“Getting back into the normal business of life can be difficult and might involve feelings of sadness or frustration, or a sense of depression – Monday morning feeling with attitude! It helps to be ready for this, and if it does not happen that is a pleasant bonus.”
David Osborne, ‘Pilgrimage’ page23
It may be tempting to imagine that somehow our pilgrimage has taken place in a different world to the one we normally inhabit – the world of pilgrimage and the world of our ‘normal’, everyday life are one and the same.
However, it cannot be denied that while for a short time we have been quite focussed on the journey, on our destination and have tried to be completely aware of the presence and the voice of God, for those ‘back home’ life has rolled on much as before, and we must anticipate carrying the discoveries from the journey back into our everyday existence; and God is just as much at home as on our journey.
Somehow we have to take the experience of pilgrimage back with us as we undergo ‘re-entry’. In a sense it is as vital that we take care over this transition just as we took care to leave well at the beginning. Ritual and prayer may help. A conscious contemplation on the ‘how’ of carrying our experiences into everyday life may be appropriate, and of what and how we will share our pilgrimage with those at home.
We may well have become accustomed to travelling slowly and thoughtfully; thus the kind of transport we use for our re-entry may also be important. Shirley Du Boulay writes of the journey home from her pilgrimage to Canterbury along the Pilgrims’ Way:
“Eventually we left and drove back to Oxford. For much of the early part of the journey the road runs parallel with the Pilgrims’ Way. It felt odd, speeding in the opposite direction, past the places that we had known so recently and explored at such a leisurely pace. The journey that had taken us nearly fourteen days to walk was over in less than three hours. Then home to a pile of post and messages and a broken washing machine. Life must now return to normal, but would it ever be quite the same again?”
Shirley Du Boulay, ‘The Road to Canterbury’ page 229
Most writing on the process of pilgrimage ends here, but from my own experience I felt it necessary to add a sixth and final stage, which I find vital if the experience of pilgrimage is to be internalised, to be truly assimilated into our everyday lives.