Pilgrimpace's Blog

snail’s pace
December 6, 2010, 5:28 pm
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Good travels at a snail’s pace


ready, steady, slow
December 1, 2010, 3:46 pm
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This online Advent Calendar looks rooted and valuable as we prepare for Christ.

October 3, 2010, 6:33 pm
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This was a transitional time in my Camino a year ago.  I had walked the long, hard solo miles from Valencia to Toledo; immensely hard and immensely enjoyable.  I met my friends Roy and Karen, on holiday, walked a little with them, enjoyed their company hugely, and spent time with them visiting the tourist and Carmelite sights and sites in Avila and Toledo.

Then began the Third Stage.  I took the train on to Zamora.  I knew there would be other pilgrims walking up the Via de la Plata from Sevilla; I knew I could take my time, walk more slowly, be less driven, reach Santiago in time to reach my family who were coming out to meet me at Half Term.

I spent two nights in Zamora to look round this romanesque gem.  Over breakfast I met a man with a laden cycle.  Was he going to Santiago?  No, but he was cycling to Africa – put my exertions into perspective! Looked round the Cathedral and the Magdalena and ate a good lunch: rice with sausage, salt cod, creme caramel, wine, water, coffee.

I attempted a siesta and then went to find a Mass.  It was the eve of St Francis Day.  The bell was tolling and people were filing into the Church attached to the Clarisses Convent.  On top sat the only storks I saw in Spain.

There was Exposition, then Rosary, then Mass.  During the sermon, the priest broke down in tears.  The Third Order gathered around a habit for the Transitus, the service marking Francis’ death and committing us to following the Way of the Gospel.  Afterwards, they were very glad to meet an Anglican member of the Franciscan family.

I walked back with the priest, who spoke to each of the people begging for money, telling me who I should give money to and how much.  I sat in the Plaza Mayor, taking in all the day, wondering about tomorrow, reflecting on it all.  As my supper arrived, I wrote:

I need to reflect about the Incarnation and what the pilgrimage teaches about it – also about everything being material for prayer, being stripped back.

wake early
September 27, 2010, 4:32 pm
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Wake early


Well of course

and not  in fearful

response to Calvinistic

maxims (¨healthy, wealthy and wise¨)

but for the stillness

mysterious presence

companionable, enfolding


We must wake early

how else can we see

the sky so full of stars

but low as if bending

to kiss earth’s darkness

presage dawn’s embrace

provident daily reminder

we are not forgotten.


Bonnie Thurston

25th November 2009


rest days
September 24, 2010, 9:03 am
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Chinchilla de Monte Aragon

An essential part of my Camino was taking the occasional rest day.  This was part of a pact I made with my body and it was wonderful to wake at 5.30 or 6.00am and to turn over and sleep again.  To spend the morning pottering around the town, getting rest, feasting my eyes and soul on the beauty that Spain offers, eating, taking siesta, praying.

Looking back, I always stopped for two nights in places that were nourishing.  Chinchilla, in the photo above, a stunning hilltop town with people who cared for me deeply and practically; the outstanding architecture and ambience of Toledo and Zamora (could one rush through these without stopping to look and look again?); Santa Croya de Tera with the care from Casa Anita and the statue of Santiago Peregrino; the profound silence and prayer of Mosterio de Oseira.

Statue of Our Lady, Osiera

These days were important.  My pilgrimage – and my being – would have been impoverished without them.  I am learning deep and important things from them.  To remember that life is not all about rushing onwards, that we should be shaped by leisure and prayer rather then work, that I need rest.  In short, things that are all about Sabbath.

The last six weeks have been frantically busy.  It has been one of those times when there has been no choice but to work to my limits.  But there is now the prospect of some space, of having time for reflection, of giving attention to the more gentle rhythms of being.  And, indeed, there is the prospect of a few days on a short walking pilgrimage next month.

April 29, 2010, 7:00 pm
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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.