Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A few post - pilgrimage reflections

I suppose trudging through wet fields in mist and heavy drizzle with a raging headache and sore throat - the dog still has to go out - has the effect of calling to mind warmer and sunnier paths from earlier in the year. Maybe indisposition, not to say my being infectious, will at least mean I will get around to writing up my now almost indecipherable notes from the Camino de Santiago.
Perhaps it's the 'January effect' in this rather damp and sometimes depressing climate which has prompted this, but quite often along the pilgrimage route it was suggested in conversation that perhaps the reason the Church's message falls so often on deaf ears in our present, very affluent and very comfortable culture (certainly compared to that of our not-so-distant forbears) is that we seem so very compromised and even reliant on the very philosophies about which we express so much scepticism if not outright opposition. My own fairly gentle counter-suggestions that it is very hard sometimes for Christians to get the balance right between being 'in' and involved in the world and being merely 'of' it usually prompted, from those who didn't share the faith, just a shrug of the shoulders as if to say, 'Well, it's your problem, get on with it.' 

There were so many setting out along that particular ancient pilgrimage route through Northern Spain who were clearly searching for meaning and purpose, and walking in order to cope with crises of many kinds in their lives. 
And along the Way there were many open churches, some of which brought this particular weary pilgrim to his knees and to tears on more than one occasion. 
In many places, particularly closer to Santiago itself, there were masses and pilgrim blessings - if you looked for them. In one or two villages the Benedictines and Franciscans provided a valuable and clearly appreciated presence; I particularly remember with gratitude the sung offices at Rabanal; there were unforgettable instances of great kindness and individual hospitality - the true spirit of the camino is very much alive... 

A documentary about the Camino

Pilgrims on the road - May 2013

The December Bulletin of The Confraternity of St James quotes St Robert Southwell and his description of the infant Christ at Bethlehem as a pilgrim. It's not seasonal exactly, but highly appropriate nonetheless:
'The inns are full, no man will yield this little Pilgrim bed, But forced He is with silly beasts, in crib to shroud His head.'R. Southwell 
As we approach Christmas and prepare to usher in 2013, the CSJ is preparing to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary, and there is plenty of time and reason for joy and for quiet reflection. Meanwhile I find the Elizabethan poet’s reference to baby Jesus as a pilgrim especially touching and appropriate for us. For some years now I have been treasuring the Spanish representation of the Virgin Mary and Christ child – as pilgrims to St James. Examples of these Heavenly pilgrims can be appreciated in the magnificent pilgrim churches of La Coruña and Pontevedra to name but a few on the Camino Inglés and Camino Portugués respectively...."
In fact, I've had an anxious week, A week ago last Wednesday my training for walking the Camino  came to an abrupt halt when on a steep descent of one the local hills, the Skirrid, Monmouthshire's 'holy mountain,' I tore the ligaments in my right shoulder.
On the other hand, I have to say I have nothing but praise for the local (NHS) hospital whose A & E department has ensured a rapid appointment with a sympathetic orthopaedic surgeon, a urgent ultra-sound scan and immediate physiotherapy. Mentioning the planned trek to Santiago didn't do any harm ...
So whatever has to happen later, the pilgrimage is still on for the beginning of September - relieved isn't the word.....  Deo Gratias! And a big thank you to St James himself ...