Day 93 – Almost done!

Friday 20 November 2020

On Sunday 22 November – the celebration of the Feast of Christ the King – I FINISH my pilgrimage as I make my way virtually back to St Peter’s Anglican Church, Box Hill, after completing 945k in total and after having visited each of the five Cathedrals in the Province. Today I have made it back to St Paul’s Cathedral and I caught up with the Dean for a brief chat which you can see here:

Thanks to the generosity of so many we have passed the $4000 mark in donations to Whitehorse Churches Care:

Also to show I have done the walking I include this snapshot from my phone showing my walking since May (when I got the phone).  I have been able to average more than 10k a day which way my plan:

I have really enjoyed the challenge of the pilgrimage and have firmly embedded the habit of getting up at 5am to go for a walk. I have gone through one pair of runners over the course of the last three months which is also a testament to the concrete pavements I have pounded around Box Hill South. But one of the wonderful opportunities afforded to me as I walked was time to reflect and pray. I have enjoyed immensely the Joan Chittister   book on the Rule of Benedict and leave you with one final quote. I think it apt with all the complaining and whining around on so many issues – not least the Covid 19 restrictions!

If Benedictine spirituality understands anything about life at all, it understands the corrosive effects of constant complaining. Complaining is the acid that shrivels our own souls and the soul of the community around us as well. Complaining is what shapes our mental set. Feelings, psychology tells us, do not affect thoughts. Thoughts affect feelings. What we allow ourselves to think is what we are really allowing ourselves to feel. When we learn how to correct out thoughts processes, then we learn not only how to stabilise our own emotions but how to change the environment around us at the same time. What we see as negative we make negative and feel negative about. What we are willing to think about in a positive way becomes positive.

Complaining, in other words, undermines the hope of a community and smothers possibility in a group. The whinner, the constant critic, the armchair complainer make an office, a family, a department, a community a polluted place to be. What we accept wholeheartedly that fails, we can always correct. What we condemn to failure before we have ever really tried to accept it, is not corrected; it is doomed to an untimely and, more than likely, an unnecessary death.

Benedictine spirituality tells us to open our hearts and our minds to let grace come in from unlikely places, without preplanning and prejudgments. “When there is no desire,” the Tao Te Ching instructs, “all things are at peace.”

So this is the last post for the time being. Thank you once again to all who have followed my 95 day pilgrimage and blessings to you all.

Day 86 of Pilgrimage – Home is in sight!

Friday 13 November 2020

In one way it is sad to think that my virtual pilgrimage will finish in nine days. I arrive back at St Paul’s Cathedral next Friday and back to my home parish of St Peter’s on the Feast of Christ the King and I will have completed 945k round trip.

Due to the generosity of so many the funds raised during the pilgrimage have just passed $3900 and I hope to be able to report next week that we have raised $4000 – a fantastic effort of which I am so proud and humbled at the same time.

The days are getting warmer and the flowers are in bloom. Here are some recent shots taken in the last week:

While I have been continuing my reading of the Rule of Benedict I have also been reading a fascinating book – The Astonished Heart: Reclaiming the Good News from the Lost-and-found of Church History by Robert Capon.

I have been thinking a lot about the church post-COVID. I have been asking myself whether this year will just be a blip and normal business will resume once a vaccine has been developed, or whether this year is the start of a major reformation in the way WE do church and BE church. Robert’s book is astounding and is a sign of hope that the church will go on. Robert writes:

Because the church is not a club; it is a divine Mystery – the body of him who fills all in all and who, when he is lifted up, draws all to himself. We are in a dance of desire over which we have no final power to throw a wet blanket. The thirst of the astonished heart lies at the root of all thirst, however trivial, and it is the thirsty, therefore – and the hungry, the last, the lost, the least, the little, and the dead – who are the sacraments of the church’s hope. Only fools, of course, willingly embrace those conditions. But the divine Fool who died and rose needs only one of them – himself – to bring the dance to its wild conclusion. Even if the rest of us are tripping over our feet to the end of time – even if we spend every one of our days trying to wallflower our way through the corporate church, the mega-church, the Christendom church, the country-club church, or the self-improvement church – even if we never get the dance of desire right, God never gets it wrong.

