What is a Pilgrimage?
Catherine Widdicombe, Tony Walsh & Ollie Donnelly
with their Pilgrim Passports
For those of you who have never been on a Pilgrimage or even thought about what it is, then the Grail Partners Weekend at Launde Abbey, near Oakham, in May was an opportunity to explore this theme.
About ten years ago, Ollie and Jennie Donnelly, Tony Walsh and Catherine Widdicombe walked part of the Camino, the ancient pilgrim route from the French Pyrenees to Santiago De Compostela in Spain, thought to be the final resting place of St James the Apostle. It was this which gave impetus and shape to the weekend.
We looked at the very apt words of Cardinal Hume: 'Life is a pilgrimage…. And sooner or later we will reach our destination…heaven. There we shall see God.'
But what is a pilgrimage? We struggled with this question using Carl Schmidt’s very cleverly written play whose characters reflected various interpretations.
'Pilgrimage is a journey of faith usually to a place of spiritual significance.' So what about rather dubious places eg the manger at Bethlehem? Or even Compostela? Does it matter whether or not James is buried there, or is it more important that this place has been hallowed by the prayers of pilgrims for centuries?
What about motivation? Why do people go to Lourdes? If they are sick, are they hoping for a cure or some acceptance of what is happening to them? Perhaps it is more to do with bringing something of ourselves to a special journey of faith so that there is change within ourselves and interchange with God?
We explored these points in groups and, later, watched the film 'The Way', and two things struck me. Firstly that those pilgrims may have started out as individuals but at some point realised that they needed others on their journey. Secondly we cannot judge another’s motive for wanting to make a pilgrimage, since it is very personal decision.
As always, at Partners weekends, there was plenty of opportunity to sit, chat and catch up with everyone. It was also nice to meet up with Alison Christian, the new Warden at Launde. When the Grail was in Pinner, she was Vicar in Stanmore and came regularly to one of our Poustinias.
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