Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hospitality in East and West

Hospitality towards pilgrims was the main theme during the conference 'Hospitalité de’Orient et d’Occident', arranged in Arles by the Union Jacquaire Francaise 29 February - 2 March 2008. More than 100 participants, primarily from the 24 pilgrim organisations of France, but also from Spain, Belgium and Norway, were invited to focus on Hospitality in East and West.


Pilgrim routes in France have long traditions. The pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain originated here. Spaniards often call this road "El Camino Francés" (the French road), as most pilgrims travelling to Santiago came from France.

Codex Calixtinus
The first European guide for pilgrims – the five-volume Codex Calixtinus (compiled from 1130 to 1140 under the guidance and leadership of the French monk Aymeric Picaud) – was required reading for most medieval pilgrims before embarking on the road to Galicia. The illuminated manuscripts of the Codex Calixtinus did not only furnish pilgrims with religious guidance, but also with tips on the itinerary, sights to see, relics and shrines to visit.

(Illustration by Celedonio Perelon)

Volume IV tells the legend of why the destination for the pilgrimage is called Santiago de Compostela:

When Charles the Great was trying to conquer Spain in the 700s, St. James revealed himself to the King in a dream. St. James urged the King to liberate his grave from the Moors, telling him that the stars would show him the way to Santiago, hence: Santo Iago (Spanish for St. James) de campus stellae (Latin: from the field of stars: i.e. Saint James from the Field of Stars). The name might also originate from the term Composita Tella, which means burial site.

Hospitality before and now
During the conference, hospitality was looked at from different angles: as a virtue in the Old and the New Testaments, as a historical and contemporary foundation for Europe’s culture, and as a universal value across national borders and civilizations.

Speakers included Pater Joachim Tsopanoglou, a vicar in the Greek-Orthodox church in Marseilles, Michel Thomas-Penette, director at the European Institute of Cultural Routes, Maria Guerra, President of the French Pilgrim Association, as well as representatives of Spanish and Belgian pilgrim organisations. Hospitality was presented as a moral imperative with roots and traditions stemming from the ancient Middle East, Greek-Roman antiquity and the pilgrimages of the Middle Ages.

Three of the featured speakers were pilgrims themselves: Mahdi (a Muslim), Patrick (a Christian) and Yoann (a Jew) embarked in 2007 on a joint pilgrimage from Jerusalem to Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrimage that probably had more symbolic overtones than merely reaching the destination.


Pilgrims for peace: Patrick, Mahdi and Stein (the author of this article).
Photo: Catherine VINCENT
"We’re walking for peace, to show to the world that togetherness and friendship is possible across religions and life philosophies," they said. This made a lasting impression, not only on the conference participants, but also the mayor of Arles, who invited the pilgrims and the conference participants to a reception at the town hall of Arles.

Pilgrim routes in France


These four are the most well-known in the network of French pilgrim routes:
  • The Tours route, from Tours or Paris (Via Turonensis)
  • The Vézelay route (Via Lemovicensis)
  • The Le Puy route from Le Puy-en-Velay (Via Podensis)
  • The Arles route, the Provencal pilgrim route (Via Tolosane)
A pilgrimage in France offers scenic landscapes, cultural history, monasteries, churches and other interesting sights. The fact that the food and the wine are also outstanding is another temptation that leads many to embark on the long trek. Indeed, you might stretch your walk to Santiago over several years. One fact is certain: As a pilgrim in France the natives will receive you with generous hospitality, obviously born from long experience of serving as hosts.
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1 The UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage aims to protect oral traditions, social customs and expressions that are important for a general sense of togetherness and identity. It was approved by the Norwegian authorities in December 2006

Visit Union Jacquaire Francaise on the net:
http://www.union-jacquaire-france.net/

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Pilgrim's Way

I do not look for holy saints to guide me on my way,
Or male and female devilkins to lead my feet astray.
If these are added, I rejoice if not, I shall not mind,
So long as I have leave and choice to meet my fellow-kind.
For as we come and as we go (and deadly-soon go we!)
The people, Lord, Thy people, are good enough for me!

Thus I will honour pious men whose virtue shines so bright
(Though none are more amazed than I when I by chance do right),
And I will pity foolish men for woe their sins have bred
(Though ninety-nine per cent. of mine I brought on my own head).
And, Amorite or Eremite, or General Averagee,
The people, Lord, Thy people, are good enough for me!

And when they bore me overmuch, I will not shake mine ears,
Recalling many thousand such whom I have bored to tears.
And when they labour to impress, I will not doubt nor scoff;
Since I myself have done no less and sometimes pulled it off.
Yea, as we are and we are not, and we pretend to be,
The people, Lord, Thy people, are good enough for me!

And when they work me random wrong, as oftentimes hath been,
I will not cherish hate too long (my hands are none too clean).
And when they do me random good I will not feign surprise.
No more than those whom I have cheered with wayside charities.
But, as we give and as we take whate'er our takings be
The people, Lord, Thy people, are good enough for me!

But when I meet with frantic folk who sinfully declare
There is no pardon for their sin, the same I will not spare
Till I have proved that Heaven and Hell which in our hearts we have
Show nothing irredeemable on either side of the grave.
For as we live and as we die if utter Death there be
The people, Lord, Thy people, are good enough for me!

Deliver me from every pride the Middle, High, and Low
That bars me from a brother's side, whatever pride he show.
And purge me from all heresies of thought and speech and pen
That bid me judge him otherwise than I am judged. Amen!
That I may sing of Crowd or King or road-borne company,
That I may labour in my day, vocation and degree,
To prove the same in deed and name, and hold unshakenly
(Where'er I go, whate'er I know, whoe'er my neighbor be)
This single faith in Life and Death and to Eternity:
The people, Lord, Thy people, are good enough for me!

Rudyard Kipling