Next Friday’s blog post will be the last of the Friday posts. I hope to be able to share one final meeting with the Dean of Melbourne next week and then one last post on Sunday 22 November as I officially finish the pilgrimage where it all started – St Peter’s Anglican Church, Box Hill.

 

Day 79 of Pilgrimage – On the way back to Melbourne

Friday 6 November 2020

790k completed and two weeks to go and I will be back in Melbourne. I am planning to go back to St Paul’s Cathedral for one final catch up with the Dean and chat about what I have gained across the course of this pilgrimage. The pilgrimage will end officially on Sunday 22 November – the Feast of Christ the King.

I am happy to report that the total of funds raised so far has just passed $3600 – a fantastic effort and I am humbled by people’s generosity. 

The mornings when I walk have been lovely over the last week. There have been some glorious sunrises –

I have also noticed that people have been doing a lot of work in their gardens and on front verges – 

More reflections from the ‘Rule of Benedict’:

The idea that the spiritual life is only for the strong, for those who don’t need it anyway, is completely dispelled in the Rule of Benedict. Here spiritual athletes need not apply. Monasticism is for human beings only. The abbot and prioress are told quite clearly that they are to see themselves as physicians and shepherds tending the weak and carrying the lost, not as drill sergeants, not as impresarios. What we have in monasteries and parishes and all fine social movements and devoted rectories and most families are just people, simple people who never meet their own ideals and often, for want of confidence and the energy that continuing commitment takes, abandon them completely. Then, our role, the Rule of Benedict insists, is simply to try to soothe what hurts them, heal what weakens them, lift what burdens them and wait. The spiritual life is a process, not an event. It takes time and love and help and care. it takes our patient presence. Just like everything else.

One of the things I have also been reflecting upon has been the resurgence of the pandemic in Europe, especially in the UK. The Church of England is calling for a month of prayer as their country goes back into lockdown and they have provided some resources for this prayer time:

Church of England prayers

May God continue to bless us all.

Day 72 of Pilgrimage – St Paul’s Cathedral, Sale, Victoria

Friday 30 October 2020

I am almost at the doors of St Paul’s Cathedral in the beautiful city of Sale.

https://www.stpaulssale.org.au/

It has taken 72 days – 720k – and I arranged a zoom meeting recorded earlier in the week where I received a fantastic welcome from the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Reverend Susanna Pain. Our conversation went so well and was so interesting that I forgot at the time to ask what I could be praying for as I visited the Cathedral. In an email latter she wrote:

Please pray for smooth transitions as restrictions ease; and deep connections with those feeling isolated, and still isolating. For our synod coming up in a few weeks on zoom, and ordination at the end of the month, with who knows how many people.

Here is our zoom conversation:

The quiet day that the Dean mentions is on this coming Sunday and the details are here:

quiet 1 November 2020

The weather is again fantastic early in the morning when I do the bulk of my 10k’s – here is another glorious sunrise – not as spectacular as the last one posted but nevertheless beautiful – peaceful and quiet.

Thanks to the generosity of so many, donations have now just passed the $3000 mark and I am very thankful for all your kind support. More reflections from the Rule of Benedict:

Prayer in the Benedictine tradition, then, is not an exercise done for the sake of quantity or penance or the garnering of spiritual merit. Benedictine prayer is not an excursion into a prayer-wheel spirituality where more is better and recitation is more important than meaning. Prayer, in the spirit of these chapters, if we ‘sing praise wisely,’ or well, or truly, becomes a furnace in which every act of our lives is submitted to the heat and purifying process of the smelter’s fire so that our minds and our hearts, our ideas and our lives, come to be in sync, so that we are what we say we are, so that the prayers that pass our lips change our lives, so that God’s presences becomes palpable to us. Prayer brings us to burn off the dross of what clings to our souls like mildew and sets us free for deeper, richer, truer lives in which we become what we seek.

I am reminded of the motto of my High-School, Wavell State High, in Brisbane, which is Esse Quam Videri which means: To be, rather than to seem to be. How to be authentic and faithful in trying circumstances has been a question floating around in my head as I walk. To be people of deep real hope is my prayer for us all this week.

