Pilgrimpace's Blog


Anna Akhmatova
January 18, 2018, 3:31 pm
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There is an excellent In Our Time BBC Radio programme on the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova that you can listen to here.  By coincidence, I am slowly reading her Collected Poems at the moment.  Strongly recommended.

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advent journey – 3
December 10, 2017, 5:12 pm
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A winter diversion

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Heavy snow overnight.  An early morning walk to the next parish to cover for an ill colleague.  The snow topping my boots.  Passing three stranded buses on the hill.  The joy in people’s faces as children took the sledges out.

Eucharist with a small, intrepid congregation, then back to St Bede’s for our own service.  Again, a remnant, but glad people who are infirm didn’t risk it.  There is something beautiful in these circumstances about worship and prayer being for and on behalf of those unable to attend.

(and was anyone else unable to avoid the temptation to sing In the Bleak Midwinter, See Amid the Winter’s Snow and Good King Wenceslas this morning?)

In the sermon, I read Gillian Clarke’s Ode to Winter (you can read it here) which sets the possibility of this time of year of cold and little light.

And this evening, a friend has reminded me of Camus’ quote:

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer”.

This makes me happy.

– although, please remember to check on elderly neighbours, and to act if you see anyone sleeping rough



coast

We arrived in Aberdaron on the morning bus.  Time to dip into the Church to pray a blessing on the pilgrimage and to pay respects to RS Thomas.  Kneeling before an altar of wood in a stone church.  Waiting for the meaning to unfold itself.

And then time to walk along the coast, those first steps, to the landing for the Bardsey boat.  Go to Bardsey if you can. We were lucky with the weather, a flat sailing and no rain.  You need to contact Colin, who is wonderfully knowledgeable, and book the boat in advance.

20170710_134215Plenty of time to drink tea, wander slowly, look, climb the hill.

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A special place, island of saints, where people went to die.  Praying quietly in the Nun’s Chapel (does anyone have a photo of the inside of this and the icon?  The photo I took vanished).

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Sitting on the water’s edge listening to the chat of the seals.  Watching the puffins on the boat back.

After Bardsey we crossed the Lleyn and made for the northern coast.  We found a beautiful and isolated place to camp above the cliffs.

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A night of being too excited to sleep – the pilgrimage underway, the sound and smell of the sea, a worry about whether my knee would hold up, but most of all the promise of the week – except I did sleep, only to wake with a cry of shock when I found a slug crawling across my forehead.

Early breakfast and then beautiful but frustrating walking as we joined a new part of the coastpath (along from Whistling Sands) that keeps you right on the cliff edge with no possibility of cutting inland for a couple of hours of slow going.

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holy saturday
April 15, 2017, 1:41 pm
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Cart – Puebla de Sanabria

Behind the monastery, down by the road,

there is a cemetery of worn out things

there lie smashed china, rusty metal,

cracked pipes and twisted bits of wire,

empty cigarette packets, sawdust,

corrugated iron, old plastic, tyres beyond repair:

all waiting for the Resurrection, like ourselves.

– Ernesto Cardenal



… 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


.. holy week ..
April 12, 2017, 7:43 pm
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a day for Roy Fisher’s poetry today

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“In this city the governing authority is limited and mean: so limited
that it can do no more than preserve a superficial order. It supplies
fuel, water and power. It removes a fair proportion of the refuse,
cleans the streets after a fashion, and discourages fighting. With
these things, and a few more of the same sort, it is content. This
could never be a capital city for all its size. There is no mind in it, no
regard. The sensitive, the tasteful, the fashionable, the intolerant
and powerful, have not moved through it as they have moved
through London, evaluating it, altering it deliberately, setting in
motion wars of feeling about it. Most of it has never been seen.”



… Holy Week … .
April 11, 2017, 5:21 pm
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this morning they were queuing up to get into St Bede’s for Mass

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In amongst all the pain and joy of Holy Week I am reflecting on the union and unity of it all.

