Pilgrimpace's Blog


walking the cistercian way – on becoming a (more) broken pilgrim, part 2
December 1, 2016, 8:40 pm
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A (More) Broken Pilgrim

 This part of the article is, much more than the other parts, work in progress.  I will either revise this or write it in another form after a period of time.

And so began a pilgrimage I hadn’t expected – an armchair pilgrimage as I sat in my chair with my foot up, a spiritual journey as I explored what this all meant, a journey towards healing.  It is obviously possible to be on a journey, on a pilgrimage, even if you are forced to be still.  This quote from the Sufi Mystic Hafiz brought me some comfort.

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There is also a saying from the Desert Fathers, “You need a spiritual pilgrimage. Begin by closing your mouth.

It was obviously a tough time.  In practical terms, I got home and went straight to the doctor.  An X-Ray was clear, so I was told to rest and elevate my leg.  If the pain eased after a couple of weeks, I could very gently start short walks and build them up.  If there was no adverse reaction, I might be able to start the walking pilgrimage again in a month.  As it happened, everything worked out and I did start walking after a month.  But until a few days before that, I really did not know if I would be able to do any more walking this year.

As well as the pain, there was a coming to terms with not being able to do something I had been really looking forward to.  There were some dark times, but within all this there was a feeling of being on a journey, of some movement going on, although not knowing at the moment exactly what this is.

There is something important, and not necessarily easy, in saying ‘Yes’ to God in whatever experiences come to us, of bringing the basic pilgrim attitudes of thankfulness and gratefulness to bear when we have a pile of something nasty set before us.  Again, there is that thing of such importance, that it is much easier to talk about than to do – learning to trust, not to worry.  Fr Gildas on Caldey gave me a little card that said, “If we are on a Pilgrimage, God too is on a Pilgrimage to us.”  A wise Carmelite Nun, sent me a message including the words, “The Lord is hard at work on you.”  The support and love of others was of vital importance to me at this time.  As if I didn’t know it already, it is impossible to do something like this on your own.

This pilgrimage time has allowed space for me to be present to God in a special way.  I am sure I will learn what the benefits of this will be as time unfolds (seven years ago, as I was approaching Santiago, someone from St Bede’s, my Church, sent me a wonderful message – “You will learn the benefits of this over the next decades” – patience!).

I have been made to explore deeply some places I would choose not to go, but honest exploration of stuff around weakness, vulnerability, humility, brokenness, smallness and fragility can never be wasted.  It is of vital importance for ministry and life and it is right at the heart of the Gospel.  This is at the heart of the human pilgrimage.

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While I was on Caldey, a lot of the Office Readings were from Corinthians with Paul’s reflecting on dying and rising in and with Christ.  This has spoken to me a lot while I have plodded and then sat.  Lots of connections between this, discipleship, life and my ministry to tease out. I want to spend some time reading St Elizabeth of the Trinity and her teaching, from the heart of the crucible, about suffering and self-forgetfulness.

to be continued ….

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thank you for your post. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. So much of the pilgrim literature focuses on the outward journey, to the exclusion of the inward journey. And the frequent argument over being a real pilgrim is related. IMHO the true pilgrim is one who makes an inward journey; this takes humility, vulnerability, and openness. The physical journey is but a tool to help achieve that inward state.

Comment by kitsambler

Thank you! That’s a really helpful comment.
And the inward journey can be both easy and difficult to follow, but it can be very hard to map

Comment by pilgrimpace




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