Day 65 of Pilgrimage – a week to go to Sale

Friday 23 October 2020

By the end of today I will have walked 650k and will arrive ‘virtually’ in Sale, Victoria at St Paul’s Cathedral next Friday. On Tuesday this week (20 October) I passed the 2/3 mark in the pilgrimage – it is amazing to think that it will all be over on Sunday 22 November!

If you read last week’s blog – you will have seen a beautiful sunrise over the Dandenong Range. This week the weather hasn’t been as kind and one morning I walked in particularly heavy rain:

However, the rain cleared by the time I got to the high point in my route and I took this lovely shot:

Just to keep things above board – I post a screen shot of my last week’s walking – the average is still above 10k a day!

Last Sunday we had stage four restrictions eased a little and barbers were allowed to open and I took the chance to get my first haircut in SIX months – here are the before and after shots:

I want to share from another book I have been reading and pondering in this pilgrimage – it’s by Samuel Wells – Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, UK and is titled “Face to Face: Meeting Christ in friend and stranger”

Samuel writes the following:

Hands are given to those in ministry to discover three things: when to touch, how to touch, and when not to touch. In the story of the transfiguration in Matthew’s account, we read, “But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.” (17.7) In other words, Jesus does four things. He comes to them. He touches them; he touches each of the disciples before he said anything. He encourages them to get up while they’re still frightened. And then finally he says: “Do not be afraid.” This fourfold action of coming, touching, raising and empowering is a microcosm of the whole gospel story. Jesus first comes to us in his incarnation. Jesus then touches us in his teaching and healing ministry. And then in his cross and resurrection and in the coming of his Spirit at Pentecost Jesus raises us up and clothes us with power and gives us reason not to be afraid. The whole gospel is in this single verse. (pp xxv and xxvi)

I have lost track of the number of times I have read that passage and the many times I have preached on the feast of the Transfiguration – and this was for me a fresh and empowering interpretation of the text. Much to ponder as I continue to walk.

 

Day 58 of Pilgrimage – two weeks to go to get to Sale

Friday 16 October 2020

The weather is certainly changing. The views at particular points in my daily route are spectacular. Here is the dawn breaking over the Dandenong range last Wednesday (14 October 2020)

By the end of today I will have walked 580k and will arrive ‘virtually’ in Sale, God willing, on Friday 30 October. I am looking forward to catching up with the Dean of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Gippsland soon!

Thanks to the generosity of so many the pilgrimage account has over $2500. This is a fantastic effort and I thought you might like to see where the money is going. The Whitehorse Churches Care group is a partnership between many of the churches (including the Anglican Parish of Box Hill) in the Whitehorse council area to provide much needed love and care and compassion and support to those in need in our area.

Here is the link to our website: http://whitehorsechurchescare.org.au/

Walking early in the day in the peace and beauty and quiet of Box Hill gives one plenty of think to reflect. Here is more material that has been bouncing around in my head and heart. From The Rule of Benedict, chapters 10 and 11 – comments by Joan Chittister,

… the message of Benedictine spirituality is a consistent one: live life normally, live life thoughtfully, live life profoundly, live life well. Never neglect and never exaggerate. It is a lesson that a world full of cults and fads and workaholics and short courses in difficult subjects needs dearly to learn.

Prayer is the development of an attitude of mind that is concentrated and contemplative. For Benedict, therefore, the Sunday Office is a centrepiece that is fixed and solemn. The message is clear: Sunday, the weekly celebration of creation and resurrection, is always a reminder of new life, always special, always meant to take us back to the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega, the Centre of life. It is a day full of tradition and rhythm and rememberings of the simple but important concepts of existence. It is a return to basic truths that are never to be sacrificed for variety and always reinforced through repetition… the Sabbath is the moment for returning to the surety and solemnity of life, for setting our sights above the daily, for restating the basics, for giving meaning to the rest of the week so that the mundane and the immediate do not become the level of our existence.

