Pilgrimpace's Blog

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 …



When I’m preaching at a wedding or a renewal of marriage vows like I am this afternoon, I often quote this passage from Captain Correlli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres in which Iannis, an elderly Greek doctor, is warning his daughter Pelagia of the dangers of love:

And another thing.  Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.  And when it subsides you have to make a decision.  You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.  Because that is what love is.  Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion … That is just being “in love”; any fool can fall in love.  Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away … It is finding that you have roots which have grown towards each other underground and that you are one tree and not two.

And quoting this here raises a whole range of questions.  What does this long-term focussed love mean?  What does it mean when it is focussed not just on one other person or family, but on a community or city or country or world?  What are the social and political consequences of such love?  What does long-term love in a relationship of whatever sort teach us about the nature of political love and commitment?



lenten journey – six
March 8, 2012, 1:54 pm
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“I don’t think a loving parent would educate by fear.”  “I hope this is not what you teach your parishioners.”   “Oh, I don’t teach them.  They teach me.”

It’s odd, thought Father Quixote, how sharing a sense of doubt can bring people together perhaps even more than sharing a faith.  The believer will fight another believer over a shade of difference: the doubter fights only with himself.

Why is it that the hate of man dies with his death, and yet love, the love which he had begun to feel for Father Quixote, seemed now to live and grow in spite of the final separation and the final silence – for how long was it possible for that love of his to continue? And to what end?

– Graham Greene, Monsignor Quixote


what else?
May 23, 2011, 5:57 pm
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What else is love but a love of nature?

– Graham Swift