Pilgrimpace's Blog


advent journey – conception

In early September 2009 I walked out of Valencia in the direction of Compostela.  It was a hard first week.  It was hot.  I was the only pilgrim on the route.  I was ill and had no appetite.

What got me through?  There was determination – I had made a promise to myself to keep going unless I was sent home by a doctor or by an emergency at home.  I had huge support from family and friends at home.  People along the Way were kind and caring.

And there was Our Lady.  I set off near to the Feast of her Birth.  As I stumbled into small towns like Algemesi I found banners all around me proclaiming it

CARTELLmare-de-deu-2009

If I could, I went to the evening Mass.  It strengthened me and connected me with other people in ways that are too deep to write.  In the small hilltop towns of Xativa and Moixent and Font de la Figuera and Chinchilla, I was welcomed into the parish churches as Mass was celebrated in honour of Our Lady.  Over several days running I bumped into a small group of young Dominican Sisters with beautiful singing voices and a ministry with marginalised young people.

Walking through the heat was testing.  The evenings when I arrived were more so.  I was alone in the pilgrim hostals; it was too hot to sleep well.

I spent a lot of time with Mary.  In Chinchilla the priest took Our Lady of the Snows down from behind the High Altar and allowed me to cradle the exquisite statue.

If I read my journal of that pilgrimage, much of my praying was saying “Thank you”.  I am profoundly grateful to Mary our Mother – and to those who serve her for getting me through, for giving me the strength to flourish and not to turn back.

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Statue of Our Lady, Osiera

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  An Advent Day, celebrating God preparing people to receive Jesus; of ‘heaven in ordinary’, of human flesh bringing Christ into the world.

Almighty and everlasting God,
who stooped to raise fallen humanity
through the child-bearing of blessed Mary:
grant that we, who have seen your glory
revealed in our human nature
and your love made perfect in our weakness,
may daily be renewed in your image
and conformed to the pattern of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

– Collect for The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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