Day 51 of Pilgrimage – 60k southeast of Wangaratta on the way to Sale

Friday 9 October 2020

It is amazing to consider that I have walked over 500k so far on this pilgrimage and on Tuesday last (6 October) crossed the half-way point of the walk! The weather has been a bit up and down in the last week – some very soggy and cold mornings balanced by some beautifully crisp spring mornings, including lovely views of the full moon.

Here also is a shot of my last week’s walking  just to keep everything above board:

I have a while to go to get to Sale for the next Cathedral welcome, so it’s just my ponderings and reflections as I walk the well-known (by me at least by now) streets of Box Hill south each and every day. I have mentioned that for prayer in the mornings I have been reading ‘Holy women, Holy men – celebrating the saints’ – a day-by-day outline of those saints who have gone before us. It has been a delight to read about people I previously knew nothing about, for example, Richard Theodore Ely, an American economist, who lived from 1854 to 1943. We remembered his life yesterday, Thursday 8 October. Let me quote from the book –

In 1894, Ely was accused of teaching socialist principles and effort was made to remove him from his professorship at the University of Wisconsin. Ely, who rejected the extremes of both capitalism and socialism, stated in his defence, “I condemn alike that individualism that would allow the state no room for industrial activity, and that socialism which would absorb in the state the functions of the individual.” What was needed instead, he argued, was a proper and healthy balance between public and private enterprise. Ely favoured competition with regulation that would raise the moral and ethical level of economic practice.

Ely claimed that the Gospel was social rather than individualistic in nature, and he consistently called the Episcopal Church to work towards the reform of capitalism for the sake of the rights and dignity of the American worker.

O for such economists now stirring the Church in all Western nations to advocate for compassion and justice in our capitalist systems.

I have also as part of my morning prayer been reflecting upon Joan Chittister’s book: The Rule of Benedict – a spirituality for the 21st century. The last ten days have been a reflection upon some the 12 steps of humility outlined by Benedict’s rule (chapter 7) Step 4 is to endure suffering and Joan writes the following which I continue to find unsettling:

To bear bad things, evil things, well is for Benedict a mark of humility, a mark of Christian maturity. It is a dour and difficult notion for the modern Christian to accept. The goal of the twenty-first century is to cure all diseases, order all inefficiency, topple all obstacles, end all stress, and prescribe immediate panaceas. We wait for nothing and put up with little and abide less and react with fury at irritations. We are a people without patience. We do not tolerate process. We cannot stomach delay. Persist. Persevere. Endure, Benedict says. It is good for the soul to temper it. God does not come on hoofbeats of mercury through streets of gold. God is in the dregs of our lives. That’s why it takes humility to find God where God is not expected to be.

Much to ponder as I continue to walk.

Day 44 of Pilgrimage – approaching Wangaratta

Friday 2 October 2020

When I finish walking tomorrow – Saturday 3 October, I will have walked 45 days so a total of 450k which brings me exactly to the door of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Wangaratta. I look forward to having the opportunity once COVID-19 restrictions have lifted of visiting this Cathedral in person but for now their website is as close as I can get:

http://wangarattacathedral.org.au/

The Very Reverend Ken Goodger is the Dean of the Cathedral. Ken and I trained together for the Priesthood back in the 90s at St Francis College, Brisbane and were ordained Priests together in 1996. In preparation for reaching my fourth Cathedral I have had a meeting with Ken which you can view as follows:

Ken mentions a number of things for which we can be praying for as I virtually visit over the course of this coming weekend:

  • the fixing of the leaky roof on the North side of the Cathedral
  • people who are feeling the experiences of isolation both in the congregation and the wider community
  • employment for people coming out of this crisis.

I have continued to ponder many things as I walk early each morning. The following quote from Mother Theresa inspires me all the time:

Day 37 of Pilgrimage – 125k east of Bendigo – a little over a week to Wangaratta!

Friday 25 September 2020

By the end of today’s walking I will just be 80k shy of Wangaratta. I have arranged a virtual welcome from the Dean, the Very Reverend Ken Goodger and this will be posted on next Friday’s blog entry.

I continue to be amazed at the generosity of people and we have passed the $1500 mark this week in donations which is fantastic.

For those who like the facts and figures – here is a screenshot of my phone for the last week of walking. As you can see I have averaged 11k this week. I am really enjoying getting out and walking and have increased my pace up to about 5.8k an hour.

