Spain in early summer. But it is not. It is Northamptonshire on a rather dull day in August. And yes they are pilgrims, Santiago pilgrims. It is a pilgrimage organised by The confraternity of the Glorious Apostle St James the Greater in Peterborough Diocese, more often know as Peterborough Pilgrims or as Rebecka Scott calls us the Peterbros. We have been working for sometime on the development of the Camino/Way of St James in England from the remains of the Monastery of St James in Northampton to join with the route opened by the confraternity in Normandy and so on to Santiago. This photograph is the fruit of this work. We have found and walked the route from Northampton to Portsmouth harbour. We have a set of maps and a guide for any who wish to use them and we will put you up for the night before you start as well issue you with a credential from the Archconfraturnity We have also been recognised by the Bishop of Peterborough and issued with letters of association to develop our work,. St James tide was great time for us. But more of the pilgrimage. We started off from our guild church of St Mary, Far Cotton, just over the river from the ancient Abbey of St James on Saturday, 24 July, the eve of St James walking 5 miles that afternoon to Blisworth. We had a good number who came with us who had been at the dedication and lunch led by our president Bishop Donald Allister. This event was a gathering of over 60 pilgrims and well wishers.We stayed in the Baptist chapel for the night, setting off about 9am for the walk to St Peter and St James in Brackley. We passed the Santiago churches of Paulerspury, Syresham and arrived rather late for the evening service. This service was the night of St James day, day so it was a double celebration. The next day the walk was to Bletchingdon and camping overnight in a rather nice campsite. Then on to Oxford by way of the Oxford canal to St Stephen's house for the night. St Stephens gave us a great welcome and lovely rooms - too go of dirty Pilgrims .The highlight for most was the showers.. Next to Dorchester on Thames by way of Littlemore, where we stopped at the College. This was the home of John Henry Newman after he took leave of the Church of England and was where he was admitted to the Roman catholic fellowship. It is now managed by an order of Nuns who have restored and preserved his rooms and chapel. It is possible to stay there, but we didn't as it was early in the day. On to Dorchester. This was the home of St Birianus; the Apostle to the middle part of England. At one time his shrine was here, but the monks of Winchester pulled rank and took him to their Cathedral, where he now is. It is a great building and we were welcomed by their Vicar. She provided us with tea, before we set off for the night's stop at Wallingford, camping by the river. Now on the river for a while we enjoyed the evening which was rather overcast. We were under canvas, but had no rain .It was a good stop with a nice steak for dinner. The next day we were given water transport to Reading by a family who took good care of us. We had some debate as to the validity of a boat as a proper means of pilgrim transport. We came to the view that without boats, we would be in some difficulties on a later pilgrimage, when we will need the help of a boat to take us across the sea to St Malo/Santander to continue this route opening. We also considered that the Thames was the medieval M1 of its time. So we accepted. The sun shone and we watched the the countryside pass by. Our hosts were wonderful and supplied drinks and sandwiches. They blessed us and we left our blessing with them. In Reading we stayed with the Priest of St James the Great, Roman Catholic Church. This church is built in the grounds of the Abbey of St James, where the hand of St James resided for many centuries. He is a supporter of pilgrimage and as he has recently become the Parish priest is taking a great interest in the renewal of Santiago pilgrimage as it passes by his church. He gave us a stone from his garden, that was once part of the great Abbey, to place on the Santiago altar back home. There is much to be done to develop this work and he is with us. The route now diverts from what some have seen as the traditional ancient route. This would have gone straight to Winchester. The London confraternity of St James have incomplete plans for t his route and hope to develop it to Southampton, which was the point of embarkation in former times. Now one can go to the Isle of Wight or catch a container ship to most parts of the world, but no ferry to France or Spain. That traffic goes by road and the Dover ferry or tunnel. So we have started to promote the new route through Hook, Alton, Arlesford, Bishop's Waltham. This will need some adjustment. We have noted that it is better to head off from Alton to Petersfield, Havant and to Portsmouth. For us pilgrimage is a modern day spiritual discipline. It is more that the putting of feet into the marks of those who came this way long ago. To return to the journey. It is a wonderful walk to Hook. The church there was generous to lend us their hall and the Vicar was very friendly. The fellowship gave us a great dinner of fish and chips as well as Eucharistic hospitality. They took a great interest in our progress. Next morning it rather looked dull and promised a wet day. This is did not materialise, for which we were grateful. The countryside so far had been very interesting, but it now took on a different sort of interest with Hampshire breech woods and heaths. Long green lanes. It really does not get better that this. Before we started off, I was in two minds as to the value of the enterprise. What was the use of developing a walk/pilgrimage that was a long lost note of history. Just keep going to Spain and walk many of the routes that are so readily available. Or so I thought. The experience was very different. The only way I can explain it is that it was like being faced with a deep jungle. As we stood at the beginning with the dense green before us. It seemed almost impossible or at least very difficult to hack our way through. But as we put our feet on the path it was as though the herbage parted before us to reveal a long lost path that was still there. The green parted and we walked easily. One of our number who has walked a number of pilgrimages in Spain thought that this was the best that she has been one. Full of deep meaning and beauty. From Hook we crossed the grain of the land to Alton. A typical Hampshire town. Again we stayed in the parish hall. By now we were in need of a stop with a good shower this we got at Arlesford in the Swan Hotel the stop for t he next night. As for the showers they seemed to come every other day. The weather was good and at time very warm, for England. So we got. If it had been hotter we would have been in difficulties in this matter. On to Bishop's Waltham. For those who wanted a route that took in Winchester, there was a St Swithin's way that leads to Winchester. I had seen Winchester before and opted for the direct way. To me Winchester Cathedral is too commercial, too tourist of it to be of any use in the scheme of pilgrim things . So I opted for the direct way. That was not to be, as I had to take over the role of support diver. But the rest of the group decided that they didn't want to go to Winchester either. Perhaps it was the 8 miles that it added to the minimum of 12 to Bishop's Waltham. And so after a lovely sunny summers day the rest of the group showed up, as if by magic, in Bishop's Waltham that evening. They had had a good day. With just the right number of pubs on the way to keep them happy and moving. Pilgrims don't change much!! Then it was the last day. The triumphal arrival in Portsmouth. We went to the ferry port as a symbolic statement that we would be back to catch a ship to Northern Spain one day soon. That will be a year in October. We have decided that a walk to Santiago from Northampton is possible in the limits of the normal pilgrim journey . We have noted that it is the same walking distance to Santiago from Northampton,via Portsmouth, Santander and the Camino Primativo as it is for St Jean,

