Sunday, 20 October 2013

Why go on a pilgrimage?

Thought for the day: why go on a pilgrimage?
Remember writing an article for Christian Aid about this to coincide with an exhibition on pilgrimage at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Interesting points: for Christians, the actual journey is important - physical hardship - carrying your possessions on your back. You realise what is really important to you. What you can live with, and what you can live without.  For Muslims, the emphasis can be slightly different: the moment of arrival is the most important thing.

For the article I interviewed Judy Foot. I first met Judy when working at Breakthrough Breast Cancer in the mid 90s. She had made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in the late 90s in memory of a dear friend of hers, Lesley Elliott. She published a book about her journey which I have kept ever since. She describes in detail the walk and her companions - and why the pilgrimage was important: it was a long hard trek and she felt tested mentally as well as physically. But at the end, nonetheless, she was taken by surprise when she arrived at the Cathedral in Santiago.

'At the beginning the list of pilgrims who had arrived the previous day was read out. I heard my name, Judithian Foot, and that I had walked from St Jean Pied de Port, then some Spanish and quite clearly, loud and strong, the name Lesley Elliott.
'This sound in the vast Cathedral, so many many miles from home, was like an arrow piercing my soul. This was the reason why I was there… I also knew that for me, my walk was not over, it had only just begun.'

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy