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!