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The energies of God in Pilgrimage

The Church Fathers, those early devines of the 3rd and 4th century made a distinction between the inaccessible essence of God and the energies by which he makes his inexhaustible essence available. These energies are at the same time plain and not so plain. The energies of creation that display to us the creative love that communicates beauty and a grace that Iis at its best magnificent, but marred by the these energies are plain to see, just open your eyes as you walk today. The wonderful downs the flowers and beasts in the field, the people who we pass. All show the glory of God. His not so pain energies are not hidden, but by their nature must be looked for another way. His energy that keep the beast of the field alive, the sustaining life of the earth. the creative word that moved across the face of the deep is still at work. Even if, like the wind we cannot see it we are aware of the presence and effects of it. These creative Energies have their focus in the person of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel~ God with us, God saving us, God liberating us. We know God by his energies which freely flow from him into all life. As we walk a humble openness is all that is needed to receive his Energy. Be open to the countryside ,yes by all means. But also be open to meeting him in others. All have the image. The likeness of God and his energies within.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Time to move on.

Each year on the CSJ. site one can find comments that wring the heart. Mostly these centre around the subject that has come to be known as 'Camino blues'. If you have never come across it before it is the reaction that many or is it most pilgrims have when they return to their normal life after anything up to three months on the Camino. They find that they have changed their whole outlook on life whilst away and now are shaken by the twin forces of a return to the same old rut and the knowledge that there is a better way to live. They know there is one because they have experienced it on Camino.
I have also heard from several places that folk are driven to tears because they feel lost. The blues really comes when it is realised that there is nothing they can do about it. Unfortunately for many this places the whole of the Camino into the realm of fantasy that was good while it lasted. But it is over, get over it.
I have been thinking about these things for sometime, perhaps it is years. For some the answer is to go on another pilgrimage as soon as possible. And keep going. That may be an answer, but I do not think that it is the right one. By all means go on as many pilgrimages as you wish or feel you need to join.You will gain much for your soul. But at the end you will still be standing at the same place
I have come to see that pilgrimage, a sacred journey, is only part of a much bigger journey or pilgrimage. The lessons gained on pilgrimage are meant to take us to the next level. It seems to me that most people come home expecting to make life different from now on However in the cold light of day they soon get lost. So what is needed is a structure that will support the individual in a collective that will enhance that person.
Many years ago St Francis came to see this same need . His answer was to start the third order. He gave a rule of life for those who would accept it. This rule was the distillation of his teaching. It also called into being a fellowship of brothers and sisters who were travelling along the same road. They could and do support each others as they know what the difficulties are.
I have been thinking about these things and it comes to me to ask the question 'Why should Santiago Pilgrims not develop a similar idea.' What about a Santiago rule, based on the pilgrimage lessons. If you want to know what those lessons are the read the thread I started on the CSJ discussion pages on the subject of lessons.
I really need some feed back on this one, What do you think?

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The world gets bigger.

Some news. And this one of the reasons why I have not been posting in the last few weeks. Peterborough Pilgrims to Santiago have created a facebook page so that we can share more in this work of development. Everyone is invited. So, how to get into it? If you have facebook account, it is very easy. Just type in the friends box Peterborough Pilgrims to Santiago, and you will get there. It is an open group so join up. Or if you do not yet have a facebook account,then you will have to get one. Google Facebook click the links and follow the instructions. When you have a page, wall and all do, as above to join..See you there. Blessings.

