We are Olly and Meg, two students of Theology and History interested in questions of faith and dedication, planning to make pilgrimage this summer to contemplate these ideas, develop as individuals and hopefully inspire others. In July, we are going to set off on the Via Francigena, a 2,000km walk across Europe from Canterbury Cathedral, through Champagne and Burgundy, over the Alps and across the rolling hills of Tuscany to reach the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul in the eternal city of Rome. We will be walking on an ancient pathway beaten by the feet of thousands of pilgrims for well over a millennium, and will closely follow the itinerary of the Archbishop Sigeric the Serious, who made the very same pilgrimage back in 990 AD to receive his pallium at St. Peter's Basilica.
We will use an online blog to document our travels and to express our thoughts about what we are doing and what we think it might mean. We hope to publicise these thoughts in order to reach people within the Christian community and hopefully beyond it. This will involve publicising our experiences within Christian groups at our universities, in our local areas and of course on the web. We want to do this is because we believe that pilgrimage is an important way for young people to engage with questions of spirituality, faith, heritage, culture and identity. Pilgrimages offer opportunities to dedicate oneself to a task higher than themselves, to reflect upon their lives, seek guidance and understanding, and to learn and develop through confrontation with new experiences and cultures. If there is an aim to our mission, it is to convince others that making pilgrimage can be an exciting, rewarding and culturally significant experience. We want to highlight to young people around that world that, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of people from all backgrounds who descend on the Santiago de Compostela every year: you don't have to be religious to make pilgrimage! Pilgrimage is a truly unique ancient ritual; making one today is personally significant not just because it involves a physical devotion of the body to a greater power or ideal, but because it allows one to participate in an ongoing tradition of movement through space inaugurated by our ancestors and kept alive by us today. Regardless of your beliefs, a pilgrimage is movement imbued with immense cultural and historical meaning, and the profundity of such an experience that can help guide us through issues and problems we face in our lives. In Augustine's words: solvitur ambulando!
This will be an arduous walk that will take many months, one that we will make with few supplies or luxuries and with very little money; just a tent, a spare change of clothes and a bible. Olly is a graduate student reading Intellectual History at the University of Oxford, Meg is an undergraduate student in Theology at the University of Bristol, we both are looking to go into academic and religious careers. We also work long hours at various jobs to fund our studies, and so are struggling to save for this journey. However, we want to make this pilgrimage to express our devotion to God and because of our shared understanding of the importance of the sacred in our lives, not because we seek luxury or comfort. We are asking anyone who is inspired by our project and interested in helping us to contribute whatever they feel. Your money will help us buy food, stay in hostels and hopefully have some warm showers along our walk.
Your money will therefore allow us to take the time to make our blog and contribute our story. We will publicise this blog and other information about our journey in local Churches, Christian organisations within our universities. We want to do this to inspire others and to convince them that a pilgrimage can be a historically and culturally meaningful way to take some time out for God and have some space to find meaning in reflection.