Sunday, 10 April 2011

Pilgrim Blessing

In the last few weeks more e mails have arrived from pilgrims than ever before. The pilgrimage season is up on us and pilgrims want to find out about latest updates to the guidebooks, advice about accommodation in various places or just to chat through e mail about the mounting excitement as the departure date approaches. I really enjoy this contact. It is as if I can walk with them without actually being there. Sometimes pilgrims e mail en route to let me know how it is going or to pass on information to others coming behind them. Whatever the reason it is great to hear from them especially when I get the final e mail saying “I made it!”

Recently I’ve had several such e mails from pilgrims about the Camino Inglés. This is a splendid little route of 5 days walking from Ferrol to Santiago. It has its challenges and pilgrims are well advised to do some preparation and training in advance. Just because it is relatively short doesn’t mean it is easy all the way! That is why it is a real blessing for me to hear about pilgrims arriving in Santiago at the end of the route. They write with huge enthusiasm and sense of achievement.
Talking of blessings. I’ve had several e mails in the last year asking if I know of a Pilgrim Blessing which pilgrims can be given before they set out. Sometimes pilgrims want to ask their local priest or minister to do this for them. Information is fairly difficult to come by and some of the texts are medieval sounding translations of medieval blessings. So when musical friends Elena and Piotr announced they were going off on the Camino Francés from León to Santiago next week it provided the ideal opportunity to write a blessing for them. This morning they received their blessing, scallop shells and walking sticks and a bottle of wine to toast their departure. Here is the text for anyone who wishes to use it:

Father God we pray for these pilgrims Elena and Piotr who are soon to leave these shores to travel to the tomb of St James, The Great in Santiago de Compostela. In doing so they will honour St James, apostle, friend of Jesus and martyr for his faith.
That faith has a long tradition of pilgrimages, of the faithful travelling to holy places for religious reasons. The very word “pilgrim” comes from the Latin “peregrine” which means “foreigner” or “wanderer”; someone who travels in faith to another place in a journey set apart from their normal lives.
For this reason Abraham is recognised as the first pilgrim described in scripture because he was called to journey to the land chosen by God. Centuries later, Abraham’s descendents embarked on their pilgrimage to the Promised Land from Egypt. The birth of Jesus himself is marked by the pilgrimage of the Magi, the three kings who followed the star to pay homage to the messiah and it is recorded that Jesus himself travelled on pilgrimage many times to Jerusalem.
We pray that Elena and Piotr be inspired by these examples of pilgrimage described in Sacred Scripture.
Father God we ask you to bless these scallop shells, the traditional symbols of pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela – we pray that Elena and Piotr bear them proudly to their destination at the tomb of the apostle.
Father God we ask you to bless these sticks symbols of the support Elena and Piotr will receive from friends old and new who they will meet on the way.
Father God we ask you to bless Elena and Piotr. May they travel safely and enjoy days of happy and prayerful companionship and nights of restful sleep until they reach their journey’s end.
Together we say the Pilgrims’ Prayer:
St James, Apostle
Chosen among the first
You were the first to drink
The Cup of the Master
And you are the great protector of pilgrims;
Make us strong in faith
And happy in hope
On our pilgrim journey
Following the path of Christian life
And sustain us so that
We may finally reach the glory of God the Father
Elena and Piotr as you go from this place to begin your final preparations, leave with the love and fond good wishes of all who know you. Bow your heads as we pray for God’s blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your cheeks.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The wine could not have been more appropriate for a musical pilgrim. I intend to celebrate with it myself when Lent is over!
Do you need a priest or a bottle of wine for the Blessing I can hear you ask. The answer is that you don’t need a priest – do it yourself. Simply read it aloud or better still read it with someone else particularly if you are going with other pilgrims. Bless each other. However whilst others may disagree I’d say the wine isn’t optional.

