“And so… Don’t talk too much about God. But live in the knowledge that He has written your name on the palm of His hand.
“Live your human task in the liberating certainty that nothing in the world can separate you from God’s love for you.”
– From The Benedictine Rule for a new Brother
Teach us, O, God, to view our life here on Earth as a pilgrim’s path to heaven, and give us grace to tread it courageously in the company of your faithful people. Help us to set our affections of things above, not on the passing vanities of this world. And grant that we may journey in the way of holiness, that we may bear a good witness to the Lord and serve all who need our help along the way.
For the glory of your name.
In Our End is our Beginning
– Closing reflection from Fr Jim O’Keefe
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity,
in our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory.
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
So how does is feel to have come to the end of our CAFOD Virtual Pilgrimage from Durham to Holy Island? I am writing this on the 9th Day. I have just read the piece on the Lindisfarne Gospels and imagined Eadfrith, the Scribe and Bishop, copying today’s Gospel early on in his labour of love. It is the instruction of Jesus to the Apostles to go out into the world to preach the Kingdom bringing no money, no haversack and no staff – just their trust in the Father and faith in him. I suspect he was sending them out to learn something about trust and faith and not just to preach.
It would be good to spend a bit of time in silence at the end of your walk. What have been the strongest feelings that have emerged as you imagined yourself tramping the paths and the roads, the hills and the sand? What new thoughts have emerged? Who has come to mind as you’ve walked along? How close have you come to our sisters and brothers in other lands, millions of whom are now facing a totally unprecedented struggle as a result of the coronavirus? For the poorest in the world this is not just a health issue, it is about having no work and no food. It is health, economics and sheer survival.
As you walked, you may well have wondered about our sisters and brothers throughout the world who have to flee from their own lands. The population of the United Kingdom is around 67,094,000. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees there are 70.8 million forcibly displaced people in our world. There are more people seeking a safe place to live than actually live in the UK.
We’ve met quite a few ‘forcibly displaced people’ over the last 11 days. Paulinus felt he had to return to the South of England; the monks on Lindisfarne felt forcibly displaced when the Vikings arrived. I wonder how the Irish monks on Lindisfarne felt after the Synod of Whitby – they certainly felt they could no longer remain in a more ‘Roman’ church. But all of these people felt they were able to go to a place where they would be made welcome. That is not the case with those fleeing their homelands today. Thousands have no idea where they’re going to and so many are not welcome when they get there.
Going on Pilgrimage helps us look upwards and outwards. We meet new people and they help us see things in new ways. We can find ourselves in fascinating conversations with folk who share their insights and experience. If we sit still long enough, then the Spirit will certainly prompt us to imagine things differently.
It has been a privilege to read the insights and prayers and reflections of others over the last few days. People have been getting in touch from all across the UK and from places further afield, such as Ireland, France, Canada, America, Mexico and even Australia. So many people with great memories of Pilgrimages across the world – Walsingham, Croagh Patrick, Gougane Barra, Knock, Lourdes, Fatima, Santiago and Guadalupe. Many others remembering being on Lindisfarne itself – plodging across the causeway, the prayers the hymns and the celebrations of Mass, sometimes in torrential rain, sometimes in beautiful sunshine and more recently in the hugely atmospheric Church of St Mary the Virgin. It is always a pleasure to be welcomed by the ministers of other Christian groups on the Island, and if you’ve not had a chance to read Rev Sarah Hill’s reflection A View from the Island, then do. It’s brilliant.
At the end of our gatherings there was always a Passing around of the Collection Bucket, which helped CAFOD’s appeals. Obviously, there are no actual buckets this year, but there is still a desperate need for support. You will most likely hear of a Disasters Emergency Committee (the DEC, an emergency group of UK charities of which CAFOD is a highly respected member) appeal for funds in the very near future for those who are already suffering, and for those who will suffer as a result of having Covid-19 in their midst. CAFOD would be hugely grateful to receive from you what you might well have put ‘in the bucket’.
Bishop Robert is so right when he said in his introductory video that “It is especially important that you as workers for CAFOD, and all those who support CAFOD, realise that our stretching out to other people, our reaching out to people, is inspired and animated by our love of the Lord.”
These people are in indescribable need. Perhaps we can help them. Please do consider a donation to CAFOD’s emergency appeal.
I also hope you are able to join Fr Chris Hughes and many others in the celebration of Mass at 3.00pm this afternoon (11th July). All you have to do is go to St Cuthbert’s and St Joseph’s Facebook page. Or not to worry if you do not have a Facebook account as you can tune in via Zoom instead, by clicking on this link. You can find the meeting password at the top of the ‘Fr Chris and Our Mass’ page.
We have spent 11 days walking and wondering, reflecting and praying. Let us now join together in this final act of worship to give thanks to God for all the good things that have happened to us over these days.
In our end is our beginning. We may be different at the end of our Pilgrimage – that’s brilliant – we can now kick on with a new beginning.