Monday, 31 May 2010

The new Sello for Peterborough Pilgrims

This is the new sello for the
Peterbros. If you would like
see what the changes are
look a bit further down this
blog and you will see the
old one. We have added
the Diocesian arms of
Peterborough Diocese
as we are now a diocesian
organisation. The first
since the reformation.
It is our hope that we
can be a force for
renewal in the church
in the UK and Europe.
Come and join us. Contact
is via my email

Friday, 21 May 2010

Great news

A few days ago, the new Bishop of Peterborough came to see me. This was in response to a paper I had produced about a change in the status of Peterborough Pilgrims to Santiago. Previously we had been one of those outfits that the diocese smiles upon but is not part of the diocesan structure. We are sort of answerable to the Bishop and semi detached at the same time. This was an interim measure until we got a bit bigger. Well that day has come. As a result of the paper and the meeting we are to receive a formal Charter and license. We will be fully integrated. The Bishop will be the President. And as the Archconfraternity has agreed to our existence as a associate member knowing that we Anglicans, we are now the first fully accredited ecclesiastical confraternity in the UK since the reformation. So on the 24 July 2010 we are to be formally started at the celebration of St James's day in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Northampton. This is open to all. If you can come you are most welcome! It is followed by a pilgrim feast. One of the objectives of our confraternity is to open, mark and walk the way~the Camino~ in the UK from the site of the former monestry of St James in Northampton to Portsmouth/ Southampton. After the pilgrim gathering on the 24 July some of us are going on that pilgrimage. It is open to all who wish to join. It is hoped that everyone who comes to the Mass and feast will walk with us to Blisworth our first stop. There is a bus that we take everyone home to St Mary's So join us for all or part of that gig.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

This must stop.

In recent weeks I have been working to
establish a small Confraternity of St James.
I say in recent weeks, the truth is that I
have been working for 5 years on this project.
It has not been easy. I have not taken the
easy route and tagged along with the
other fraternities, because of a vision of
something rather different at the end of
the road from what is on offer at the moment.
I have seen the posts about 'what is a true
pilgrim.' Dressed in all its finery of pride
of walking to Santiago rather than going on the bus... or train....or even plane. I have walked to Santiago many, many times from all different directions.
I have met some wonderful people on the way and made lasting friendship
with some of them. And now as the fraternity is to emerge into the full
light of day I have been challenged from every direction, by those
who want to preserve the existing scheme of things. We are not a proper
fraternity. We shouldn't be doing what we are doing and the implied correction
that whatever it is that we are up to it should be through the existing
organisation. By this I am not talking about the Archdiocese or the
Archconfraternity. Things are fine with them. We are accepted for
what we are . But I am speaking of others who are worried that we
might spoil their game by being different. The fraternity called
Peterborough Pilgrims to Santiago is unashamedly Christian and more than
that we are Anglican. This is an Episcopally backed outfit. Our Bishop is our
President! I am an Anglican priest. I am exercising my Anglican
ministry. Within that Anglican heritage is a history of nearly 1500 years
when we were organically joined at the hip to the western patriarch called
the Pope and the church which he leads, the Roman Catholics. But I am
also a catholic,not Roman Catholic, it becomes a little difficult to see what
lies in the future in Church unity. For many of us there is a deep
feeling that one day we will go home and the family spat will be over.
Be that as it may. Within the common heritage of 1500 years there
is the whole emergence of the cult of St James and Santiago pilgrimage.
It is part of my Spiritual DNA. It maybe that the Roman catholic Church
holds Santiago in trust, but they hold it for all Christians.
On my first pilgrimage the one thing that hit me in the face was that
for those who had little faith and even those who had much faith
there was little done to interpret the experience as it was happening
to those who had only a little basic Spanish. This was the need that
drew me into becoming a pilgrim Anam Cara. As time has gone on there
have been other needs that I have discovered. Not least of all that
every country in Europe has a direct link with the Camino, but the
UK still has not reopened the historic route from the midlands via
Reading to the south coast ports. Even though we still have the Saints
forearm in a Church in Marlow we have not reopened the way.
And so I went to work. Now there are many who will want ask and
even demand that 'there be room for those who want to walk a
celtic/pagen pilgrimage. They should included. How dare I propose
that I should be so narrow as to insist that our fraternity
should be christian. I should respect them for what they believe
and not deny them'.
Well ! it seems to me that it is a question of respect. I respect them
enough to not wish to make any comment of what they do. If
they wish to hug trees and dance in the nude, wandering wherever
they wish and calling it a pilgrimage, that is up to them. They are
responsible for their own souls. But I expect the same respect. I
am not inventing Christian Santiago Pilgrimage, I only wish
to link with this heritage of prayer and contemplation that
leads to the icon experience that we call hugging the saint.
I am taking responsibility for my own soul and the souls of
those who come with me.
This is all a question of respect and acceptance. These virtues
are part of the great Christian virtue of loving the neighbour.
But even so they are recognised as worthy of merit by all.
It is a two way street give and take. Don't judge my pilgrimage and
fraternity by the values that you impose on yours. And don't
call it a christian pilgrimage when it is not!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Rhythm of Pilgrimage Part3.

