Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tanka Reflections-Celtic Discovery

Tanka poems are said to have been the poetry structure of the Japanese princes. Its structure by syllable is 5
Esther DeWaal, our spiritual companion at the beginning of this pilgrimage invited us to consider Tanka as a way of expressing our experience on this pilgrimage. Below enjoy some photos and some Tanka.
Ynys Enlli  (Bardsey Island)
Tanka Reflection, submitted by Barbara Dunn, pilgrim
Pilgrimage beckons.
We see God's embracing love
In all around us,
As this life changing journey
of pilgrimage leads us home.

                                                       Abaty Tyndyrn (Tintern Abbey)

                                             Tanka, submitted by Tony Pompa (aka fearless leader)

                                                                Hearts up and open,
                                                             coracles of life boarded,
                                                               to find our true selves.
                                                            Holy stirrings of new life.
                                                                Imaginations stirring.

                                          Non's Holy Well (mother of Dewi Sant) Saint David

                                                  Tanka, submitted by Doris Burnside, pilgrim

                                                                    Wales is left behind.
                                                                Memories never leave me
                                                                     A Pilgrim Journeys
                                                                Rolling hills and lumpy sea
                                                            Renewed by faith, God touched me.


                                            Boat to Bardsey prepares for the "lumpy" sea

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Celtic Discovery-Stirring Imagination-Pilgrim's Poetry

A pilgrimage is a journey. Esther deWaal reminds us that the longest journey is the journey inward. 18 pilgrims made the journey to Wales in early May on a journey of discovery. Our physical journey leading us inward to grow closer to God following the path of ancient Celtic roots. Our pilgrims continue to reflect and express their experience. Below please find three poems written and submitted by two of our pilgrims. Enjoy and may they be a blessing to you.
The winds of Wales beckoned  

     me to seek my Celtic roots.

What earthly treasure can I bring

     with me as I follow the pilgrims' path?

A lock of my mother's golden hair

     I shall carry close to my heart.

Together we cross the Irish Sea,

    Wind and waves challenge our spirit.

The Island of Bardsey calling us 

     onward to her rocky shore.

Walking up the hill I glimpse

     the lighthouse.

Through the pasture, sheep

    wary of my movement.

By the cove my journey ends.

Carefully I remove the golden strands 

    and gently caress them one last time.

Lifting my hand to the winds

    I watch as they continue the journey home

    with my love and blessings.


Joy Thiel

(submitted in loving memory of my mother)




Two Tanka (Japanese structure 5-7-5-7-7)

Waiting for daybreak

windows and heart are open

birds chirping wind blows

smile recalling our journey

time together reflecting


Surrounded by love 

Filled with  thanksgiving and joy 

happiness overcomes me

tears flow freely from the soul 

Gods blessings are evident

              Submitted by Meg Seltzer

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


                       To Come Home to Yourself (John O'donahue, To Bless the Space Between us)

                              May all that is unforgiven in you
                                               Be released,

                              May your fears yield
                                               Their deepest tranquilities,

                              May all that is unlived in you,
                                                Blossom into a future Graced with Love.

We are home. We returned home today to homes, to our families, to the routines of our lives. The Pilgrim's woke early and made our way to Manchester airport. The rhythm of this group carrying us now forward with care. One last prayer in a circle in the parking lot of our familiar Cathedral and then the affectionate embrace of pilgrims who had shared days of communion with one another and with the God who blessed us greatly. This experience was truly a blessing. I will miss these pilgrims and this pilgrimage but yet now know we have been changed!

What follows tonight on this blog are a few Tanka (Japanese poetry structure) from some of our Pilgrim's offered as one version of reflection of their experience. Please receive them and may they Bless you.

Savor the stirring
Savor the love in friendship
Savor the silence
Trust in the slow work of God
Keep walking the Pilgrim's Way.  (Tori Aitchison)

An unknown journey
Searching for God's love and peace.
Only to find me,
Renewed, refreshed, replenished
God within, God around, Peace  (Janet Felix)

Flying, Flying, Home
Relaxed in hope and wonder.
Flying, Flying, Home.
Looking up with hope
and heartfelt expectation. (Beth Walker)

Check Back on this blog for additional offerings. Join us Sunday May 17th at 9:15 a.m. in the dining room of Sayre Hall at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, for a pilgrim's presentation of our experience.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Returning Home-Days 8 and 9

We are in the town of Llandudno which sits on the North shore of Wales. This delightful place serves as the "threshold of our transition" as we take the experience and the work of our inner spiritual journey back to the daily routines of our lives that await us at home.

Our morning devotions were a time to share thanksgivings and the pilgrims were invited to see the journey they have been on as a walking of a labyrinth. Thinking of our travels and holy encounters as the slow meditative journey to the center where we find a union and peace with Christ. Now in the finest Benedictine spirit we delight in this center of spiritual stability and carry it with us back out of the labyrinth and into the world that awaits us.

