As you may be aware the College Board granted me leave to undertake a period of renewal in the last few weeks of Term 2. I was able to visit Jordan, be part of a pilgrimage through the Holy Land and take a Footsteps of St Paul tour through Greece and into Turkey. This is not the first time that I have undertaken a pilgrimage and I continue to be amazed at the wonderful benefits, both spiritually and personally that these opportunities provide.
I consider myself to be very lucky to have had these experiences and they add great richness to previous opportunities that have been provided. I walked the Camino De Santiago or the Way of St James in 2013 and I was also able to take part in a Footsteps of St Benedict pilgrimage in 2016, which provided me with wonderful insights into our charism and the Rule of Benedict. I guess the obvious question is why do people do these things and what is it about the experience of pilgrimage that draws so many people to this experience?
The notion of being a pilgrim and going on a pilgrimage is a very ancient one and it appears to have found new significance in recent years. The idea of making a pilgrimage is part of most spiritual traditions and it is generally considered to be a means of leaving the mundane aspects of life behind and focusing on higher things.However, we seem to be experiencing a shift in focus around pilgrimage with new meaning and purpose attributed to this practice. No doubt a pilgrimage is a very personal experience, yet it usually involves journeying with others and seeing, listening, reflecting and, for people of faith, seeing the hand of God at work in our own lives.
Many people are embarking on pilgrimage with little intention of focusing on faith. They have other priorities such as having an active holiday, seeking healthier headspace or simply using the experience as a way of escaping their lives for a while. Yet it’s surprising how quickly people’s thoughts begin to turn to the ‘deep and meaningful’ aspects of life while undertaking these journeys.
I was amazed to see people who described themselves as atheists sitting in tears in the cathedral in Santiago at the end of the Camino. Something had touched them very deeply and they were shocked at their reaction. Just maybe it wasn’t exhaustion or relief, perhaps it was the dawning realisation that they were cared for and walking with the loving presence of God in their lives.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Dr Frank Pitt
Back to All Articles