10 January 2019

Lichfield Cathedral looks at
‘The Pilgrimage and Prayer’

Patrick Comerford

Pilgrimage is an important part of my spiritual life. Throughout the year, I regularly return to Lichfield – to Lichfield Cathedral and the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital – for times of reflection and prayer.

Each year, I also try to spend some time, if only for a few hours, in a monastery, with time to refocus the priorities in my spiritual life and my prayer.

My pilgrimages last year also included a visit to Mount Athos, an overnight retreat in Glenstal Abbey, and visits to monasteries in both Thessaloniki and Crete. Perhaps the day spent in the ghetto in Venice in November could also be described as a pilgrimage.

In the past, I have also made pilgrim visits to Jerusalem, Rome, Mount Sinai, Mount Athos, Patmos, Arkadi and Canterbury. At some stage, I hope to visit Santiago de Compostela, even if I never walk the Camino.

Many people like me have been strongly influenced by The Way of a Pilgrim, a 19th century Russian spiritual classic that recounts the narrator’s journey as a mendicant pilgrim while practising the Jesus Prayer. It was first published in 1884, and the best-known English edition, translated by an Anglican priest, Reginald Michael (RM) French (1884-1969), was first published in 1931.

A new exhibition, ‘The Pilgrimage and Prayer,’ opens in Lichfield Cathedral on Monday next [14 January 2019]. This is the first exhibition as part of the cathedral’s year-long theme of ‘Journeys through space, light and time.’

The exhibition explores how modern understandings of pilgrimage build on the historical tradition of Christian pilgrimage, including pilgrimage to Lichfield Cathedral from the time of Saint Chad to the present day.

The exhibits include a 14th century document listing relics owned by Lichfield Cathedral, stonework linked with the mediaeval shrine of Saint Chad, a rarely seen 1420 edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and a 17th century casket that contained the relics of Saint Chad after the Reformation.

The exhibit also includes loans from the British Museum.

Two lectures on modern-day pilgrimage are part of the exhibition programme.

On Wednesday 23 January, Dr Louise Hampson from the Centre of Christianity and Culture at the University of York, will speak at 7.15 p.m. on the centre’s work on the renewed popularity of pilgrimage today. Her lecture at 7.15 p.m. is titled ‘Exploring the Modern Popularity of Pilgrimage.’

In the second lecture supporting the exhibition, ‘Going on Pilgrimage Today,’ on 20 February, the Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, draws on his own experience of pilgrimage.

One of the Pilgrim Prayers said at the end of the Camino in Santiago concludes:

Make us strong in faith
and happy in hope
on our pilgrim journey
following the path of Christian life,
and sustain us so that
we may finally reach the glory of God the Father.

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