Photograph by Eleanor Billingsley, October 2015
Coming home to Canterbury is to come to a place of pilgrimage, though I don’t usually give that a thought, unless I am coming down Saint Thomas’ Hill from the University and see the Cathedral rising above the town.
Eleanor’s almost monochrome picture reminds me of the opening of the 1944 Powell and Pressburger film, ‘A Canterbury Tale’. We stand on holy ground where pilgrims have come for more than 800 years, most of us with mixed motives. In the film the mediaeval pilgrims with their hawk give way to a Spitfire and an armoured car, for Britain is at War. Yet there is an element of pilgrimage for all the protagonists who gather in the city because of the conflict.
While I don’t suggest a special outing to the subway at Herne Bay station, we can make a pilgrimage of any journey. Bishop Langton Fox told me that his journeys through Wales allowed him to fast – he ate slimmers’ biscuits as he drove – and pray the rosary, and as he was almost always going to a church, I guess he was always a pilgrim.
As are we all, and like the disciples going to Emmaus, we have the best of companions, who has better bread than slimmers’ biscuits to set before us. Let no discouragement make us once relent our first avowed intent – even if it gets mixed with other intentions more often than not.