Pilgrims were also encouraged to reflect on the experience and write Tanka, a form of Japanese poetry structure. Below you will find a fine reflection by Archdeacon Rick Cluett and check back tomorrow evening after we have arrived home for the sharing of some Tanka poetry.

Tomorrow we fly home. Join us Sunday morning at 9:15 in the dining room of Sayre Hall for a conversation with some of the pilgrims and some sharing of pictures and stories.

Turning Toward Home, written by Archdeacon Rick Cluett

As we round the last bend on this Pilgrim Road and turn our sights toward Bethlehem and home,
I am literally overcome with gratitude for this pilgrim journey. Growing in me over these last years has been an increasing awareness of God's presence in the dailyness of life and and in the daily lives of God's people. My readings in the spirituality of our early Celtic ancestors had been leading me along this path. But this, this pilgrimage of heart, body, mind and soul in the company of other faithful souls has allowed me to literally stand in the place of ancient Cistercian missionaries who brought our faith to these lands and to stand in the places of the people themselves who throughout all these centuries have known and felt and celebrated God's presence in their waking, working, praying, and resting and kept the faith alive. On this journey, we pilgrims have known God's presence leading us deeper and deeper into our place as children of God and God's place and presence in our daily lives. And to have that affirmed by all these souls over all these centuries has been a pure gift of God, as well as a gift of those we love, live and work with who said to us, Go. Yes, go, and then blessed us on our way. To them, to God, to my fellow pilgrim companions and to the dean who led us, Thank you.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Emerging from Bardsey-- Meeting other Pilgrims on their way.

It is clear that the experience of making it across to Bardsey was the pinnacle of our experience as Pilgrim's. Two among us were not able to cross to Bardsey yet also God surprised them with the delight of new discoveries.

It is clear that as we draw closer to the end of our experience our group is still processing much of this spiritual adventure. Today we followed a bit of the path of the North Pilgrim's way. This route that is roughly 140 miles long was an ancient trek for pilgrims on their way to Bardsey Island. The many stops along the way are places of spiritual and physical refuge. We were pleased to meet and engage a group of pilgrims following this path (on foot) as they, like we, visited one of the historic stops on this pilgrim route, St.Asaph's Cathedral. These pilgrims were ending their second day of walking. To make it to Bardsey they have 10 or 11 days ahead of them. Then they like us will wait in hope that the waters will allow their crossing. We are praying for them now that their pilgrimage will be blessed by making it to Bardsey.

I was moved this day also at St. Asaph's cathedral by the simplest thing. While praying during an exquisite evensong we said together the confession. Offering to God our shortcomings in word and deed. I was struck then by the absolution which was presented in Welsh.  There was something unique for me to hear the words of forgiveness and reconciliation pronounced over my sacred confession in the ancient and native tongue of my ancestors.

Finally, on this day as we move toward the end of our experience we begin to think about home. Though tomorrow's prayer time will nudge our pilgrims toward pondering home, today a highlight was the absolute delight of watching Pilgrim Meg Seltzers response to her son Adam's surprise visit to his mother on Mother's Day. Adam is studying in Ireland this semester and managed to land here to visit his mother. It was a delight to watch, Meg's reflection is below.

Look who the wind blew in...
Sometimes blessings come when you least expect them. As I headed off to Holy Trinity church this morning I was mindful that it was mother's day. I thought about my children and how I missed them, about my mother and all those who have "mothered me" during my life. Upon returning from a walk around town later in the morning, my eye was caught by Tony waving me into the lounge. As we walked in I expected to get some info about the day, then I looked at the 3 people sitting there-Tony, Rick...and my son Adam. And the tears came. Adam had made his way from Limerick, Ireland (were he has been studying since January) to wish me Happy Mother's day. The surprise continued-that he will be with us to "finish out" the pilgrimage before heading back to Limerick tomorrow. Thanks to Tony for helping with logistics and to my fellow pilgrims for accepting a new pilgrim on the way. I am blessed and feel very loved.

Bardsey or Bust!

After a night wrapped in the gentle embrace of the beauty of St.Hwywn's church in Aberdaren and absorbed into the joy and abundant "croeso" (welsh word for welcome) of Val Wood, church warden, her husband Chris and Susan Fogarty who led us in reflections of R.S. Thomas' poetry, we awoke to THE threshold of our pilgrimage.
Bardsey Island, the Island of 20,000 saints was our destination and apparently our destiny today. St. Cadfan is said to have established the first monastic community on this Island in the 6th century. Since that time this remote and pristine island off the coast of Wales has been a place of prayerful longing. It's location makes it difficult and sometimes dangerous to reach because of the quickly changing weather and tidal currents. For centuries Bardsey became a Pilgrim's destiny, with Christians establishing Pilgrim routes that led them on many days journey to the shoreline of Wales and then to the Threshold of the dangerous crossing to this sacred and beautiful Island.

