Saturday, 27 October 2012

"Once a pilgrim..."

To Bristol today for the second time this week: more particularly, to Bristol's oldest building, St James' Priory, used for worship for approaching 900 years. After lunch, 30 or so of us met in what remains of a very large church, not so much for worship as for reflection upon the graces of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela: most of us had walked (or cycled) the Camino - or were intending to do so. My photograph shows Gerry Slamond leading us in a pilgrim song, one of several he wrote when walking through Spain: he even performed one during the pilgrims' mass in Santiago Cathedral.

So, what lessons did my fellow ex-pilgrims share with us? "It taught me to get rid of everything in life except the essentials," one said. "But I'm still working on it." Why do we keep doing it? was another question. (I couldn't help thinking of Eliza's words in My Fair Lady: "Go to St James so often I will call it St Jim.") "It's the existence of a goal," said one. "No," said another, "it's the journey." "No, it's the people," said a third.

One of those present who'd done a fortnight as a hospitalero in the CSJ's Refugio Gaucelmo at Rabanal del Camino spoke of the language difficulties which arose from time to time. A South Korean, whom he had gone out of his way to accompany to the edge of town, fearing he would not find the start of his next stage, bowed deeply to him, saying, "I will never remember you."

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