I continue to ponder my reading as I walk and Benedict is never far from my thoughts. Joan Chittister’s reflections in her book on the rule of Benedict are are good way into Benedict’s work. Joan writes the following about a section of chapter four of the Rule – Tools for Good Works –

Nonviolence plunges the monastic into the core of Christianity and allows for no rationalisations. Monastic spirituality is Christianity to the hilt. It calls for national policies that take the poor into first account; it calls for a work life that does not bully underlings or undercut the competition; it calls for families that talk to one another tenderly; it calls for a foreign policy not based on force. Violence has simply no place in the monastic heart.

A little bit later she adds,

Benedict reminds us, too, that physical control and spiritual perspective are linked: pride and gluttony and laziness are of a piece. We expect too much, we consume too much, and we contribute too little. We give ourselves over to ourselves. We become engorged with ourselves and, as a result, there is no room left for the stripped-down, stark, and simple furniture of the soul.

‘the stripped-down, stark, and simple furniture of the soul’ is an image worthy of much pondering!

Next week – Wangaratta.

Day 30 of Pilgrimage – 55k east of Bendigo on the way to Wangaratta

Friday 18 September

By the end of today I will have completed 300k and find myself ‘virtually’ only 150k away (or 15 days!) from Holy Trinity Cathedral, Wangaratta. All being well I aim to arrive on Saturday 2 October.

Just to show faith – here is a screen shot of my phone showing my walking from 10 -16 September:

Since we have been able to exercise for two hours outside per day in Melbourne – it has been easier to do the 10k in basically one hit, rather than over the course of the day and in fact I am averaging a little more than 10k each day. Thank you again to all who have donated money for the pilgrimage – over $1300 so far – fantastic effort.

While walking I have reflected upon the reading I have been doing lately. Janet and I are working our way through Joan Chittister’s  book on the Rule of Benedict as part of our morning prayer. I offer the following quote from page 21 of Joan’s book as worthy of reflection and pondering:

The spiritual life is not something that is gotten for the wishing or assumed by affection.  The spiritual life takes discipline. It is something to be learned, to be internalised. It’s not a set of daily exercises; it’s a way of life, an attitude of mind, an orientation of soul. And it is gotten by being schooled until no rules are necessary. Among the ancients there is a story told that confirms this insight to this day – ‘What action shall I perform to attain God?’ the disciple asked the elder. ‘If you wish to attain God,’ the elder said, ‘there are two things you must know. The first is that all efforts to attain God are of no avail.’ ‘And the second?’ the disciple insisted. ‘The second is that you must act as if you did not know the first,’ the elder said. Clearly, great pursuers of the spiritual life know that the secret of the spiritual life is to live it until it becomes real.

We have also been reflecting upon the lives of the Holy men and women of the faith who have gone before us. On Wednesday 15 September the Episcopal Church of the United States of America remembered the life of James Chisholm, Priest. In our own context of COVID-19 his story resonated with me.

James Chisholm was the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, Virginia. In 1855, an aggressive yellow fever epidemic swept through Virginia. Many of the region’s wealthy citizens were able to escape the area to avoid exposure and contamination. In most cases the physicians and clergy who served them departed as well. This left the area’s poor bereft of doctors, caregivers and, in some cases, the basic provisions of food and water to sustain life. James Chisholm sent his family away to safety, staying behind to provide whatever care for the sick he could. As the ravages of the plague were beginning to subside, Chisholm, weary to the point of exhaustion from his faithful priestly service, contacted the yellow fever and died. An account of Chisholm’s sacrifice, written only months after his death, marvels at the inner strength that Chisholm discovered that enabled him to stay behind and serve the people many of whom were waiting to die. Before the crisis, Chisholm was not thought of as a particularly strong man in body, and was described as having been retiring to the point of bashfulness, delicate, weak, and lacking much fortitude. When faced, however, with the call of these priestly duties in the face of great hardship, Chisholm showed a strength and courage few knew he possessed.

As we all journey together through our own pandemic, may we be found to be people of God full of strength and courage ready to serve others in their time of great need.