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Pilgrimage

Updated: Jul 22

For August 2021


Friendships are precious. There are all sorts of friendships of course and some people have lots of friends whilst others have just a few close relationships. I have somehow managed to maintain friendships from Primary School, like my friends Elizabeth and my now dearly departed friend Máiréad, and I can't actually remember a time before these wonderful people were in my life. In many ways friends can become like family through the journey of our lives.


Recently one of my dearest friends Deborah has returned from Australia and we have made the brave decision to walk the Camino together in 2023. The Camino de Santiago (known in English as the Way of St. James), is a network of pilgrim ways that lead to the shrine of the apostle Saint James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Many walk the various routes as a form of spiritual growth but it is also popular with hiking, cycling and fitness enthusiasts. In October 1987, the route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe; it was also named one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.


There are in fact many Comino routes through Spain and France and the most popular route, through the Pyrenees and across Northern Spain is almost 800 kms long. As novice and slightly nervous walkers, our plan is to only walk part of the route (about 2 weeks of walking) and we have already started our training (though Deborah's toe and knee currently have other ideas!).


I have, as part of the preparations, been reading a moving account of the pilgrimage by Kerry Egan in her excellent book called Fumbling. She explains that the idea of pilgrimage rests on the belief that in some places the Divine is especially available to human beings and that the journey itself—the time spent as a pilgrim—is in some deep and profound way deconstructing, regenerative and healing. It is through walking long hard hours each day that she begins to understand the grief she is experiencing from a recent loss, to recognise God’s presence in everyday people and places and to rediscover joy and love in her life. Each incident, meeting, and hard-won mile shapes Kerry’s internal journey. The meditative quality of walking frees her mind of distractions for long periods and the rhythm of her breathing awakens an awareness of the connections between breath, life, and the divine.


In thinking about all of this the lovely poem of Footprints in the Sand has been on my mind. For those of you who don't know this story or who have forgotten it, the poem tells of someone who dreams about the journey of their life and they notice two sets of footprints, one set belongs to the person dreaming and the other belongs to the Lord. In the dream it appears that when life is tough there is only one set of footprints and the dreamer asks the Lord about it. "Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You'd walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me." He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you."


There are all sorts of journeys in our lives, some short, some long, some fun and joyful and others hard and painful. We meet and encounter all sorts of people along the way, including good friends and family who are able to sustain and nourish as with love and kindness. Whatever the journey, whether we are alone or with others, the Lord is always with us, especially when things are tough. The promise of Jesus Christ is that we are never alone and we are always loved. The pilgrimage of our lives is transformed when we remember and understand this.


Have a blessed and happy summer.


With love and best wishes

Fr Richard



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