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



Pilgrim
April 9, 2015, 2:20 pm
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My friend Barbara has sent me this wonderful wall hanging.

image

The central image of the pilgrim is based on a photo I took while walking the Camino de Levante through La Mancha what is now years ago. I remember the day. It was hot. The Camino led me onto a bank through a field. As always in those solitary weeks, my shadow was my companion. For once I was walking a short day – I wanted to spend time immersing myself in an ordinary town – so I had time to walk slowly and play. It took a while to pose the photo of the shadow-me walking against a background of bleached cereal stubble.

I love the hanging. I am spending time thinking through the best place to put it. Somewhere to remind me that I am always a pilgrim and that the hard learned lessons of the Camino are always in front of me.

(and I will post next week with plans for another big pilgrimage in the future)

¡Buen Camino!



st james day

This is my favourite statue of Saint James, Santiago Peregrino

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He is on top of the Parish Church in Chinchilla, an ancient hilltop town near to Albacete.

I had a rest day here when I walked the Camino de Levante five years ago.  I was extraordinarily looked after by several people there after a tough first week of solo walking.

This James is tough and strong – he has certainly done some miles under the hot sun, but he is full of compassion and love.  He got me through the next weeks as I walked through La Mancha to Toledo.

Saint James, pray for all pilgrim people.



levante blog

This blog started as a way of keeping friends in touch with my walk on the Camino de Levante in 2009.  If you click on ‘Camino de Levante’ in the sidebar or on posts for September-November 2009, you will find my posts on that pilgrimage.

Laurie is currently on the Levante and is writing a tremendously informative blog as she goes.  This is a fantastic resource for anyone thinking of walking this very quiet route.  You can read Laurie’s blog here.  She should be arriving in Chinchilla today – one of my favourite places:

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lenten journey 2
February 14, 2013, 7:44 pm
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For the first time in ages, I’ve been reflecting on my walk along the Camino de Levante in 2009.  I wrote this:

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It is hot under the September sun.  I am drenched in sweat.  The land stretches away flat as far as I can see on every side.  It is La Mancha.  The fields have been harvested.  The colours I can see are brilliant blue sky, red dust in the fields, yellow dust in the stony path.  I can hear the road I know to be a quarter of a mile away, my boots hitting the path.  Ahead I see a bush.  I take off my rucksack, sit into the patch of shade – which is not much cooler than the sun – pull off my boots, drink water, now warm, from my bottles, eat large red plums.

 

My body has become used to this.  Every morning, I wake before dawn, wash and dress, put everything into its accustomed place in my rucksack.  I say Morning Prayer.  I drink a couple of litres of water.  If there is a café open in the pueblo I drink café con leche and eat cake.  I set off as the sun rises, wanting to walk as far as possible before the heat.  My body aches but it is used to this; I’m averaging 15 miles a day; the furthest has been 27.  My feet have toughened; the blisters are gone.

 

If I pass through a town or village I stop to drink cafes and refrescos and eat bocadillo.  I carry fruit and chocolate, along with a frighteningly heavy quantity of water.

 

I have a Spanish guidebook to this solitary pilgrimage route with strip maps.  The local amigos groups have marked the route with yellow arrows or blue shells.  I never get too horribly lost.

 

My Spanish is basic.  I have enough to ask the way, to find accommodation, to buy food, to follow Mass, but not enough for a conversation of depth. If I meet anyone I stop and talk, thirsty for company in my loneliness.

 

I arrive in the town or village where I will be staying in the early afternoon.  I find accommodation – either a specialist pilgrim albergue or a hostal.  I rehydrate and shower.  I find a restaurant serving a Menu, a cheap three course meal with a bottle of table wine.  I return to the albergue – in these early weeks I am always alone.  I wash my clothes.  I write my journal.  I sleep.  In the late afternoon I explore the town on aching legs.  I find my route for the morning.  If there is a public library, I use the internet.  I text my wife.  If the  Church is open, I join the Rosary and Mass.  Sometimes the priest takes me under his wing.  I find a bar, watching the news or the football.  I eat and drink more.  I try to sleep in another bed.

 

My mind and spirit are getting used to this.  At the beginning it was overwhelming.  If I could have run home with no one noticing, I would have.  Now the walking steadies me.  I take it a mile at a time, a day at a time.  There is a huge distance to go to Santiago but my worries are burning away.  I am embracing the solitude and simplicity.  I will carry this forward when I finish.

 

In a week, I will climb out of the Meseta and reach Toledo.  My friends, Karen and Roy, will join me for a few days.  I will change my mode of travel and use their car.  We will drive to Avila and Segovia staying in hotels.  I will then catch the train on to Zamora to complete the walk, now through the green mountains of Galician autumn.  Other pilgrims are there on the route from Sevilla.  There will be plenty more lessons to learn here.

 

I put my boots back on and stand up.  After a quick look at the map, I heave my rucksack onto my back and start walking.  A song comes to my lips.



coincidence of memory

I’ve just been putting clothes in a bag in preparation for a weekend pilgrimage to Walsingham with St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle and suddenly remembered that three years ago I was finishing the much more careful preparation to leave for Valencia and begin walking to Santiago!  Different pilgrimages but hopefully a continuing journey into the heart of Love with still so much more to learn along the Way.



by the Sierra de Mugron
August 31, 2012, 11:04 am
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By the Sierra de Mugron

photo from wikipedia commons

 

this is the place

of love and space

 

on this high plain

scanning sky

as if it were my soul

 

today is the test

the tipping point

 

I repack the rucksack,

each thing in its accustomed place

 

that simplicity

seeming to reflect

a certain precision in the walking

 

another draft poem to share with you and I’d be grateful for your comments.  This is an attempt at distillation of a pivotal and hard day during the solitary first weeks of walking the Camino de Levante in 2009.