pilegrim – gamle veier, nye mål

modern pilgrims are a very mixed group of people – they are searching for the old roads, but the motives are new – Som en del av kulturministerens pilegrimstur til Trondheim, var jeg blitt bedt om å delta i to panelsamtaler på Lian gård torsdag 28. juli. Ett av innleggene omhandlet den egne pilegrimstradisjonen og erfaringer som pilegrim. Legger ut innlegget –  på engelsk – her:

I guess we all know Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way” – the strong individual, who takes what life gives him, and does things his way, but also goes his own ways –

this; not only doing things your own way, but also discovering and journeying one’s own way, is nearly a kind of a virtue in our part of the world – and it is fully possible both to do things your way and to go you own way:

in Norway, many of us can go wherever we like – both as tourists and as pilgrims – and we do – we have become globetrotters, many of my friends’ children have seen Asia before the age of 20 – we are highly privileged from a material point of view

and then, there are pilgrims – a growing number –

There is a certain duality here – on the one hand, we praise those who walk their own ways, on the other hand, we see people attracted by the old paths, the tracks people have gone up before them –

and the pilgrim doesn’t go his/her own way, at least not seen from the outside –

– the pilgrim doesn’t wander about on his/her own – The pilgrim has a goal, a final destination – the pilgrim goes towards something – no matter which faith, whatever the motivation and purpose, the pilgrim has a direction –

Jerusalem has always been central, not to say, the central pilgrimage goal – both for Jews, Christians and Moslems The earliest pilgrim report we know had Jerusalem as destiny: Egeria’s Travels to the Holy Land in the 4th century- The pilgrims have since been heading towards sacred goals – Nidaros, Compostella – and other holy sites –

And finally – for the believer – the heavenly Jerusalem – the ultimate goal and the final destination of our earthly pilgrimage, of our life

I really do appreciate the initiatives taken by Norwegian government to promote pilgrimage – and I am also impressed by the work laid down by local groups of voluntaries who contribute immensely to keep the roads open – the churches open – and to welcome people

as a member of the board for Oslo Pilegrimssenter, I have had the opportunity to follow this work quite close for some years – Many things could be said about this, but allow to mention only one thing that I find quite narrow: the definition of a pilgrim –

– according a document published by the Ministry of Culture in 2009 –“På livets vei. Pilegrimsmotivet – et nasjonalt utviklingsprosjekt”: an “authentic pilgrim” is either walking, or riding a horse or a bike-

I am also a pilgrim – and I have taken the road to Nidaros, from Lillehammer to Trondheim – I have gone on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and to the tombs of Peter and Paul in Rome, to Saint Catherine of Siena, and Therese of Lisieux – some om my favorites –

I have gone by train, by bus, by plane – and I have been walking – my first pilgrimage on foot was in fact from Trondheim to Stiklestad in 1980 – a big group of young people guided by one well known and appreciated priest here in Trondheim, father Olav Müller – who led us through this beautiful landscape – and through the Christian history of this area and of Norway –

but when I read this report, I was immediately thinking of my grandmother, who – nearly crippled with pain, went to Lourdes in France, to the holy place where the virgin Mary appeared to a young girl, Bernadette, and told her to drink at the spring and wash in it. this water is said to have healing power – my grandmother could in no way go there without help – she came home, as crippled as when she left, but renewed and strengthened in her faith – an authentic pilgrim? not according to the definition –

please let me point out: there have always been pilgrims crossing continents and oceans on their own or with the help of others – in order to give thanks, to ask for healing bodily as well as spiritually, and they do this as pilgrims always have done: using the roads and the means of transport available – even in the middle ages ­- but of course, if one went on pilgrimage to do penance, one should be walking, maybe even begging for food – it was meant to be hard –

there has always been pilgrims – and shrines, old ones as well as new – even in Norway:

let me conclude by telling you about a new one – maybe 30 years old – in Askim, Østfold – south-east of Oslo  – where a group of Polish Catholics in the 1980s started walking from a medieval church to a conference center – Mariaholm – in August each year praying for a Polish speaking priest – it was a small group at the moment – today Poles are more than 50 % of the Catholics in Norway, and they have the biggest group of priests – and they are still walking!

today’s modern pilgrims are a very mixed group of people – they are searching for the old roads, but the motives are new – the pilgrims’ movement is broad – it started from below – and has developed as a grass roots movement – and this spirit is what gives the pilgrims movement its strength – and maybe also its future.













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