Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Praying for world peace

In Le-Puy-en-Velay in the Cathedral at the top of seemingly endless stone steps, a service is held at seven o’clock each morning for the pilgrims about to set out on their walk. This is the most popular departure point in France, so for most people at the service the steps back down from the Cathedral do indeed signal their first footsteps along the road to Santiago.

The priest was a young man who devoted much thought and care to making what might have been a ritual performance into something personal for each of us. Then he invited us to take from a basket a slip of paper on which visitors had written their prayers. Each pilgrim would take one and pray for the writer every day along the road. Carried away by the occasion, I took one. Then worried what I would be asked to do.

Phew! “World peace and harmony among all religions.” Tick: I can ask for that. And for the monks struggling for freedom for their country in Tibet. Yep, I’ll go along with that too. Then a prayer for the health in old age of the writer’s aunt and uncle. A thing that, thinking of my own relatives and friends, I can certainly sympathise with. Next, touchingly, the writer asked for comfort after his “first heartbreak” at age sixteen. Ah yes, that way lies wisdom. And a PS: please could I pray for his parents, because he loves them a lot despite annoying them endlessly.

So most conscientiously each day, at a turn in the track or in the cool of a village chapel, I pray for world peace. And all the rest.

2nd August 2008

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