The kind of devotions a pilgrim may undertake on a pilgrimage will follow their particular spirituality. There is only one Christian spirituality, but within it there are different emphases, and devotional practices vary widely. The spirituality of the Walking Out of the World pilgrimage to Compostela follows from my own experience of Christian spirituality which has been both monastic and mendicant.
I do not offer spiritual direction and I will simply direct you to a priest should you ask me about that. I am offering some kind of pilgrim ministry here – at a distance – and I am unsure myself yet, what might be the particular charisms I may be able to share. You will be the judge of that, not I, and the Church will also be the guide to give me confidence that things are kept on an even keel here. The blog is meant as mission, and after experience of Anglican parish missions as a Franciscan friar I have a long-term commitment to the role of spirituality in mission, as a Catholic. Here in Spain where I live, we just don’t see much of that sort of thing!
Shortly before undertaking a 2000-kilometre walking pilgrimage from Worcester to Compostela in 2008, I had come out of a Carthusian hermitage at Saint Hugh’s Charterhouse, Sussex, where I had been living in a time of discernment. I also had experience of living in a charismatic community in the Pyrenees in France. I will say more about these various religious and community experiences in the virtual pilgrimage walking reflections.
However, for most of my Christian journey, I have been guided by Franciscan spirituality and I lived some years as a Franciscan friar. (The terminology can be confusing but think of a friar as simply a monk who moves around.) Now I live a solitary life and a follow a hermitage rule. I live in a remote setting in a mountain valley in Spain with my four donkeys and this way of life is mainly informed by a Franciscan spiritual emphasis. If you are unfamiliar with the distinctions, I try to explain some of these things as we walk along on the virtual pilgrimage to Compostela.
That spiritual journey informs the kind of emphasis I offer on the virtual pilgrimage blog. That is all. It is not offered as a better spiritual way, nor indeed any model of moral behaviour! You will see that clearly from time to time in this pilgrimage! (And in other places on my blog should you choose to scrutinise it for my many faults!) You will judge if I have anything to offer as a guide on a journey: as a pilgrim who has at least some sort of tattered torn map to share with you, when we are trudging through a the cold wind and beating rain, and a mad dog is biting at our ankles on the climb to Foncedabon. And when we arrive at the village to find all the refuges full and the supper has all been eaten, I will tell you the story of Brother Francis and Perfect Joy.
The Jesus Prayer
I say this often and use a 100-knot Orthodox prayer rope to count the centuries. This video is an excellent introduction. You may also read The Way of a Pilgrim, the Russian classic which is anonymous.
I replaced the previous video on the Jesus Prayer when a reader of the blog sent me this one and said “Your English Orthodox priest from Essex is a bit pompous and you may like this video by Matt Fradd instead, as it’s more appealing to those who have not used the Jesus Prayer.” I completely agree, and thank you Dorothea. (Sorry to Father Spyridon Bailey for removing your video, and maybe ‘gravitas’ was the word Dorothea was looking for? 🙂
But some of us are happy to dispense with the gravitas (or the pomposity!) when talking about prayer, and the following video is certainly more like the way I would introduce the prayer – but probably not with an Australian accent! – and I like the simple approach here.
In the video he mentions Saint Paul’s exhortation to “pray without ceasing” and you can find that in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Which brings me neatly to the next section of this Devotions page: praying with saints.
Praying with the Saints on a pilgrimage
What do we mean by praying to saints? Is it just a Catholic thing? Do we really mean praying with the saints, to God? Or praying through the saints. I didn’t have any Christian background before my conversion, and when I became an Anglican in the first part of my Christian journey I learned to pray through the saints, not to the saints. It is quite a serious distinction and I think I have kept an Anglican position on this after I became a Catholic, but I’m still not quite sure.
What you do and how you see this question is a matter for you – or for your spiritual director to help you understand it better! – but the question should be explored at least, on a pilgrimage to Compostela. Passing through so many shrines of saints, and ending at the shrine of the Apostle Saint James the Greater, we need to have at least some personal understanding of what we mean by praying through saints.
(To be continued…)