Recently I had the opportunity of spending 6 days on a personal retreat at Brookfield. It was to be a commencement point to a pilgrimage I am designing for myself, although I had already begun weekly day pilgrimages.
The idea of pilgrimage is new to me. Westwood writes, “The greatest regular assemblies of human beings on Earth are those of pilgrims”. Whilst NC Brisbane at Brookfield, namely St. Clare’s Cottage, does not feature in travel books relating to sacred places around the world, it certainly features as a significant sacred place for me.
Joining the Northumbria Community in the daily prayer rhythm blended with the pace I found myself ‘walking’ as I ventured into each day, following the currents and movements peculiar to the hours. It wasn’t a silent retreat, so I allowed myself the freedom for chats here and there with other visiting “pilgrims” who shared in the quiet spaces.
Often I joined in the mealtime procession to St. Clare’s Cottage where those visiting from near and a bit further on, gathered around timbertop table. Long arms reached over to the centre for food bowls, and so started the clockwise serving of a delicious variety of wholesome foods. Another plate would successfully find a spot on the edge for the unexpected late comer. All were welcomed. Here, sitting at the table, I felt the hearth or heartbeat found in open hospitality accompanied by a growing sense of belonging.
Lighting the candles in the chapel, ringing the “prayer” bell seven times and joining my four-legged friend/companion on her daily walks, became a perfect formal opening to my pilgrimage. I am very grateful.
“On Pilgrimage: Sacred journeys around the world” by Jennifer Westwood