Pilgrimpace's Blog

into the depth

Perhaps Therese of Lisieux, patroness of all missions, was meant to live out a destiny in which her time was limited to a minimum, her actions were reduced to essentials, her heroism was indiscernible to those who looked for it, and the scope of her mission covered a mere few square meters, in order to teach us that the effectiveness of a mission is not always measurable by the hands of a clock, that actions are not always visible, that missions covering vast distances will be joined by missions that penetrate straight into the depth of the crowds of humanity.  In that abyss, these missions will make contact with the human spirit that questions the world, and oscillates between the mystery of a God who wants it to be small and stripped bare, and the mystery of a world that wants it to be great and powerful. 

from Ville Marxiste, Terre de Mission by Madeleine Delbrel


dragging it uphill
April 28, 2017, 11:08 am
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I’ve come across this rather good picture,

in English, from The Sayings of Light and Love by St John of the Cross:

The soul that journeys to God, but does not shake off its cares and quiet its appetites, is like one who drags a cart uphill.

or perhaps those of us who are walking pilgrims might think of the times we have carried too much in our rucksacks.

life in a hidden light

There is a very beautiful little film here of my friends the Carmelite Sisters at Wolverhampton.

Click here


the way to holiness

Again, trying to view this in a way that’s speaks to us both as individuals and as parts of wider groups and bodies:

“The way to holiness is not through dramatic renunciation, and holiness itself is not just for the ‘specialists’, clergy and religious.  Holiness cannot be struggled for and won – it can only be given, and all that is necessary is that we should ask.  As soon as we cease to strive for virtue, concentrating attention uselessly on ourselves, and instead recognise our weakness, our need, the way is open to encounter God and the holiness of Jesus which is His gift.”

– Ruth Burrows


standing unprotected

This is one of those passages that speaks to me deeply, that I want to spend a lot of time with.  The continuation of a journey into Lent.  

And the glimpses that this applies corporately as well as individually.


“The essential act of prayer is to stand unprotected before God.  What will God do?  He will take possession of us.  That he should do this is the whole purpose of life.  We know we belong to God; we know too, if we are honest, that almost despite ourselves, we keep a deathly hold on our own autonomy.  We are willing, in fact very ready, to pay God lip-service (just as we are ready to talk about prayer rather than to pray), because waving God as a banner keeps our conscience quiet.  But really to belong to God is another matter.  It means having nothing left for ourselves, always bound to the will of another, no sense of interior success to comfort us, living in the painful acknowledgement of being ‘unprofitable servants’.  It is a terrible thing to be a fallen creature, and for most of the time we busily push this truth out of our awareness.  But prayer places us helpless before the living God and we taste the full bitterness of what we are.

“Ask yourself: What do I really want when I pray?  Do you want to be possessed by God? Or to put the same question more honestly, do you want to want it?  Then you have it.  The one point Jesus stressed and repeated and brought up again is that: ‘Whatever you ask the Father he will grant it to you.’  his insistence on faith and perseverance are surely other ways of saying the same thing: you must really want, it must engross you.  When you set yourself down to pray, what do you want?  If you want God to take possession of you, then you are praying.  That is all prayer is.  There are no secrets, no shortcuts, no methods.  Prayer is the utter ruthless test of your sincerity.  It is the one place in the world in which there is nowhere to hide.  That is its utter bliss – and its torment.

“If you desire to stand surrendered before God, then you are standing there.  It needs absolutely nothing else.  Prayer is the last thing we should feel discouraged about.  It concerns nobody except God – always longing to give himself in love – and my own decision.  And that too is God’s ‘who works in us to will and effect’.  In a very true sense there is nothing more to say about prayer – ‘the simplest thing out’.  However two practical comments.  The first is that prayer must have time … Nobody goes through a day without the odd patch, a five minute break, a ten minute pause.  If you do truly want to pray, well then pray … The other practical point is: what shall I do during prayer?  (How eagerly people long to be told the answer!  For that would make me safe against God, well protected.  I would know what to do!)  But the answer is of the usual appalling simplicity: stand before God unprotected and you will know yourself what to do.”

– Ruth Burrows Ascent to Love: the spiritual teaching of St John of the Cross


all saints day journey

I have probably shared this before, but these Cistercian words speak very much to where I am after walking the Cistercian Way.  I am sure it will speak to others as well:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


A good road to walk.

I made a physical journey today to the doctor’s surgery to get my knee checked over.  It is hurting much less now and – obviously – I was able to complete that last important week of walking.  Good news.  It is some wear to the cartilage.  Nothing to worry about or to stop me walking and cycling.  If I get another acute episode, I am to go back and they will MRI scan it.  It is healing.  This gives me confidence.

Today is All Saints Day.  I am reading a helpful and insightful book by Mark O’Keefe, The Way of Transformation: Saint Teresa of Avila on the Foundation and Fruit of Prayer.  This looks at Teresa’s teaching and spirituality through the integral lens of moral theology; it’s about how praying transforms our living, and how living well transforms our praying.  My insights are deepening.

As I walk on with all this, here is Santa Teresa striding out from The Encarnacion with her great and determined determination:


altar frontal

I visited Moseley Old Hall near Wolverhampton yesterday.  It was wonderful to discover a seventeenth century altar frontal made by Carmelite nuns in Sicily containing scenes from the life of St Teresa.  I was particularly struck by one panel depicting Ss Francis and Clare appearing to Teresa, a legend I have not come across before, but something that weaves together important strands of my own spirituality and journey.

It wasn’t possible or appropriate to take photographs of it, but there is one of the whole frontal here and one of the panel here