When I was younger I lived in Kent, close to Canterbury, and often walked on stretches of the Pilgrims’ Way which leads from Winchester to Canterbury.
I’m planning to walk part of the route as a continuous pilgrimage this year (finances allowing), and as part of my preparation for this I’m reading some of the accounts of other pilgrims on this route. Shirley De Boulay’s book was in the bibliography of another book on pilgrimage I read recently, so I decided to start with this book. It is an interesting account of the pilgrimage undertaken by a small group of friends in the early 1990s, with some thoughtful bits among the general travelogue.
This particular thoughtful bit caught my attention.
” One of the thoughts which I still could not let go – in fact which was to pursue me to Canterbury and beyond – was the question of whether the divine is more present, more accessible, on pilgrimage than at home. If God was not to be found in some special way on pilgrimage, why do we do it? Yet if he exists at all, he is everywhere and in everyone; there is no need to go on pilgrimage. The evidence in favour of pilgrimage being a way to experiencing God is quite simply us, the pilgrims. But many contrary voices are raised, for instance an unknown Irish author, writing of ‘vain pilgrimage’, said, ‘Coming to Rome, much labour and little profit! The King whom you seek here, unless you bring him with you, you will not find him.’ In like vein an American pilgrim said, ‘I’ve discovered I can meet the risen Lord just as well in Kansas City as I can in Jerusalem.’ Thomas a Kempis was scathing about the pilgrims of his time, observing that ‘Few are made better by sickness, and those who make frequent pilgrimages seldom acquire holiness by so doing.’
But walk we do. Pilgrimage persists. I was beginning to accept that giving outer form to the inner journey is an instinctive response to a deep human need; It is a sort of incarnation.”
Does God like pilgrims?
Are moving people more likely to meet God than static ones?
Could the same things be achieved by contemplation as by pilgrimage…can you do the interior journey without the exterior or are they linked?
Pilgrimage as a kind of incarnation…acknowledging we are whole people not just disembodied spiritual ones…