So after a few days the body has caught up with the aspirations of the mind. This does not mean that all will be easy it will not. Although you will have become much fitter than you have been for a long time, you are still working at a high level of energy expenditure. You will get more and more tired as time goes on. If you are not blessed by the need to be back at work on a certain date and you have an open fight ticket, then it is possible to rest more often. But this is not available to many. It is not easy to stay fresh for the whole of the Camino's 55o miles. Pacing yourself helps, bit that Ryan air flight is not negotiable and you will have to push yourself to keep to a timetable. All that being said it does not mean that you have to rush the whole time. Unless that is that you have planned the trip to the hour. And you have overestimated you abilities. This is the province of the young. The restless need to get on and get there is an enemy of a satisfying pilgrimage. So allow space in your pilgrimage for a days rest now and again. So let's return to day four onwards. By now the pains are less and you are walking with ease. If you started from St Jean the country is getting a little less hilly and the walking is good through the Rioja. pleasant vineyards and little villages are a joy, at first, but so is human nature one does get used to them. There are sights that enthrall. I remember one morning coming up to Ganon. The Church was visible on the hill ahead. The moon was full and setting. It was broad daylight. there was a moment when the moon sat on top of the church tower as though it was impaled on the weather vane. And the moon looked so close that it appeared that it tower of the Church and the moon were exactly the same distance away. Unforgettable. Now you begin to think about everyone you have left behind, the joys and the problems. This drifts into the the dark corners of memory to those places where the unresolved lurks. You begin to work them. After a few days one gets to a place of peace. The work now is to be on the deepest level. One enters a space where time losses its relevance. I only have this distance to walk and I have four hours to lunch. I am deep with myself and experiencing a certain detachment from the immediate reality. This is an important place to be. Jesus said seek and you will find. Use the space for this most spiritual of all quests. You can switch off and become a walking zombie, many do. The unspiritual most certainly do, but you Child of God are able to experience an Emmaus experience. He is walking right next to you. Those senses that have have been switched off for years back at home are coming to life. It is although you developed a whole new set of senses. You are not able to see him, but you know he is there. Let God now work in you.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Rhythm of Pilgrimage. Part 2

Time to set out. The planning and the
packing are over.The flight, like as not
thanks by Ryan ( let me charge you per
breath on my plane and you can sit
on the wing) is past and you
have got yourself to St Jean de Pied de Port
without major event.
What now? Excitement; Concern that this
is all too much; A feeling that it would be
nice to drop out and become a tourist; all
these feelings come to the surface, and many more.
The beat of the drum moves on consumed by the slow relentless
pace of events. It is almost like a conveyor, which is pulling you
towards that start in the morning.
The sense of moving on will be with you until you arrive at Santiago
or dropout. It is however a feeling that must be
watched. It is easy to miss out on some of the greatest experiences of
you life, because you are unaware of what is really happening to you.
This rhythm that I am beginning to write about must be channelled
to understand all that the Camino has for you. The rhythm is
important~ in part that is what you came to engage with. It is
different from daily life. It is an emptied out day. At home there are
so many things that demand your time. Most of the time there are too
many to deal with in one day. The day becomes overcrowded with the result
that life becomes one of pressure. On pilgrimage there are only a few
things that you have to do. They are :- get up, walk, have breakfast,
walk, stop for coffee, walk, have lunch, walk, arrive at the destination,
rest, wash, both you and your clothes. eat, go to sleep. You might
slip in a few postcards/email and visit a couple of sights along the way.
That's it. Nothing more. Leaving a great deal for time to reflect on life.
It is in this space that you begin to get to grips with
all those problems that you have been pushing aside for years
All those memories that are too painful to confront. They and kindred
things are like a suitcase that you have stuffed for years with parcels.
All with a label that says to be dealt with some other time. The suitcase
is bulging, held shut by leather straps that are about to give way.
All this bursts out. Now is the time to deal with it. The stripped out
day allows for this deep healing of the soul. But it doesn't happen yet.
The rhythm of pilgrimage is more than the daily round. There are distinct
phases to the days and weeks. On that first day as you set off up the
hill to Roncevalles you soon begin to feel the pain. You have been doing
walks for sometime now, but these have not really prepared you for
what is ahead and what you are now doing. This mountain seems
to get steeper and steeper and it keeps on, up and up you go. And oh!
my limbs are not used to this. Willpower keeps you going. How can I
give up after a couple of hours on this walk. What would my wife say
You are on you own. Shyness, and the good old reserve, stop you from
saying much to those who follow you up the hill. Anyway you husband
all your energy to get up up this bit. It must end soon, but it does not.
You will by now be aching all over and be short of breath.
Praise be the top at last and a shortish walk down to
Our Lady of Roncevalles. Rest and blissful sleep.
The next morning, Off again. A few pains coming with me today, but
I soon walk through them to that place where I begin to doubt that
I can do this. Last night on my bed I looked at the guide again and
began to realise that 55o miles is a very long way. I must have been
mad to have thought that I could do it. In the dark I fell asleep
thinking that I would do as much as I can, but I will be on the
bus before I get to Santaigo.
The Sun is out and I have been talking to the people who I had
dinner with last night. They begin to tell me a some of their story
and it makes me feel a little more comfortable. They are having
the same problems on this walk as I am, and they have
painful blister in the same place as mine. We go on together.
It is night now I feel awful. I cannot do this even though I want too.
Too far, too long, too much. All I want to do is sleep. So I do. I awake
a feeling a little refreshed, but I am stiff and ache from top to toe.
I will go to bed after dinner and tomorrow I will think about how
I can get home. I do not care anymore about how I will explain this
to my wife.I do not care about loss of face. I want out.
Sleep comes quickly.
Day three. I still have some pains, but I could walk a little this morning.
Besides that will take me to Pamplona and it will be much easier to
get public transport from there. As I walk things easy somewhat.
Again ,I talk to those who are around me. No much and not very
deeply, but it is encouraging. I start to notice the countryside as I look
beyond the painful place that I am in. It seems that it sorta helps. In
my prayers, which have all been of the nature of 'God get me up this hill/
to the next bar/ to the Albergue' I begin to have a few other ideas
pushed in that are not about my exhaustion~ thanks for this beautiful place,
for these people, be with my wife at home. As this takes place I start
to think that today may not be the end after all. Besides I have
walked near 50 miles; almost 10% of the whole pilgrimage.
I don't know if I can do the whole lot, but I can do more.
I stop at an albergue on the far side of Pamplona, where the
owner/hospitaler is famous for the way she works on and heals feet. The
fame is well deserved as she works wonders on me and my feet.
This is the end of the first phase. It has all been about the body. The
distortion of modern life that has made us more cerebral that physical
is being redressed. The body and mind are painfully reunited. The
body has complained every step of the way and has made the mind l
listen to it. A painful lesson, but a good one. This pilgrimage is about
becoming whole. In Christian terms this very good. The whole
point of the little baby in the stable is that God did not spurn our
humanity but he embraced it. The salvation plan includes the
body. In far eastern religions. The body is a nuisance, something to be
overcome and left behind. Not so with us Christians. The body is part of
my spiritual nature. When Jesus returned to heaven, he took his body
with him. So God has a truly human face. We are discovering this
in a practical way. Soon as the body gets up to speed and the mind
interacts with the flesh in a proper manner, it will open up a whole
new vista. More of that later.
This post is now getting too long so I guess there will have to be a
part 3 to this post. Back soon.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

