Pilgrimpace's Blog

san anton

If you would like to support pilgrimage, here is a good chance. San Anton is an old school, basic, loving Christian albergue on the Camino de Santiago near to Castrojeriz. It is set in the ruins of an old monastery.  For five months a year, rough-and-ready pilgrims sleep in 12 Army-issue bunks set in among the old entryway, they eat a meal together and pay whatever they can afford for the no-electricity, no hot water, no-wifi experience.
It relies completely on donations.  And they need a reliable water source.

My good friend Rebekah Scott has come up with a wonderful fundraiser – all the profits of this lovely book go towards the water supply.



Press here to read more about it on Rebekah’s blog and to order your copy.

Click on it, and close to the top right is a DONATE button to purchase the book. Follow the instructions re payment and shipment within the article.

Buen Camino!

PS  – Rebekah says you need to let her have your address so she can send you the book; Paypal doesn’t do this.


advent journey – the way

There is a very good piece by my friend and fellow pilgrim Rebekah Scott here about the plans that the Fraternidad Internacional del Camino de Santiago have to restore the Way to something that is holy and down to earth and which does not eat itself.  I recommend reading it, especially if you are a pilgrim.

It speaks a lot to me about the Advent Journey we’ve been on.  About taking care.  Looking for what is important.  Holding onto it for dear life.  Loving passionately.  Doing justice.  Looking for God in other people.  Respecting the earth.

Advent finishes tomorrow night as we move into Christmas.  There is a calm for me before the wonderful chaos of Children’s Carol Services and Midnight Masses.  Let’s carry on walking together and see what Christmas brings.

The unexpected and unlooked for is so often the best.


a blast
February 12, 2014, 10:46 am
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Rebekah Scott has written a brilliant account of the Camino Pilgrimage here.

this appears to be me attempting to get my waterproofs on

this appears to be me attempting to get my waterproofs on

I love the interweaving of stories and reflections that is happening.

foxes have holes

The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.
Stanley Spencer

One of my favourite blogs is Big Fun in a Tiny Pueblo written by Rebekah Scott.  Rebekah and her husband Paddy live in Moratinos near Sahagun and live in the Peaceable Kingdom, a remarkable House of Hospitality.  Rebekah writes in a beautifully clearsighted and truthful way.  Over the past few weeks, her post Hobo Road has stuck very much in my mind.  Rebekah has given me permission to quote from her, but you might like to read the original post here.

In the post, Rebekah writes about the experience of taking in pilgrims who “are homeless and jobless, wandering the road because there is no other place for them. Given an opportunity, they ask for what they need (Wily Antonio, another Portuguese drifter, shows up here every few months with a wish list!). If nobody gives them food and a bed for the night, they sleep outdoors and eat meals of cheap biscuits. They are poor in an honest, matter-of-fact way.The Camino de Santiago has for centuries been a hobo road, full of drifters and hustlers. Today it´s no different.”

Reading this, my mind and heart go in many directions.  I remember some days on the Camino de Sanabria a few years ago.  Jose Carlos, my Brazilian brother, and I were the only pilgrims in the albergue.  As it got dark, we chatted with the hospitalera, a local woman.  She told us of the problems she and other albergues faced with theft and abuse from pilgrims.  A few minutes after she went home, there was a tremendous banging on the door.  It was a wild looking young man with a rucksack and a wrecked knee.  In the circumstances it was a slightly spooky coincidence and he obviously could not afford the few euros for the albergue.  W made sure he stayed the night there.  Over the next few days our paths crossed a few times and we bought him dinner once or twice.  He was intelligent, unemployed, on the road – he must have been sleeping rough most of the time – and wonderfully ungrateful.  I saw him last in Ourense.

My mind goes back another twenty years to a few formative beautiful tough years working with homeless people in London.  Poverty which was so often destructive, of positive and deep change in people, of profound relationships, of my final shift – being given presents by people who had nothing, of sitting with an elderly man in a doorway on the Strand in the middle of the night as he quoted me Heine and Holderlin in the original.  Of how the English system of relief to homeless people meant them tramping round the country for several hundred years.

