Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Camino de Santiago, cistercian way, pilgrimage, prayer, the cistercian way
This little article was written for the Confraternity of St James Facebook Page. Please join in the discussion here!
John asked me if I would post a few thoughts on the Camino, spirituality and prayer. Here goes – this is a bit of a ‘starter for ten’. As life is full of Christmas busyness, this is written quickly. It is what has come straight to mind. It would be good to have your thoughts on this too, to get some combined wisdom, to have a conversation.
I can speak for myself in this. When I go on a walking pilgrimage – and especially a long one – I am going as a Christian pilgrim (from Anglican tradition) and the pilgrimage is about praying, about walking through a landscape (is it always a sacred landscape? Do the feet of pilgrims make it so?) to a sacred place.
For me, walking and praying fit together well. I like walking alone or with quiet friends. Getting away from routine gives me space to be with God. The rhythm of walking and breathing leads me into prayer, quietens my mind. In those hard times and hard sections I offer intercession. There is a sense of outer journey and inner journey somehow combining. Of course, I cannot demand or expect that any inner journey or encounter with God will take place, but pilgrimage seems to me a good way of putting ourselves in a good place for this. And then, of course, there is the challenge of saying yes.
There is something very important too in the encounters we have along the way. The Churches and communities we worship and pray with, encounters with individuals “Hug the Saint for me”. I know I do not want to carry more weight in my rucksack, but there is always more room for people to pray for. The Bible passages I hear along the way are deeply meditated upon.
Pilgrim routes are not about cherry picking the best landscape. They go through it all. On my recent pilgrimage through Wales, I spent time walking past the Port Talbot Steelworks, praying for its uncertain future. In Spain, there is all the legacy of the Civil War, or all the fascist and anti-fascist graffiti around immigration.
I encounter other pilgrims. This can be a blessing, opening my horizons. A full albergue can also be a real School of Charity when we are all exhausted. There is the great joy of an international meal, wine or beer flowing, deep things being spoken and unspoken in several languages.
I come up against myself, the bits I like, the bits that are unloveable. I come up against my limitations as well as the times I surpass them. A friend asked me yesterday what I had learned from the Cistercian Way, how had God spoken to me? My immediate response is that the most profound part, and the part which will most affect my life and ministry as I travel on, was four weeks in the middle where I sat with my leg up nursing a knee ligament injury. Much here about weakness, vulnerability, brokenness to carry forward.
I am taught simplicity – I am carrying as little as I can, I live a simple routine.
But most of all, it is a journey into trust and love.
I would like to ask too what books or articles you have found most helpful on this?
If you don’t mind a little self-promotion, I have an article on my blog reflecting on the Camino de Levante
If you read recent blog posts, there are series on my recent pilgrimage along The Cistercian Way: On Becoming a (More) Broken Pilgrim.
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