Pilgrimpace's Blog

March 2, 2017, 9:07 pm
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“Listen, O my child, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart”

Rule of St Benedict

Paying attention within and without.  Listen. Watch. A clear gaze.


detail from the Tympanum, Vezelay Abbey.  Photo from Wikimedia Commons


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


the green heart of the snowdrop
February 16, 2016, 11:46 am
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I have found this poem and prayer reproduced in a number of places in the past few days.  I hope it is OK to reproduce it here – it speaks so much of the journey of this time of year.


photo from wikipedia commons

Into the dark world a snowdrop comes:

a blessing of hope and peace

carrying within it a green heart:

symbol of God’s renewing love.

Come to inhabit our darkness,

Lord Christ,

for dark and light are alike to you.

May nature’s white candles of hope

remind us of your birth

and lighten our journey

through Lent and beyond. Amen.

Kate McIlhagga, Iona

lenten path
February 12, 2016, 8:14 pm
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This week’s Lenten path has often felt a bit like this:


Uphill, steep, muddy, a load of hard yards.

But there have been the moments of bliss too.  The stopping at the top to rest for a moment and take in the view


If you pray, please remember Sammy and Frank whose funerals were this week.

this day
March 11, 2015, 2:56 pm
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Now that illness is receding there is space and time and energy to read.

I’ve long enjoyed Wendell Berry’s poetry and I have taken This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems from my shelf.  These poems come from solitary Sunday walks around his farm in Kentucky.  I love the mix of nature, love of earth, spiritual longing, political anger.  I really recommend you read this if you can get a copy.


This poem, as a taster, sums up a lot of these weeks for me:


The winter world of loss

And grief is gone. The night

Is past. Along the whole

Length of the river, birds

Are singing in the trees.


Again, hope dreams itself

Awake. The year’s first lambs

Cry in the morning dark.

And, after all, we have

A garden in our minds.


We living know the worth

Of all the dead have done

Or hoped to do. We know

That hearts, against their doom,

Must plight an ancient troth.


Now come the bride and groom,

Now come the man and woman

Who must begin again

The work divine and human

By which we live on earth.

lenten journey – walking together
March 4, 2015, 2:39 pm
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Bharti is home from hospital.  The infection has passed.  It will be a bit of a road to recovery but at least we are on it.  My friend Rosie wrote that “You can’t always choose your Lenten passage – but your friends can walk it with you”.  I really appreciate this insight and all of the love and support we have received from you.