Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
One of the birds still in evidence at present is the beautiful black swallow. Swallows are migrant birds so that later this month, and certainly by early September, they can be seen gathering in groups on telegraph wires preparing to migrate to escape the cold northern European winter. They will make the six week journey to the very south of Africa flying quite low and covering 200 miles each day, resting each night in huge flocks at traditional stopover spots. Sadly, many will die of starvation or other predations; but if they survive, they can live for up to sixteen years. Early next year they will make the hazardous return journey to return to the UK to breed.
Like swallows Christians have for centuries undertaken long, hazardous journeys often taking years to complete that became known as pilgrimages. Before the end of the first century AD pilgrims were making the perilous journey to the Holy Land, taking refuge at night in hostels along the way. Many were robbed by bandits as they went, many died en route. Today Christians still undertake pilgrimages. Some will, for example make the 500 mile pilgrimage along the Camino to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, in northwest Spain where the remains of the Apostle St James are said to be buried. At this point it is important to emphasise that the statues or the relics are not the focus for the pilgrim’s devotion but rather a visual aid; they are certainly not something to be worshipped in themselves. The road to Compostela is well trodden but still arduous with each day presenting new challenges to be faced. But then pilgrimage is an essential part of life and living for Christians, since we see life itself in terms of a journey, coming from God and returning to God. Each day is a part of our pilgrimage through life with its associated difficulties and dangers so that, like the footsore pilgrims and the swallows, we must be prepared to face the challenges that come our way.
Why not try starting the day by giving God a couple of seconds on awakening and saying simply: “Lord God today is your day. Help me to do your will today.” Throughout the day do everything as best you can for the honour and glory to God. Find God in all things. At the end of the day, in God’s presence, say ‘thank you’ for the good things that have happened and sorry for your faults and failings
This prayer might help: ‘God of our pilgrimage, you have willed that the gate of mercy should stand open for those who trust in you; look upon us with your favour that we who follow the path of your will may never wander from the way of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Amen.
With prayer and with God by our side we will, like the swallows and pilgrims, be well prepared for our journey through life to attain our Eternal Home.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years