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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Friars’ Passions 11 – A Pilgrim’s Progress

Sunday, February 08, 2009
In viaFrom the time, as a teenager, that I joined a walking team attached to my cadet squadron, I have nurtured a great love of the outdoors coupled with a real enjoyment of the physical challenges it can pose. Whilst almost obsessive about walking and hiking as a youth, in latter years my enjoyment from this pursuit is derived less and less from the sense of the distance achieved and more from the beauty of that which I discover en route. At least, that is what I tell myself if I have to keep stopping. Having done a great deal of walking both here and abroad I find the real lure is the time it forces you to set aside to think and to pray. If you are out for a long hike it is almost impossible not to pray, to start to think about all that makes up our lives, to work through problems and difficulties or simply give thanks for the time away from all the distractions of modern life and the quiet beauty of our surroundings.

My most memorable trip, just before I entered novitiate, gave me the chance to do just that. I took two weeks off from work and walked the last 200 mile stretch of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with a good friend (who was also about to take a plunge in life and get married), and it was perhaps one of the most testing and rewarding experiences of my life. With all we needed strapped to our backs we set off for two weeks into some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve come across, met some wonderful people and enjoyed many both prayerful and hilarious moments! The utter simplicity of our daily, pilgrim existence was remarkably comforting. We slept in refugios (huts with bunk beds), ate the wonderful local food and walked - simple and cathartic. I remember one moment as I sat on a mountain looking at the clouds driving through the valley beneath me and feeling utterly at peace, utterly calm. In those sort of extraordinary moments it is much easier to feel closer to God and although the challenge is to appreciate and give thanks for his presence wherever we find ourselves, it is those sorts of moments that can provide forceful yet sublime reminders of His great presence. Immersing ourselves in the beauty of Creation can give us the courage we need for the road ahead. If it is answers you are looking for, as St Jerome advised in the 4th century, solvitur ambulando – and he was right!

Graham Hunt OP

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