For those who may wish to use older forms of Pilgrim Blessing here are some more:

"In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, receive this pouch, habit for your pilgrimage, so that, castigated and corrected, you hasten to prostrate at Saint James' feet, where you yearn to arrive and, after having completed your journey, you come to us delighted with the help of God, who rules over the world without end. Amen.
Receive this staff as support for the journey and your efforts during your pilgrimage so that you are able to defeat the throngs of enemies and thus arrive safely at Saint James' feet and, after having completed your journey, you come to us delighted with the consent of the same God, who lives in and rules over Heaven without end. Amen."
And another which is the text of a medieval rite dated 1078 preserved in the Missal of Vich Cathedral, Barcelona, Spain. At the Abbey of Roncesvalles the blessing is used at the end of the Mass for the blessing of pilgrims passing through.
Priest: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Response: Who made heaven and earth.
Priest: The Lord be with you.
Response: And also with you.
Let us pray.
O Lord whose word makes all things holy, bless we beseech you these emblems, rucksacks and staffs to be used on this pilgrimage. May all those who carry them arrive safely at the shrine of St. James the Apostle, the objective of their journey. We ask this through Christ our Lord.R: Amen
Presenting the Rucksacks
(When presenting the rucksacks the priest says: “In the name of the Lord”)
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, shoulder these rucksacks which will help you during your pilgrimage. May the fatigue of carrying them be expiation for your sins, so that when you have been forgiven you may reach the shrine of St. James full of courage, and when your pilgrimage is over, return home full of joy. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R: Amen
Presenting the shells and other emblems
Receive these shells and medals, as signs of your pilgrimage. With God’s grace may you behave as true pilgrims throughout your entire journey and be able to reach your objective, which is to visit the shrine of St, James and gain indulgences. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R: Amen
Blessing the Pilgrims
Lord Jesus Christ, you taught us through the Apostle St Paul that here below we have no lasting city and must always seek the heavenly city. Hear our prayers for these pilgrims we commission. May the Holy Spirit breathe his grace into their hearts; may he enliven their faith, strengthen their hope and feed the flame of their love. May they thus make their pilgrimage in the true spirit of penance, sacrifice and expiation. May the same spirit purify their minds from every evil thought. May he defend their hearts and give them the constant help of his protection so that they can reach the objective of their journey safely and by means of this pilgrimage they are now starting merit to come one day to the heavenly Jerusalem. You who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
R: Amen
May the Lord always guide your steps and be your inseparable companion throughout your journey.
R: Amen
May our Lady of Roncesvalles grant you her motherly protection, defend you against all dangers of soul and body. Through her intercession may you arrive safely at the end of your pilgrimage.
R: Amen
May St Raphael the Archangel accompany you throughout your journey as he accompanied Tobias and ward off every contrary or troublesome incident.
R: Amen
And may almighty God bless you, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
R: Amen
Go in the peace of Christ
Translated from a French version of the Latin original by Brother David Leo fsc.
Copies available from the Confraternity of St James


  1. Once again the Camino has provided something I was thinking about, and hadn't even expressed my wishes out loud to anyone! Gracias JW!

  2. THank you Johnnie Walker :)

  3. Here is a very old prayer which, if one omits the final part (in brackets) would be suitable for Jewish or Muslim pilgrims or even - with some minor tinkering - a pagan pilgrim.

    The Pilgrim’s Prayer
    Oh Lord, who called Your servant Abraham out of Ur of Chaldea
    and watched over him in all his wanderings;
    who guided the Jewish people through the desert:
    we ask You to watch over our brothers and sisters here,
    who, in love for all, make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.

    Be for us a companion on the journey, direction at our crossroads,
    strength in our fatigue, a shelter in danger,
    a resource on our travels, shadow in the heat,
    light in the dark, consolation in our dejection,
    and the power of our intention;

    so that with Your guidance, safely and unhurt,
    we may reach the end of our journey and,
    strengthened with gratitude and power, secure and happy,
    may return to our homes.
    [through Jesus Christ our Lord. Apostle James, pray for us. Holy Virgin pray for us.]

  4. Planning to use your blessing at our monastery this summer before leaving for our pilgrimage in September! Thank you for sharing; it's exactly what I was hoping to find when I started looking online for a pilgrim's blessing. PAX