308,560 steps later the walking has come to an end, but the pilgrimage I pray, continues on. We finished at Canterbury Cathedral standing on the ground where Thomas Becket was martyred, holding hands, and praying together. That may have been the moment when we handed over whatever pain, sorrow, and suffering we were carrying to the care of this saint. For me, what I needed to bring to that sacred ground became crystal clear a half mile earlier at the church of St. Dunstan’s. It was there we stopped and knelt in prayer in preparation for the final leg of our journey to Canterbury. In a flash my mind filled with three things I had been carrying for a long time that had blocked me from the flow of God’s love. And so I pulled them from my mind, and set them in my heart, and walked with them as an offering to St. Thomas.
After our prayers at St. Thomas Becket’s memorial, we checked into the hotel only to return forty minutes later to the martyrdom site, where Kari Glover invited us to participate in the reading of parts of T.S. Elliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral. She began by telling us something of T.S. Elliot’s life, and then she gave us the context of the Thomas Becket story. Finally, she gave each of us a script to read from. We had assigned parts, which served as a metaphor I thought, for the assigned parts we had played within our lives as pilgrims together. After the reading, we went and sat in the Canterbury choir to hear Evensong.
At 7 PM we returned to the Cathedral for a candlelit tour, which was really a service, led by Canon Claire. The Cathedral was dark and empty. We started in the Nave where Canon Claire invited us to “touch” the Cathedral as she sang a haunting song that filled the entire building. I lay on the floor and looked up at the ceiling, and as I did, I had the distinct sense that I was floating on the ceiling with the floor (which was the ceiling) far below. It felt like a Kingdom of God perspective. It was glorious, liberating, soaring, ethereal, and seemed to last longer than a clock would record. From there we continued through the Cathedral in silence, stopping for prayer as Canon Claire filled the space with her chants. It was a service that is imprinted upon my soul and brought closure to the mystery of pilgrimage.
Finally, Wednesday morning before our formal tour of the Cathedral, we gathered to bring closure to our common life together. After our morning prayers, we went around the room and shared our experiences and thoughts. There was much laughter and some tears. By the grace of God we had traveled some 145 miles (depending on who you ask) and arrived more in love with one another and with God than when we started.
For me, this was an intense, connecting, exhausting, and exhilarating journey. The Holy Spirit was with us, and along the way we came to know more and more, how much God loves us… and it is in this knowing, deep within our souls that inspires and even determines the grace by which we continue to walk this pilgrims’ way.