There is a rhythm to Pilgrimage Part 1

Two good friends of mine;Peter and Julie. Above St Jean

There is also a rhythm to blogs. And this one is right off the scale at the moment.It is also very late. How many times have I written that on this site? I have a love hate relationship with all this. I also paint and that is just the same. I hate to get started. When I am in the water things are fine and I get on and even enjoy it! But there are two things that tick me off .One is all that Html stuff. Sorting the page out so that it does not look like a distress spider has put it together.Even as I write the the blog page is double spacing everything. I didn't ask of it, did you? The other thing is having written a blog something freezes it up so that you can do nothing with it. You know, in your soul that,you are two or three moves away from a total delete.Like a road accident you know that it is going to happen whatever you do. You will make that move that will consign a full post into cyber oblivion. Well ,that is what happened with the last post,done a week ago. I have not had the energy to rewrite it. But I am on the way. So bear with me I am anti cyber at the moment. In contrast I had a great dream last night about being on pilgrimage and it was easy and I was was going along quite fast and far without any pains. It was only a dream.It does not happen like that. It did however remind me of the joys of pilgrimage.

So the excuses and a bit if a rant later I am ready to start the post about the rhythm of pilgrimage, but that will have to be part 2

Friday, 12 March 2010

There and back again,again!

The title implies that I have done all this before and in some ways that is true. The difference this time is marked by the picture above. That is one part of the pilgrimage to Santiago that I have never been on before, going though the door of St James. As I am sure you will know, it is only opened for Holy Years and this year is one. There were other differences. The route was up the Via de la Plata from Ourense. I found it rather hard. That was because of many things, not least, that I am rather overweight at the moment. I am convinced and convicted that I must loose, not a few pounds, but many. Sadly there is no easy was to do this. Cut down on the eating and build up the walking ~the only steps that lead to the paradise of speed and feeling good at the end of a day's pilgrimage. This pilgrimage rather took me back to the first pilgrimage that I walked. That feeling of not knowing what is ahead and often failing to read the signs. For example, on this way there are municipal albergues at certain points. They are there for the good reason that the gaps between them are enough for one days walk. Some are a greater distance than others, this is when the section is easy. The closer together they are ,the more difficult the section. Nut brain , here, thinks in his own way, ' let's plough on, do two sections'. So one day was 11.5 hours walking. Difficulty indeed! This rather resulted in a less than spiritual pilgrimage, or so I thought at the time. The prayer was rather restricted to 'Lord get me up this hill/ to the Albergue. Higher intercession was lost in the physical grunt of getting on. But this is not a disaster. We are not followers of an eastern mystical teaching of spiritual detachment. Our God became flesh and took our flesh into the divine self. Thus we do not renounce the flesh, but embrace it, even when it is difficult and painful. And so another early lesson came back to mind that the shear physicality of pilgrimage can be prayer itself, body prayer. Archbishop Rowen recently said in a conference on Church fresh expressions that 'We should move into the space opened up by Jesus Christ'. This also means that we on a day to day talk hold of the day an make it part of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is found by possessing life rather than denouncing it.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

We are off.

We here we go again. This time it is a very short walk. Just enough to blow the winter blues away. Tomorrow morning I and another member of Peterbrough Pilgrims to Santiago, called Roger, will fly to Madrid. Then on the train to Sahagun and onward to Moritinos to see Rebekah and Paddy to discuss a few things with them about linking our Confraturnity to their work with Pilgrims. We are there until Wednesday when we will be catching the train again, this time to Ourense. We will walk the 110k to Santiago from there. Stay a nighty in Santiago and go down the valley to O Curruna to fly home to Heathrow a week on tuesday. I am really looking forwars to this trip. When I first thought about it,this trip was going to be an early december retreat and it is now lent.Time flies. So farewell for a few days. I may be able to post we shall see.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

We are Pilgrims on the journey!