Reading Seamus Heaney

So hope for a great sea-change

On the far side of revenge.

Believe that a farther shore

Is reachable from here.

Believe in miracles

And cures and healing wells.

 

 

Suspect too much sweet talk

But never close your mind.



… holy week …
April 10, 2017, 9:22 pm
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this evening reading Geoffrey Hill:

So, the fifth day, I turned again
To flesh and blood and the blood’s pain.



being there

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back from a very good Birmingham Estate Clergy Residential with twenty colleagues who I completely respect.  The excellent Tim Watson listened to us carefully and led our worship.  He crafted this poem from our words.

Being There

Being there

Not just ticking the boxes

But asking,

“Will joy come in the morning?”

.

Owning the mission

Despite capacity

Knowing our communities

Are first to feel the effects

Of austerity policies

.

Embodying generosity

Willing to share skills

And live out extreme generosity



walking the cistercian way – part 3

Part 3 – Picking up the Pieces

My knee began to recover.  I spent two weeks at home building up walking – one mile, two miles, five miles, ten miles – trying not to count too much on being able to go back to Wales, but the knee behaved.  I caught the train to Abergavenny carrying a much lighter pack.  To avoid strain, I left the camping and the cooking gear.  To give myself a good chance of finishing the last section I had arranged to stay mainly with kind friends and acquaintances.

I was nervous about starting again, but managed to ease myself back in.  I had been invited to The Small Pilgrim Places Network annual gathering and had accepted on the principle that I would have been near Abergavenny at that point if the pilgrimage had gone to plan.  The Small Pilgrim Places (http://www.smallpilgrimplaces.org/) is one of those things that does what it says on the tin.  It is a network of places that pilgrims visit

Small Pilgrim Places are:

  • Spaces for pondering, breathing, meditating, praying and ‘being’
  • Small places, not those already on the map, well-known, or that draw crowds;
  • Simple, quiet and unpretentious, with the presence of the Divine;
  • Places of worship, gardens, ruins, open spaces, holy wells, etc.;
  • Welcoming and inclusive.

It is well worth looking at the website and seeing if any of the places are near you.  It was good for me, as a pilgrim, to spend time with people who are concerned with maintaining pilgrimage places and with welcome.  There is a real richness in putting it all together.  If you are reading this and live in Britain, do you have a Small Pilgrim Place near you?  Do you have a somewhere that could become a Pilgrim Place?

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the Peace Garden at Hedd Wen

Esther de Waal led us in a reflection focusing, wonderfully, on cloister gardens, asking us to find our own place of silence, the threshold, the place for entering our own deepest interior self.  I think this has helped tie together a lot for me, the themes of who I really am, how I can really be that person, encountering in silence and solitude being among the deep gifts of this pilgrimage.  We were given this poem by Bonnie Thurston from Practicing Silence to ponder and pray:

Monk’s Prayer

At the monastic centre

is always a cloister,

an orchestrated emptiness,

a place of light,

a fountain to feed

the heart’s garden.

 

Give me this life:

a centre empty

of all but light,

the stillness of Eden

before fruit was plucked,

my heart a spring

of living water.

 

The next morning I woke to before dawn to heavy rain.  It passed and I began walking.  A couple of hours along a quiet road before I picked up the Offa’s Dyke Path.  Listening hard to my knee, but it coping.  The walking did me good.  Views of some of my favourite hills – The Skirrid, Sugarloaf and The Blorange (I would go out of my way to climb The Blorange), passing the site of Grace Dieu Abbey of which there is no sign, it is utterly gone.

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Good to be back, thinking and praying, reflecting as I walk.  A picnic on a hillside.  Cheese scones, welshcakes, apples, black tea.  looking down at a tiny remote Church that was locked when I reached it.  Into Monmouth after 16 miles, a bed and breakfast, a bath, a meal and sleep.