I recently returned from a 10-day pilgrimage with our youth. Our journey to London, Canterbury, Bayeux, Chartres, Normandy, and Paris was a spiritually enriching experience for all.
For me, the most powerful moment was celebrating Holy Eucharist in the Jesus Chapel at Canterbury Cathedral. As we stood in that historic cathedral, the seat and home of the Anglican Communion and the birthplace of our tradition, we prayed for our parish at home, offering special intention for those in need of our prayers and giving thanks for all those who made this pilgrimage possible.
Canterbury Cathedral has long been an important pilgrimage site since the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in the twelfth century. It is also the mother church of the Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a member. The Cathedral represents the global faith to which we belong. Most of the visitors at Canterbury were Anglicans from many parts of the world, even fellow Episcopalians from Texas. But there were also pilgrims from other traditions, including Roman Catholics and Methodists who had come to see this great cathedral and to visit the place of Saint Thomas Becket’s martyrdom.
The Reverend Canon Max Kramer, a clergy member at Canterbury, graciously met us in the Nave before we began our tour. Father Kramer remarked on the Anglican Compass Rose in the floor, with its many points reaching beyond the boundaries of the compass. He said, and I paraphrase: “See how this rose, this symbol of the Anglican Communion, reaches outside the compass? This not only represents Anglicanism; it represents Christian ecumenism. And this is true of Canterbury Cathedral. This cathedral does not belong to the Anglican Communion or even to the Church of England. We are simply the stewards. And we hope to one day hand over this cathedral to a united and undivided catholic Church.”
I carried this with me as we traveled to places central to our Anglican heritage in Britain, to Roman Catholic cathedrals in France, and to interfaith chapels in Normandy cemeteries. Looking beyond the boundaries of our tradition, we witnessed a funeral at the Cathedral in Chartres and a wedding at the Cathedral in Bayeux. We saw faithful Jewish and Christian pilgrims walking the 8,000 graves of American soldiers who gave their lives to deliver Europe in the Normandy invasions. And we saw everyday people, simply going about their lives, saying simple prayers in small chapels, lighting candles, and welcoming us with smiles and generosity. Like the points on the Anglican Compass Rose, our hearts were stretched beyond their usual boundaries.
I am so grateful for our talented director of youth formation, Lyn Holt. She planned and directed a wonderful pilgrimage. The lives of the nine youth pilgrims and five adult pilgrims will be forever changed by this experience. I join Lyn, the other adults, and our youth in giving thanks of the many donors, the vestry, and the parish for your continued support of our youth program. Thank you for making this pilgrimage possible.
Stay tuned to hear more about the trip from our youth in an upcoming fall forum.
The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Priest-in-Charge