Yeah! I know this has been a long week,and this post is really 10 days overdue. First lesson of Pilgrimage;nothing quite goes as you expect it. Sorry anyhow.
A number of things have been happening to me in the days since I last posted here. One of them is that I am going to Spain on Monday. This coming Monday 1st March. You may have already worked out that I lead a small confraternity in the middle of England. This fraternity has struck up a friendship with two wonderful supporters of pilgrims who live on the Camino. They are real friends to all who stop by at their place. Anyway this friendship is developing into something practical and useful that allows us be more involved with other pilgrims as they pass thought their hands. For us it is a halfway house to establishing an Albergue of our own. So, I and another member are going to make a visit to them to see their place and cement the friendship. We will be there two nights with the day between to talk and see how they are. But after that......... we are free to go off on a short pilgrimage of a few days, call it a Lenten retreat, Yippee.
We have decided that it would be a good thing to go for a Compostela for the collection, and that means that we must end up at Santiago. I have walked the Camino from St Jean, and also the way up from Oporto. So we have decided to set off from Ourense. 110k . Far enough, but not that far. It has however produced some interesting and I must say surprising thoughts in my head.It has occurred to me that these are exactly the questions that I had in my mind before I went on my first pilgrimage. Questions such as:- Will there be Albergues on the way? Will they be open? Do these folk who give advise on the forum really know what they are talking about? Will it be very cold or will I die on a hillside somewhere for want of food and somewhere to stay?
Now I know for my own experience that the answer to all these questions is that things will be fine. It will be great time. That does not stop the doubts for long. It has helped me see more clearly once again, what it is like to be a novice pilgrim. The answer to me and everyone is held in the wonderful words of Lady Julian of Norwich: All will be well, and all manner of things will be well!
Julian's words call us to faith that what lies ahead is safe and supported by people who know what they are doing. Julian is speaking about the whole of life. This in itself helps us begin to realise that the little worked example of life that we call a pilgrimage is meant to be writ large on our lives. That it is though this nursery experience of pilgrimage that we learn, maybe for the first time what it is to walk by faith.
If you are planning your first pilgrimage, watch the way that the faith you have now that it will be ok turns into the solid assurance of sellos in your credential.And in the words of a sixties song, 'Put your hand into the hands of the man who walked on water'.
The lesson, walk by faith and let others take the load. All will be well.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

So, you've signed up for Santiago Pilgrimage!

So, you have signed up for a pilgrimage to Santiago. You have heard the stories and tales from others about this important life event. In some way or another it seems a cool idea. Well, it did when you committed to it. Now you are not so sure. You have begun to think about what it really entails. All that walking. 750 k from St Jean. You are thinking that you were mad to agree. You will never make it. It is too far. You're over 50 perhaps and didn't think that you would take on this sort of physical challenge again. And here you are, with 2,3,4,5,6. months to prepare for the impossible! You are perhaps looking for the door marked exit, so that you do not have to go.....but others are expecting you to be there and you cannot let them down.
You have found this forum and it has added to your confusion. The old timers speak freely about routes and Albergues. They speak of the generosity of those along the way and it seems too good to be true.
Well; you can do it, no matter how it feels today and tales of generosity and modestly priced Albergues are true. The experiences of others that are offered on this site are reliable, so make use of them and ask as many questions as you can bring to mind. If it helps, my first pilgrimage is recorded further back on this blog. Read it, who knows you may find it helpful.
These matters are not really my main concern. I focus on the Spiritual aspects. You may not have thought about this facet of pilgrimage or it maybe the reason you are going or any point between. The one thing that I can promise is that your pilgrimage with surprise you beyond words. You may not have any faith whatsoever or a very small one that is a hang over from childhood experiences. No matter. The spiritual is in every breath of your trip. For some it helps develop their faith, others gain a growing awareness of things spiritual that is in spite of God rather than because of him. The long hours on the hillsides of Spain have their effect. We become reconnected to ourselves and nature. For city types this is awesome But we are getting ahead of where you are now.
So what do I say about now. That is easy. Your pilgrimage has already started. Everything that you do is part of the adventure. The journey does not start on the plane or at the airport, or even in France, Spain or Portugal, it began the moment you said yes. The preparations are as much part of the experience as arriving in Santiago. So enjoy these days and look to see what they can teach you about who you are and what you need in life!
I shall be posting on this blog about once per week, So come and join me again. I hope it will be useful. You have my prayers. Ian Holdsworth

Monday, 8 February 2010

A Change of direction

There you have it. In the title. I am about to go in a different direction. Why I can hear you say? Simple. I reply. Because it is time. There is a rhythm to most things, even pilgrimage. In some ways I have been going against the natural cycle of things. So now is time to go with the flow rather than six months too late or too early depending on one's point of view. When I started this blog nearly a year ago, I thought that it would be easy to get through the early stages of description of my first pilgrimage, so that I could get on to the things that really interested me, namely exploring a practical theology of pilgrimage. Well it wasn't quick, and it took much longer than I thought that it would. So when everyone was coming to the end of the pilgrimage season and was thinking about a nice warm winter at home, my blog was still out on the hills taking about exploring the experience. Recently I have been speaking about keeping the experience alive, when a new crop of pilgrims are wondering if they have done the right thing signing up for along walk in the Spanish countryside, and by the way, what is a pilgrimage anyway? So now is the time to begin to go back to the very first days of pilgrimage and think about the spiritual nature in sync. with the stage folk are at. So amigos the next post, which I hope will be tomorrow, will start to meet the needs outlined. God Bless you all!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Homeward bound!