Today we would stand on that threshold and be blessed with the ONE day in 7 days that was safe enough to take the boat ride across to Bardsey! We launched from the shores of Aberdaron and took the very very rough journey across the sea. We arrived safely in two shifts and stepped on that beautiful Island. Our pilgrims walked the island offering their prayers and in the Celtic spirit engaged, embraced, and communed with the beauty of the natural order of which we are but one thread of God's amazing tapestry. The skies cleared, the sunshine bright! The birds of the air flew with delight around us, the herds of sheep gently grazed in open meadows. The wildflowers burst open with bright colors on the hillsides and the sea lions on the shore swam with delight and barked their happy song.
We gathered then around the Celtic cross that marks the remembrance of generations of saints and there we joined them in the prayers of the ages the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of the ages. We celebrated Eucharist there, rightly offering our thanks for all that God has given us. It struck me as we said the words of the Lord's Prayer that I was completely in union, communion with my fellow
pilgrims and all those many pilgrims who have stood on that very Island opening their lives and offering them in love and trust. If ever a time I have come to an awareness of that Celtic notion of "thin space" where heaven and earth seem to be touching this was it! Jesus has called us here! Jesus himself has called us here and how moving it is to be in community with these fellow pilgrims who like so many before has travelled days and many mikes because of this call!

Below are two reflections of Our Pilgrims written before the Bardsey experience. Expect more reflections about the Bardsey experience as our Pilgrims reflect upon it.

Tears, written by Meg Seltzer

Today on our way to the Bardsey Island boat launch, Tony encouraged us to think of those with us, those who aren't with us and those in the nearer presence to God...and tears came.
Tears come easily for me...tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of regret, tears of happiness, tears of opportunity passed and opportunities yet to come, tears of loneliness, tears of inclusion and exclusion, tears of love, tears of gratitude. Tears come easily for me...and I thank God for that.

                             The Gifts of God,  written by Pam Calabrese

A spiritual journey to refresh our inner soul,
Restore our reflections, to feel and experience God's power.
The tranquility of the earth, sky, and sea.
The gifts of God.

                         Tears come easy. Written by Meg Seltzer

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Finding a Path-Staying Grounded Day 5-Aberdaron

We began the morning in St.David's having been fed emotionally, spiritually, and physically by Janet and the Pilgrim Center staff of St.David's Cathedral the day before. Some took to the shoreline for early morning private prayers. Some read and journaled, some took much needed rest.

We boarded the bus for a long drive in pouring down rain to Aberdaron and St. Hwywn's parish and an evening of deeply moving poetry and reflection led by Susan Fogarty of the parish. To be enmeshed with the poetry of R.S. Thomas, the great 20th century Welsh Priest and poet IN the holy, ancient, and secret space of this hauntingly beautiful place , parts of which dates back to the 10th century was remarkable. In the space are two stone grave markers of two 5th century Roman Priests who had come to this remote Peninsula carrying the Gospel of Christ. I touched the stones and felt awe for their courage to venture into distant and wild lands. I reflected on all who they loved and loved them and just how distant they were from them. My heart broke for them. Following a path of faith seems to be like this......full of adventure and courage and sometimes heartbreaking. I think this is why Some of R.S. Thomas' poetry seems so poignant. He seemed to know this tension in life and in faith. Hen wasn't afraid to write about it.

Staying Grounded, written by Janet Felix

This morning at 6 am I went out for a walk that turned out to be the most amazing walk of my life so far. I ventured down the path toward the cliffs at St. David's. Thoughts filled my mind as I looked out at the beauty ahead of me.
Thank you God for all the blessings of our world. The beauty and peace I see fills me with your love and grace. To hear the sounds of waves, the seagulls and the cows, let me know that I am meant to be where I am in this world.
There was a sign that said "Cliffs kill, stay on path". I laughed at first but then thought about this message. It is good to wander and explore, but don't wander too far as you might slip away from what keeps you grounded.

Gifts, written by Sarah King

Everyday (of this journey) has brought me a Gift. A new knowledge, a renewed spirit, a new understanding. Yesterday's gift came while standing in St.David's Cathedral. Looking ahead of me of me was a magnificent Altar. As I walked around this Sacred space I was told to turn around and look behind me at the stone arches. Carved in stone and holding the doorways, each ceiling is a masterpiece BUT will be missed If YOU DON'T look up!
As I sat and meditated on the day it came to me.
Look ahead with your eyes open. Look at the past but remember to see the beauty.