Teaching on Pilgrimage for Years 10 & 11

At the end of this week and the beginning of next week, I shall be visiting the local Community College, Brune Park to speak on Pilgrimage, maybe because I have had a little experience in this. These notes are my first outline and an exploration of what I plan to say. The groups are long course GCSE, so they at least have some interest in the subject and I’m not just babysitting.


Walsingham Documentary (a lighthearted way to introduce the session)


Why pilgrimage?

  • Pilgrimage can be both Religious (Mecca, Buddha’s Birthplace) and secular (flowers at a car accident, Lenin’s tomb, visiting Anfield)
  • Pilgrimage seems to imply our essential understanding of sacred space
    • Ask young people to think of a special place in their lives – a birthplace, a favourite spot, somewhere where something special (happy or sad) took place
    • People are drawn to such sacred sites (Stonehenge) in order to seek completeness in their lives
  • Christian Pilgrimage is seen as important, because Christianity is an incarnational faith – the physicality of God on Earth in the form of Jesus makes everything sacramental, so we engage with Jesus with things we can touch, taste and see (the Eucharist, Annointing), using them to engage with the divine – Sacraments.
  • A Pilgrimage therefore has a sacramental element to it, that by visiting a physical location, we can encounter that which is beyond physicality.

Major sites of pilgrimage.

  • Jerusalem
    • Way of the Cross Via Dolorosa
  • Santiago de Compostella
  • Walsingham
    • Walsingham Highlights 2008 Video
    • =http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=QqNEpdZL-Bc
    • Recap of Walsingham tradition
    • Childrens and Youth Pilgrimages
    • Adult Pilgrimage
    • National Pilgrimage


What happens in Pilgrimage?

  • The Journey is as important as the destination (see Canterbury Tales, possibly using scenes from Mark Steel’s video on Chaucer)
  • Recognition of space and location as important
    • Sometimes simply to sit and pray in a sacred space is significant (power of Begbie’s Wireframe Christ in the Barn Chapel)
  • Both a communal and yet private experience
    • Balance of corporate worship and private devotion
    • Balance of religious and secular life which is truly incarnational (image of Bull at National, Canterbury Tales etc). One cannot separate the religious and secular, for to do that is to deny the point of Christ on this earth.
  • More than simply a holiday
  • Rituals to be performed (at Walsingham) (with images/video)
    • Stations
    • Sprinkling
    • Mass at the Shrine, especially the Holy House
    • Intercessions
    • Healing and Annointing

What does the Christian get out of pilgrimage?

  • Christianity is both an interior and an exterior faith (to paraphrase St Theresa of Avila)
  • External works (such as social action) is seen as the outpouring of internal faith
  • “By the fruits of our faith we will be known” para Matthew 7:16 ; Galatians 5:22-23
    • Fruits of the Spirit Video =http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=RngWZRDCaHU
  • By deepening our inner journey through the discipline of pilgrimage, we are equipped to better build the kingdom of God on earth: to bring sight to the blind, set the captive free and proclaim God’s love for all (Luke 4:18 )
  • It is through God’s love that we seek to make the world a better place.



(hopefully by this time they will have grown out of the ‘who made God’ question that all Infant and Junior children have to ask at some point in an RE lesson) It is interesting to note that out of all the young people in my daughter’s long course GCSE group, only herself and one other has any kind of faith profession at all, and her friend is a Hindu Buddhist. There is so much mission work to do, and so little time and resources to do it with.

Maybe the forthcoming “Grand’s worth of Popcorn” will be able to do something about it.