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Real Pilgrims

There is a discussion going on at the Pilgrimage forum I mentioned a couple of weeks ago about what constitutes a “real” pilgrim. The official designation is that, for walkers, you must have travelled at least the last 100km but some of the correspondents have picked up a feeling of being looked down on if you haven’t spent a good three or four weeks on the road.

My opinion is that the days of walking down the well-worn paths that lead to Santiago de Compostela is just part of the journey. It begins much further back, in the comfort (or otherwise) of your own home, planning and preparing. It continues after leaving the city and returning to other things, reflecting on experiences and sharing them with others. 100km is just a distance; a pilgrimage traces a route that transcends the physical trail and travels through metaphysical realms of appreciating self, others and, perhaps, God.

Can you be a pilgrim and never make a journey to a specific pilgrimage destination? For those of the Christian faith, I’d turn that the other way round; can you follow the Way without taking on inner, if not always outer, pilgrimage towards the lasting city that is to come?

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