PMGenesis: Chapter 24


Peter Milward's Autobiography: Genesis of an Octogenarian (2008)

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Who is Peter Milward?
0. About PM Genesis of an Octogenarian
1. Attempt at an Autobiography
2. 
Pre-conscious World
3. 
Local Patriotism
4. 
Wimbledon in Wartime 
5. 
Pastoral Peace
6. 
Pastoral Philosophy
7. Life at Oxford
8. 
Between England and Japan 
9. A New Language and Culture
10. Rural Japan
11. 
Pastoral Theology
12. Teaching Shakespeare in Japan
13. A Missionary in Japan
 
14. 
Student Revolt  
15. 
A Floating University  
16. Literary Pilgrimages  
17. 
A Scholar's Paradise  
18. 
To and Fro in Japan  
19. 
Words, Words, Words  
20. 
Annus Mirabilis  
21. Renaissance  
22. 
Lost Years  
23. 
Two Papal Pilgrimages  
24. 
Two Peninsular Pilgrimages
25. More American Adventures
26. In the Footsteps of Hopkins and Newman  
27. 
Two International Conferences  
28. 
Junshin  
29. 
Catholic Shakespeare  
30. 
Last Words  
31. 
Bibliographical Afterword  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Xavier Castle, Navarra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 View of Santiago, from Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS

Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier

BriFra

Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan

About

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 A Lifetime with Hopkins  by Peter Milward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

     Jacobean Shakespeare
by Peter Milward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare the Papist by Peter Milward 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Arise My Love by William Johnston, S.J.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Mystical Journey, the autobiography of William Johnston, S.J., author of Mystical Theology and many other works on mysticism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Francis Xavier (Articles on Japanese Catholic History and Jesuits) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS

Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier

BriFra

Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan

About

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24. Two Peninsula Pilgrimages

 

   In my pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land I usually followed the same general route, while varying the places to be visited on the way – from England via France to Rome, then onwards via Greece to the Holy Land.  Once in honour of St. Thomas More on the occasion of the fifth centenary of his birth, I led the group from England to Belgium and West Germany, since, though he was a “stay-at-home” (I almost said “stick-in-the-mud”) Englishman, he was once sent by the London merchants to what was then called Flanders to arrange a trade agreement with the Flemish merchants.  It was there that he first conceived his idea of Utopia and set about its composition.  As for Spain, however, being as she was off the beaten track, I had never gone in that direction.  This wasn’t because of any ingrained English (Protestant) prejudice against that country, but because I always arranged my tours for students of the English literature department, while there were other tours for Spain arranged for students of the Spanish department.  Another reason came with the Renaissance Institute, on whose behalf I directed my sights not only to the British Isles but also to Italy and Greece, and so to the Holy Land.  All the same, I had a hankering for Spain, which I had hitherto seen only on the horizon from the boat that had brought me via the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean to Japan.  One year, therefore, in the summer of 1987, I conceived the idea of a pilgrimage through three Christian lands of the Middle Ages – first England, then France, and finally Spain.  In the English spirit of “fair play”, I allotted ten days to each country, while choosing Santiago de Compostela as the goal of our pilgrims’ way.  In England we had to visit not only Canterbury, as the shrine of St Thomas a Becket, but also Winchester, for her smaller shrine of St Swithun, Oxford with her shrine of St Frideswide, and Westminster, for her royal shrine of St Edward the Confessor.  In France we stayed not at Paris, in spite of her two shrines of the Crown of Thorns at the Sainte Chapelle and of Our Lady at Notre Dame, but at Chartres, which claims another and older shrine of Our Lady.  From Chartres we drove along the Loire valley, with the famous chateaux from Renaissance times, to Angers, with her shrines of the not so holy Angevin kings at Fontevraud, and then via Poitiers to Bordeaux.  That city had been a port in mediaeval times for English pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela, the great shrine of St James the Apostle, Pilgrim and Moorslayer (his three titles to Spanish allegiance).

 

   I suppose it isn’t necessary for me to repeat what I have already said about this tour, but its highlight, replete with episodes of all kinds, was indeed the third part in Spain – from the time we crossed the border from France in the high Pyrenees in the footsteps of Charlemagne and Roland.  Already in the little border village of Arneguy, the home of one of my fellow Jesuits in Japan, there took place an interesting episode.  The coach in which we were traveling was admitted to the Spanish side of the border, where we were subjected to the customary formalities of immigration.  Since this involved some time of waiting and doing nothing, we got off the coach and found it easy to walk back across other bridges into the French side of the village we had just left.  Here surely, we thought, must be an ideal place for smuggling, and so it had proved through the centuries, especially as the people living on either side of the border were neither French nor Spanish but Basque.  My Jesuit friend in Japan was also Basque, and he told me that in his boyhood, while his home was on one side of the border, his school was on the other side.  In those days there had been no problem about passports or immigration.  From this point onwards we were in territory made sacred to Frenchmen from mediaeval times by the Old French epic known as The Song of Roland, in which the hero was tragically killed not by the Moors but by the Basques.  This was Val Carlos, better known in French history as Roncesvalles.  Here we found memorials erected to commemorate the event, as well as an ungainly statue of St James the Pilgrim assuring us that we were on what Spaniards call the Camino de Santiago.