Last Friday night, here at the Vicarage, we had a visit from our Youth
group. I say a visit it was rather more an invasion. Liz my wife leads
the group and they, that is the young people and her had decided that
this night was to be a 'Doctor Who' night.
For those who live outside the UK and have no idea what I am now
talking about I will explain Dr Who. This is a sci fi tv show which
started in the '60s. A few years ago it was revived by the BBC.
They changed the format and the focus audience to late teens early
twenties. It was a wow. So it has been playing with hour long specials
since the revival.
So they all troupe in for what is a thinly veiled party. They come as all
sorts of being from all over the Universe. They have little or no interest
in an aging Vicar, so I retreat to my study and more particularly my
I have read one of his books and enjoyed it. To find a pod cast in these
circumstances of my siege, was a delight. Since then I have thought
about the broadcast it rather a lot. I have been impressed with the last
few words where he speaks about allowing someone to come home,
whatever they have done, because it is their home, and that is what you do. .
What a wonderful way to think of what is happening to us and what
the significance of the mission of Jesus who opened the way for us to go
home. I think that we might be able to develop this idea as a means to
understand pilgrimage a little better.
I wonder what motivation causes us to decide to go on pilgrimage. I do
not think many folk can give any real answers as to why they go. It seems
in some sense, cool. So they go. Have you have heard a saying that
comes from seasoned pilgrims. ' You do not choose the Camino, the
Camino chooses you.' Which means that the time comes when pilgrimage
is most beneficial and at that point things come together in such
a way that results on you going. In my case I recognise that
this is true. I did not see it at the time when I first planned to go,but
the need was there. I could not see it. Only after the plans
were made did a great big abyss open at my feet and all the stuff of
the years that I had not dealt with flooded out. It was time for a life
sort out. There was no stopping it, it had to happen then. I was dragged
kicking and screaming into it. I am glad it happened as it made me
a different person in the process.
As I look back on it all, I can see clearly that it was the call of home.
The picture at the head of the piece is called 'Homeward bound'. The girls
portrayed are not pilgrims, but they could be. I've seen a few looking just
like them on the Camino. The call home is to the place where I
belong. At the start I was unaware of this call, but it took hold of me to
bring me to the place that was home. I have not arrived there
yet, as heaven is home. I am still travelling. The pilgrim still on the
Many people on pilgrimage begin as walkers and finish as pilgrims.
The soft sound of home falls on the dull ears that cannot even hear
the music of home. It is there though. And it heals the ears, the mind and
the heart. Some finish their first pilgrimage with ears healed and fully
tuned to the music of home. Others can just make out a muffled,
tiny noise, that might only be tinnitus. More healing is needed.
Whatever stage we come back from pilgrimage, we need to
allow the music of home to continue to fall on us. In this
way we become lifelong pilgrims, even if we do not
go back to Santiago again. It does help though to keep
setting aside times of Camino. Some find that it almost
becomes addictive. Tasting the joys of heaven, even if
it is distant has that way with you. It calls you back for
more. Jesus speaks of it as thirst. ''Blessed are those who
hunger and thirst for right living. They will be satisfied''.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

This is a picture of my own front door. It is the door of St Mary's Vicarage
in Northampton. It is the boundary between home and the rest of the world.
Beyond this door is the safe space of home. It is the door through which I
pass as I start my pilgrimages. As I put my foot on this side, I start the
pilgrimage. After a few weeks, I end the pilgrimage by crossing the
threshold. When I first started going on pilgrimage I thought that
the pilgrimage did not really start until I was on the aircraft or even in
Spain. I came to see that I was mistaken.
If you follow the pilgrim forums, you will know that towards the end of
the year, about September time, posts begin to appear that speak of
post-camino blues. This condition is the result of going on pilgrimage
and finding there is a different way to live. This has many causes,
generous hospitality, welcoming albergues, pilgrims who engage freely
with each other, living in an atmosphere of trust, some time alone to get
the head straight, time to pray inside churches and in the open
countryside, all lead, with many other experiences to a realization that
there is a better way to live. The pilgrim returns and meets a blank wall
in the faces of those friends with who he tries to share his joys. Slowly the
old style of anxiety driven life re-establishes itself. Thus an internal conflict
arises between the pilgrimage and 'real' life. Th so called 'Real life' pushes
one back into its own mould. For some the answer is to go on as many
pilgrimages as possible, till the day when the body has had enough.
There is another root cause. On pilgrimage the interior life comes to the
fore. For many this is the first time that they have even begun to discover
that there is such a dimension to their being. This is the part that has to
be guarded. It is easy to experience the externals of pilgrimage and
believe that the heart of it is in the staying at albergues, talking
to other pilgrims etc. But these are only expressions of what is going
on deep below. In the same way that giving to a beggar is a sign of a
heart that is given to generosity. The gift is not the heart, but the fruit.
So to return to the front door. Every time I set out, wherever I am going,
is in some way a Camino. A going out to encounter God in others and
through events that happen to me out there. What happens at home,
the internal life of prayer and meeting with our Lord in the peace and
quiet are the heart. If the internal stops, then the Camino stops and the
blues at the sense of defeat, set in. Once you begin to be a pilgrim it does
not end. Keep on walking.

