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.