News that the parents of missing child Madeleine McCann will visit the holy shrine of Fatima in Portugal,(here) is in a way not surprising. Yet both of the parents who are medical scientists and doctors are uinlikely candidates for the pilgrimage circuit. Is it an act of desperation or a supreme act of faith? One can't help but hope that, which ever it is that it proves to be fruitful.
I have pondered the mystery of pilgrimage quite a few times whilst we have been wandering these northern climes. Yesterday for example as I visited Carlisle Cathedral and the lady on the table said "Are you familiar with the Cathedral?" I was able to truthfully reply...."I haven't been inside this Cathedral for over 40 years!"
And there was indeed a sense of pilgrimage about it. It was the first cathedral I ever stepped foot inside, it was the first place I ever witnessed an ordination. And it was in this Diocese where my early sense of vocation was nurtured. So an important religious pilgrimage place.
Last night we drove to my cousin's house, she told me about it last year. A lovely (but indeed in need of lots of work) Cumbrian farm house...the centre of their trucking business, and as she told me last year the focus of nearly all of her life. Her father and mother were there when we arrived. George looks so much like my father that it is alarming sitting there talking to him.
A pilgrimage into the heart of my family.
There is a deep sense of connectedness with these people even though we do not know each other well, on one level and yet share enormous common story. This is quite profound in searching out the far off place of pilgrimage.
Today we will head to Durham, where is buried St Cuthbert. Then later to Gateshead, the largest shopping centre in England. A different sort of pilgrimage.
I hope and pray that the McCann's experience of Fatima will reconnect them with the lost child.