Sunday 14 April 2013

Additional guidelines written by a fellow pilgrim

There are a number of guidelines that you are expected to follow on the pilgrimage.

1. You are part of a group, with a group leader.  You are expected to do as the group leader tells you.

2. You are responsible for your own luggage and your own provisions.  You must ensure that your luggage is placed in a van each day and you must get your own luggage at the end of each day’s walking. 

3. You are responsible for your own sleeping arrangements.  Normally there is a large tent available for pilgrims, but the organisers now advise that you bring your own tent.  There is no groundsheet in the communal tents.  You must bring your own mat and sleeping bag.

4. The walk starts very early in the morning.  You will wake to the sound of religious music, followed by several exhortations to get up and prepare for departure.  You must pack your bags and tent and eat whatever breakfast you have and be prepared to leave the campsite within an hour of being woken.(perhaps less, depending on where the chapter is in marching order). For breakfast, the French provide bread rolls, with hot chocolate or coffee and  sometimes even teabags with hot water. If you want anything else, you should bring it yourself.

5. You must ensure that you take enough provisions with you for each day’s walking.  In addition to food, you will need the chapter booklet, the pilgrimage booklet and probably some plasters or headache tablets. Water is provided at various places along the route. Make sure you take a bottle of water at each stop even if you're not thirsty at the time. Dehydration can catch up with you quite quickly in the hot sun, and it can very unpleasant and even dangerous.

6. You must make every effort to stay with your chapter.  There may be times that you need to go elsewhere,( to seek medical help, or a toilet, or some lost item.  You should try to catch up with the chapter as soon as possible. 

7. The chapter is recognised by its banner and cross.  Our chapter has a very unique (Celtic) cross).  The banner and cross are always at the front of the chapter.  If you are carrying them you must keep pace with the chapter in front of you.  If you are not carrying them you must stay behind them.

8. You must respect other chapters.  If there is a delay, for whatever reason, you should not try to overtake another chapter.  If confessions are being heard you should keep a suitable distance from priest and penitent.  You should not block the route at any time. You must always stay attentive, as the group may be asked to move along at very short notice. 

9. There are several organised groups of pilgrimage assistants, including medical staff, water carriers, campsite staff, transport staff, traffic coordinators and Mass organisers.  You should be respectful of each of these groups and follow their instructions whenever you encounter them.

10. There are a number of jobs that you may be asked to help with during the pilgrimage.  Each chapter needs to watch for traffic and pass signals concerning traffic to other chapters. Pilgrims are also required to carry the banner, flag and cross at various points.  You may be asked to prepare a meditation or read one.  You might also be required to hold the loudspeaker (which can be quite heavy after 14 hours on the road!).

But apart from these 10 commandments, and most importantly of all, you are required to practice all of the Christian virtues, with a special emphasis on charity and forbearance.  The Irish chapter is well known for its singing and also its welcoming attitude to any pilgrims that join us for an hour or a day.  This is  reputation that we would like to keep.  Adhering to the guidelines above will help us all to have a happy and a prayerful pilgrimage  

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