 

   To begin with, we spent a couple of nights at Pamplona, the capital city of Navarre, sacred to the memory of the Jesuit founder St Ignatius Loyola.  He had been wounded while defending the castle and so had been set, in the plan of divine providence, on the path of religious conversion.  During our one full day there we took the opportunity of visiting the other castle of Xavier, sacred to the other memory of Loyola’s good friend St Francis Xavier.  He for his part had set so many people of the East, especially the Japanese, on the same path of religious conversion.  This was a splendid castle in the traditional Spanish manner.  While we were sight-seeing, a wedding ceremony that had been taking place in the castle chapel ended and the bride and bridegroom came out.  It was a wonderful “shutter chance” for our cameras!  Continuing on our way, we came to the scenic bridge over the river Ebro at the old-world village of Puente la Reina.  All the way there were old churches going back to the twelfth century built in the then fashionable Romanesque style, all of them fascinating and all serving to remind us of our pilgrimage.  Two things we lacked, however, were the two indispensable signs of the pilgrim – overlooking the fact that we were traveling by coach, not on foot – namely, the scallop shell round our necks and the special pilgrim’s hat.  But this lack we were able to make up for, at least momentarily, when we came upon some pilgrims in a small town on the way wearing these very signs.  So after exchanging greetings with them, I summoned the courage to ask them if they would kindly lend us their signs at least for a photograph, and they obliged both by investing us with the signs and then by taking our photos.  Not all the way was paved, but there were some places where our coach had to leave the road and drive over rough countryside.  There the houses we passed were very poor and some of them were altogether derelict.  The country track also led though a village where the houses were hardly wide enough apart to let the coach pass through.  Soon we came to a narrow mountain road with a high cliff on one side and a steep precipice on the other.  While we were driving down this road, the Spanish driver kept up a flow of conversation with our charming Japanese guide.  The pilgrims behind me were terrified, and they implored me to ask the driver not to talk but to keep his attention on the road.  He, however, was indignant at this sign of distrust.  He had, he insisted, been driving coaches along such roads for many years and in all that time he hadn’t had a single accident.  But his insistence didn’t remove our distrust of him.

 

   Two major cities on our further way had been capitals of little Spanish kingdoms, such as characterized the North of Spain during the mediaeval period of reconquista, or recovery of Spain from Moorish domination.  From Pamplona, the former capital of Navarre, we proceeded to Burgos, the former capital of Castile, where the palace and cathedral were notable examples of a peculiarly Spanish combination of Gothic and Renaissance architecture.  Here we found the tomb of the famous Spanish warrior El Cid inside the cathedral, while outside in one of the city squares there was an impressive equestrian statue of him.  It presented him as the great champion of the Christians against the Moors, but I was somewhat disillusioned to read in a guide-book that he had in fact fought on both sides for hire.  Just before we came to Burgos, we passed beneath a famous castle named Clavijo.  Here we paused for a moment, while I urged my Japanese pilgrims to climb with me up to the summit.  I even promised a reward for the first three to reach the castle.  So the younger members set out and I followed suit.  Soon everyone had been shamed to alight from the coach and to proceed upwards at a more leisurely pace.  I have always noticed that Japanese on tour don’t like to exert themselves!  Eventually the youngest member aged ten was the first to arrive at the castle, and one of my Sophia students came in second, while I was third.  The prize-giving I announced would come on our arrival at Santiago.  Meanwhile, the view from the top was breath-taking, if dizzying, and it amply rewarded us for our exertions.  Here, we were told, St James himself had appeared in the guise of a warrior fighting on the Christian side as Matamoros, or Moor-slayer.  In fact, this was the very place where he had been awarded that title.

