I have almost forgotten how to operate my WordPress account, so long it has been since my last entry. In fact, I am tonight in exactly the same place that I was on 5 October last year when I made my last entry, the Presbytery of the Catholic Church in Orbost. That entry concluded as follows:
It is true that as things have turned out, it has been good to do the whole Fitzroy to Orbost walk in two stages. Just as St Mary’s Bairnsdale was a natural conclusion last Easter, so Orbost is a natural conclusion geographically [for this second section of the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage]. It is the last point along the journey eastwards in Victoria. From here on in, we head north until we cross the border between Bendoc and Delegate. Also, we have shown that it is possible to walk the whole way from Fitzroy to Orbost without assistance, whereas the next leg to Eden will require a backup driver. So at the moment, I am just calling it 2016 Part II.
And here we are once again in Orbost at the beginning of the 2017 leg of the Pilgrimage. Sean and I are accompanied by Paul, husband of one of my wife Cathy’s “College Mob” friends, who very generously offered (over the table at a pub gathering of the “College Mob” late last year) to be our backup driver. Without him this trip would be impossible. He has driven us here and will accompany us for the next 240kms as we journey from Orbost to Goongerah to Bendoc (over the NSW border) to Craigie to Bombala to Cathcart to Towamba to Eden. He has brought along his road bike and mountain bike as he hopes to get in some practice for a 6 week bike tour of Italy he has ahead of him in a couple of weeks. We have enrolled him as Pilgrim #4.
Josh – Pilgrim #3 – is not with us at this time for various reasons, which is a great sadness. But he called this evening to wish us “Buen Camino!”
You will notice too perhaps from the list of places we will walk through above that Delegate is not on the list. That is partly because of accommodation changes – the Presbytery in Delegate has recently been let and was not available to stay in, while we discovered that there was a place called “The Old School House” on the Bendoc River just this side of the border that was. So we are going the back way into Bombala where Fr Mick at Cooma has kindly offered for us to stay at the Presytery there. From the top of the mountain, we will head back down the valley to Eden, arriving there on the evening of Wednesday week.
Eden will be one of the first really significant points of connection with Mary MacKillop along this route. Her mother died there in a ship wreck and her body was was washed ashore some days afterward completely unharmed. Mother Mary travelled to Eden to collect her mother’s body and take her back to Sydney for burial. When I spoke with Archbishop Prowse, the bishop of the area, last October, he said he was keen both to see Eden as a point of pilgrimage for St Mary, and also a starting point for a possible “camino” to her own resting place in Sydney. He has been very supportive of our own plans, and said that he hopes that it may be a seed of a path for future pilgrims to follow.
Paul our driver asked Sean and I this evening what this walk means to us as a pilgrimage. Sean said “It is the journey, not the destination”, but I added that the destination is what colours the journey. My oldest daughter scoffs when I tell people that I am walking to Sydney; “You are not,” she says, “You are just walking from Orbost to Eden.” But Sydney – or more specifically the tomb and shrine of Australia’s only canonised Saint – is our ultimate destination, and this colours every part of the journey on the way. So it is ab out the walk too – although we are not intentionally doing a “in the footsteps of…” walk. It isn’t important to follow any kind of trail that Mary herself followed. Nor are we raising money for anything. We are walking with a destination in view. We do not pass through the landscape without being touched by it or by the people in it. On the contrary, we are seeking opportunities to engage with it and with them. But we are not coming here to see the sights, we are just “passing through”. We are on The Way.
And we will be on our way again as soon as the sun rises in the morning. And I am so looking forward to it. It has been a very hectic period in my life with some very big changes and challenges, and I am at a real point of sensing a change in things to come. I don’t know what those changes will be but I want to be ready for them, and for that I need to recharge my spiritual batteries as it were.
At the end of the last section of the Pilgrimage last year I vowed to try to live my life as I walked the MacKillop-Woods Way: one day – indeed, one step – at time, ready for whatever might eventuate, not being disturbed by set backs or pains disappointments, but taking joy and delight in every new encounter. Recently, Cathy and I travelled to Rome and Florence and Siena. That was a kind of pilgrimage too, connecting especially with the ancient heritage of our faith, inspired especially by the vibrancy of medieval and renaissance images of our Lord, our Lady and the Saints. But now we are back in our own land, and in our own time, and I want my feet to be firmly planted in the here and now.
There is also a tradition of doing pilgrimages as a prayer of intercession for others in need. I have always walked with special intentions in my heart. On this pilgrimage, I will am walking praying for two friends and one cause: for Oliver, for whom I was sponsor on Saturday night at his baptism into the Christian Church; for Rebecca, who is looking after my rats while I am away but who especially needs hope in her life; and finally for the many homeless people in our land, and for a resolution to their plight, especially for Nigel and Tom. Please join me in praying for them by name in your prayers tonight.
BTW for those interested, dinner tonight was Pasta Bolognese with some very nice wide egg noodle pasta we bought in Bairnsdale today. Paul is on a special no carbs high fat diet so he didn’t have the pasta, but added extra zucchini strips to his meal. Washed down with a glass of red wine.