Monday, 18 January 2010

The post below is date 18 January 2010. I do not know how to delete a full post date and all. If you do let me know. Ian h.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A life of Pilgrimage

I have just been reading a blog by Rebekah Do please read her most recent posting 13 January 2010 titled 'We cannot go on like this'.She has sent me in deep thought about the nature of pilgrim and hospitality. I will assume that you have skipped off to read the most important post. In yesterdays Sunday Telegraph there was a piece in the travel section that looked at what Spain had to offer. In this could be found a paragraph or so about the Camino Budget-Stretchers:- Walking or cycling along the pilgrimage route across northern Spain, the Camino do Santiago, is an experience on many levels,and a cheap holiday,too.... ......Stay at Pilgrim's hostels along the way for next to nothing, with maybe a bit of luxury at one of the historic Paradors along the route. The whole thing takes about three weeks, but can be split into manageable sections........
(That is if you take the bus from time to time. This is my addition. IH.) The words that stick in the throat are 'cheap holiday'Cheap for whom.? As Rebekah tells us someone has to pay for it, somewhere. I think that a little thought is needed on hospitality. Even the word has pilgrim echos , hospitality... that which I get at a hospital....the place of welcome whilst on pilgrimage. For those who are after a cheap skate holiday. The real idea of pilgrimage hardly matters. For pilgrims, it is a journey with a purpose. The Camino purpose is spiritual and Christian. It is about the development of our response to God.To look beyond the material, whilst looking through ourselves and seeing our need of healing to the Divine source of our being. However the issue cannot be left at this point. There are many who set off on a cheap walking holiday along the Camino who become pilgrims. This happens because they experience more than they had bargained for. It happens, in part, because the love of our Lord is expressed through the acts of kindness that are experienced along the way. So to the point of the dilemma. By charging a full commercial rate we deny the very values that we are trying to promote. Pilgrimage at it's best must say ' there is a better way to live, than the one that you have been on so far'. The better way to live is by giving and receiving hospitality,refusing to be pulled in by the material dialectic that is the base of the modern western world, to live in the light of eternity, and to stop fooling yourself and others about who and what you are. Where does that leave us? Firstly there will always be those who are out for a cheap thrill and someone else's expense. Human nature will not go away. But there will be those who find the truth of Pilgrimage. And there will be those who know what they are about and take the pilgrimage in a proper spirit from day one. Secondly; For those who have enjoyed a true pilgrimage, there are consequences.We have freely received, so we must freely give. It is up to us to show support for those on the front line that we have got the point of what Rebekah and other have done for us by joining them and supporting their efforts properly. This burden should not be for them alone. If you are a true pilgrim then show it.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Under the tinsel and glitter

Today is the day after the feast of the Epiphany. All is now peaceful for the Christian priests of the world. We have blessed cribs and parishioners, taken services and celebrated the Divine mysteries, whilst we have been overtaken, as has everyone else, with celebration of a family Christmas. The Kings have come and presented their gifts and departed another way. And so, at last we can return to the life of meditation, prayer and teaching that we are better suited to. And a time to return to matter of pilgrims, the posting of a blog and an invitation. Well two actually. . So here goes. We are having a party to celebrate the arrival of St James in Galicia,that is Peterborough Pilgrims to Santiago and me. It is on 30 Jan 2010 at noon. Pilgrim mass followed by a Spanish lunch, pilgrim conversation and fellowship, a talk on Pilgrims and Pilgrimage in literature, a short business meeting and tea. All are invited some come and join us. There is no charge, but if you want to make a donation towards costs that is fine. If you would like to join us~numbers to It will be at:- St Mary's Church, Towcester Road, Northampton NN4 8EZ. I will also need to know if you are a veggie. . The second invitation is to leave a comment on this blog site. Discussion is the best form of communication. If you do not relate to what I am saying, I really want to know about it. I also want to know if you disagree with what I am saying. Should I be in error, I want to be out of it , so if you can help me with the truth , that would be great. So speak up. If you have nothing much to say, how about ticking the boxes at the bottom of each post. Thanks a mil. . It is of interest to reflect on the busy-ness of Christmas and the peace of the present season. It rather brings out the nature of reflection. When all is action and celebration there is little time to think and centre. This is fine for a while, but it becomes too much after a time. The over extension of life leads to a sort of death.This pattern is repeated so often throughout our lives. We built a life that has little contact with the reality that is really life. We need to stop and take a step aside so that we can centre and draw from what is deep within us. Touch base if you will. The base that we touch is in fact God himself. He is deep within us. It has a direct link with pilgrimage. . Pilgrimage allows us to centre. That time of quite walking without many distractions or responsibilities, permits us to be honest. We are helped by the anonymity. There is no need to pretend that we are anything other than a pilgrim on the way. The differences of status and wealth are hidden. There is nowhere to hid, or to be modest in an albergue. So we cease to feed the false self. It dies, so to speak for a while.The layers are stripped back. For some it is a new experience. It can be painful. We take the dead flesh of our humanity on pilgrimage and it is there that we begin to admit to ourselves and God what a rotting corpse we are and in that honesty God is able to begin to breath life into us. . On return the challenge is to maintain that true self and not allow the false to get a hold again.