Forward to contemporary poverty in Birmingham.  St Gabriel’s embracing the first Birmingham Churches Winter Nightshelter in January.  When we reflected on it and I asked why, Margaret said it was because we are a poor Church.  Of our small attempts at doing something structural to make a difference in our communities: St Bede’s as a place of hospitality for a range of community activities and events; St Gabriel’s with the Older Peoples Forum, the out of school provision which helps families stay in work, the renewed work of hosting.

And there is a deep challenge in all this.  I have security and a good standard of living.  I try to be generous, but I could do so much more.  There is so much needed – indeed something that needs communal, national effort.  Rebekah inspires and challenges me with her life, her commitments and her words:

“Alongside the bums are the freeloaders, pilgrims suffering a different kind of poverty — a poverty of spirit.Freeloaders have enough money to vacation for weeks at a time, but they gleefully consume resources designed for people who can´t afford anything else. Freeloaders take up the “donativo” bunks in the pilgrim shelter because their friends are staying there, because albergues are “integral to my camino experience.” Paying little or nothing for their bed, they can spend the savings elsewhere. They sip beers at their café tables and discuss what makes an Authentic Pilgrim: Walking every step of the way. Prayers. Sacrificing personal comfort and hygiene by sleeping in scruffy pilgrim beds. 
Meantime, on the porch of the church, the bums bed down on the benches.
God grant us grace to be the change we want to see.

epiphany blessing
January 3, 2012, 6:55 pm
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Rebekah Scott on her excellent Big Fun in a Tiny Pueblo Blog has posted this excellent Epiphany Blessing by Jan L Richardson.  This gives plenty to ponder, prepare for, be grateful for in these few days between Christmas and Epiphany:

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
An Epiphany Blessing

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.
Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.
There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;
to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.
There are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.
Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel
to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

save our sacred woodlands

Following on from previous posts about green pilgrimage, the importance of the environment and the like, there is a very interesting article here by Matthew Cresswell on how religions can help save woodlands, forest and biodiversity; but also the terrible effects we can have, for example in pilgrims leaving vast amounts of litter and (literally) crap along the Way.

And great respect to Rebekah and Keith whose Advent discipline has been to clear up the Camino Frances in Palencia.

tough gratitude

Life on the Camino becomes simple and pared down.  I like establishing the rhythms of waking before dawn, walking, eating, finding somewhere to sleep for the night.  In a life that is always in danger of being too busy, it is a wonderful corrective to be able to have just one thing to do at a time.

In this simplified way of life, external events can have a disproportionate effect, especially when you are on your own.  It can be hard to keep things in proportion.  It can be easy to lost the essential marks of gratitude and thankfulness which for me are the marks of the pilgrim.  Gerry Hughes writes of the effect a petty act of meanness had on him on one of his pilgrimages (I can’t find the reference; it’s the story of a barman filling his waterbottle but then being told to pour it away by the boss.  It is either in In Search of a Way or Walk to Jerusalem – read both; they are excellent).

This really affected him negatively until he realised that he was down and tired and without the spiritual resources to deal with it.  He was able to let it go and ignore it.

For Meenakshi and I on the Camino Ingles recently, the weather, especially on the last day of torrential rain, effected us.  There was the challenge to keep going as well as the challenge to make something more of this than an unpleasant wet plod.

Rebekah Scott, who runs a House of Hospitality on the Camino Frances and gives us the fantastic blog Big Fun in a Tiny Pueblo, wrote this recently on the Camino Forum:

If you are a pilgrim, you supposedly take whatever the camino sends your way. You don´t expect much, and you are grateful for what you do get. Sometimes your “bed” may be the porch of the church. It will not be comfy, but it will probably not kill you. 

Gratefulness, simplicity, receiving what comes your way.  For Christian pilgrims, the awareness that pilgrimage is a penitential discipline, the discomfort and pain adding to the journey into Grace, giving weight to the prayer.

This post has gone in a very different direction to that which I had planned!  More tomorrow when I have reflected some more.

Hasta luego!