Pilgrimpace's Blog

… maundy thursday …
April 13, 2017, 5:08 pm
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Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
                              Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                             From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
                             Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                             I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
                             Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
                             Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
                             My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
                             So I did sit and eat.
– George Herbert

camino retreat – interval

Wednesday 5th February, our second day of walking, was a day of hard showers and interludes.

After breakfast  – when Mike and I sought to disprove Rebekah’s assertion that Spanish doughnuts are no good (they fuelled the walking, but I’d go for porridge to maximise this) –  we began with our morning reflection.

George Herbert’s Love was a good place to start, God’s grace gently summoning us back to him, and the theme of love happening through meals and hospitality – something that fits so well with what we receive on the camino, but also in each of the lives of the four of us (see the previous post on End Hunger Fast for how this fits in my life and ministry at the moment).

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
        Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
        From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
        If I lack’d anything.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
        Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
        I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
        “Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
        Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
        “My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
        So I did sit and eat. 

We thought about Jesus’ call to follow him, about how we can tell we are close to him through our growing compassion for others.  This quote from St Athanasius’ Life of Antony, perhaps counter-intuitively for those on pilgrimage, spoke to us:

Some leave home and cross the seas in order to gain an education, but there is no need for us to go away on account of the Kingdom of God nor need we cross the sea in search of virtue. For the Lord has told us, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” All that is needed for goodness is that which is within, the human heart.

There is after all the job of returning home and living there.  Pilgrimage is an interlude which can make things clearer.

In the early morning, the rain stopped and something beautiful happened


The sun – those of us who live in Europe had not seen it since Christmas.  Even Kathy, coming out of Californian drought was missing it.  The fields around, full of water, were lit up.  A rainbow – heralding the next rains – arced across a quarry.  We stopped and I took out my notebook and read RS Thomas’ The Bright Field (you can read it here).

The weather made the walking much more comfortable.  We were able to pause more, to look around.  We passed some wonderful homemade sculptures.


We rested rather than sheltered in bars as we drank a coffee or a claro, we were able to sit next to a forest path to eat bocadillo.


We walked the long straight path into Sigueiro and celebrated with beer.  As the accommodation there has declined, we had arranged to stay a few kilometres outside at the Hotel Vicente.  Ignatio picked us up.  Again, we found that we were the first pilgrims through this year.  We had a good dinner of what the kitchen had – welcome warm caldo, fish, tarta santiago.  Being with Rebekah meant we had good knowledge of the local wines.  Good conversation, and then to bed to listen to the next storm beating the highway …

middle march 4 – across the fields
August 23, 2012, 10:36 am
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Lord, mend or rather make us: one creation
Will not suffice our turn:
Except thou make us daily, we shall spurn
Our own salvation.

– George Herbert, from Giddiness


The last few weeks have been frantically busy.  This has been for a number of good reasons and I am happy as a priest to work to the limits of my capacity at particular times.  The danger for me lies in getting into a pattern where I work flat out all the time, become exhausted and then a liability.  Walking the Camino, along with a commitment to walking and cycling in life, has been enormously important in ensuring I keep a proper shape in my life.  I am enjoying an emptier diary this week, a chance to stretch, to reflect on and process all the busy-ness.

One of the important things that has been happening is discerning the direction of the next few years at St Bede’s, Brandwood, where I spend half my work as Vicar.  We have been using the Diocese of Birmingham’s excellent Transforming Church initiative to help us in this.  Over the last months, folk at St Bede’s have gathered together a list of all the ideas of things we would like to do.  On Saturday, about twenty of us spent a day in prayerful discernment.  We prayed for our parish and then looked at what we already do.  We then considered future work.  We are already active in our local community through our Community Project, particularly in working in partnership with local agencies and people of goodwill to give a better quality of life to all (click here to read the story of this).  We are committed to this and especially to a youth work initiative that will be getting off the ground in the next few months.  We also need to pay some attention to our finances so that all that we do and are is on a secure footing.

When we came to look at what else we might do, I was very happy that the mind of the meeting was to give attention to our life of prayer, both as individuals and corporately as a Church.  We do pray at the moment, but this will be an opportunity to deepen this part of our life in Christ.  It is also an opportunity for integration, to see that prayer and action are part of a seamless robe, that our mission is holistic, caring for all of a person’s being and needs.  This became clearer than ever to me in that School of Prayer and School of Charity which is the Camino de Santiago.  On it, we learn to pray more deeply; that prayer is tested and proved in our encounters with others, especially when it is difficult.

Here are two poems on prayer which give much to live out of:

PRAYER. (I)    (by George Herbert)      

PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age, 
        Gods breath in man returning to his birth, 
        The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage, 
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth 

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner’s towre, 
        Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear, 
        The six daies world-transposing in an houre, 
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear 

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse, 
        Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best, 
        Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest, 
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise, 

        Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud, 
        The land of spices, something understood. 

A Priest at Prayer

From prayer to prayer involves

a dwindling, a way of being

that accounts for weariness, a regular

drawing in and letting out of breath;

the planting of a word and its forgetting,

a close examination of what is there

until it isn’t, a candle flame beating air,

love meeting Love before the house wakes up;

space body-shaped, time vacated,

the passive tense, a waiting to receive,

out-of-bounds of what is right

or wrong, subject to being surprised

by God on briefest sight.

from David Scott Selected Poems.