 

   The next city was Leon, capital of the old kingdom of Leon, when the overlord of Castile was no more than a count owing allegiance to the king here.  Here, too, we found a magnificent Gothic cathedral, which with its stained glass might well challenge comparison with that of Chartres.  Next to the cathedral was an older Romanesque cloister with charming old frescoes.  Nearby was an old hostel for pilgrims, now a luxury hotel belonging to a network of national hotels called Parador.  How I wished we could have been put up at such hotels, instead of the modern hotels arranged for us by our stingy travel agent!  Only, for such hotels, I was informed, we would have had to pay a good price and to book our rooms well in advance.  Anyhow, they were so tastefully decorated in the typical old Spanish colours of black and white, recalling the Golden Age of King Philip II in the late sixteenth century.  Another hotel of the same kind we saw at Santiago, also a former pilgrim hostel.  Most of them were historical buildings like these old hostels and castles, which had been prudently taken over by the Spanish government for the fostering of tourism.  The day we left Leon was the hottest of our journey, when the temperature soared above forty degrees.  On the way we stopped at a small Romanesque church, formerly owned by the Knights of St James, named Vilar de Donas.  There we made the happy discovery that the thick walls served to keep the heat out.  On the wall behind the altar I found the most impressive fresco of Jesus in his passion I had ever seen.  The photo I took of it is now among my most treasured possessions.  Outside the church we met some locals from the nearby farm, who kindly offered us some icy spring-water.  It was not only delicious but ideal for quenching our burning thirst.

 

   Finally, we reached our destination safe and sound, in spite of the cavalier behaviour (in both senses of the word) of our driver.  Next morning, after a guided tour round the historic city, which had provided the warring kingdoms of the North with a point of unity and inspiration in their combined struggle against the Moors to the South, we ended up at the cathedral in time for the solemn midday Mass.  I went to the sacristy for permission to concelebrate at the Mass, and this was granted without difficulty.  While we were waiting for Mass to begin, in came two other priests who had been walking as real pilgrims all the way from their seminary in Navarre.  I felt ashamed to be saying Mass in their company.  I was just a fake and a fraud, coming here as I had done by coach, while they were genuine!  In the afternoon I went round the shops looking for suitable presents for the two girls who had won the contest at Clavijo, and I found some symbolic miniature animals, a turtle, a frog and a rabbit.  Two of the animals represented the hare and the tortoise of Aesop’s fable, while the frog bore a  striking resemblance to my Sophia student.  Then I took a rest in a nearby park, where I met an English couple sitting on the same bench.  They opened the conversation by asking me the day of the week, but I had no better idea than they.  They told me they had come here to arrange a radio programme for the BBC on Romanesque music, since the façade of the old cathedral was famous for its statues of the twenty-four elders of the Apocalypse, each with a different musical instrument of that period.  Unfortunately, I never got to see their programme, since I would have been back in Japan when it went on the air in Britain.  That evening we assembled in the hotel for our “last supper” together, in honour of our driver who would have to leave us on our arrival in Madrid the following day.  It was also the occasion for my distribution of prizes to the winners of the castle-climbing contest (or CCC).  Then instead of distributing the prizes individually, I presented all three animals to the youngest member and requested her to select the second prize from among them.  The little girl gazed at my student till her eyes were almost bulging out of her head, like the eyes of a frog, and so she chose the frog.  That student of mine evidently guessed that I had all the time been thinking of the frog as best suited to herself – which was true, though I deflected the blame on the little girl.  It looked as if we had come all the way to this holy spot for the sake of three animals, the hare, the turtle and the frog.  I even thought of the animals as symbols of the Incarnation, according to my interpretation of Basho’s famous haiku, “Furuike ya/ kawazu tobikomu/ mizu no oto” – “The old pond/ a frog jumps in/ the sound of water.”  This I take to imply the contrast between the eternity of time and the sudden intervention of God both in creation and especially in incarnation.

 

   My second peninsular pilgrimage took place on the occasion of the fifth centenary of Columbus’ great voyage of discovery in 1492, since this was the year 1992.  My first idea hadn’t been Spain but the Holy Land, and I had projected another tour from England, via Italy and Greece, to the Holy Land.  Unfortunately, the political situation in Israel was even more problematic than usual, and we would have had to change planes at Athens.  So we wouldn’t have had the same airline looking after us all the way, and that would have made the journey more expensive.  So instead of going to the Holy Land, I decided on Spain, especially for this centenary year.  This time, therefore, instead of following the pilgrims’ way to Santiago in the North, we visited the Moorish cities of the South in Andalusia, Seville, Cordoba and Granada.  Our first port of call was Athens, and thence we made our way to Sunium, Corinth and Delphi – such romantic, or I should say classical, names!  To me, however, they were all “old hat”.  I had long been familiar with them, not only in my school days both at Wimbledon and Oxford, but also on previous pilgrimages.  Now, however, we paid a visit to a really out-of-the-way place in the heart of the Greek mountains North of Delphi, a cluster of mediaeval monasteries built on the top of inaccessible crags, under the collective name of Meteora.  One alone would have been arduous enough both to build and to live there.  Only mediaeval hermits, with their longing for a life of prayer and penance, fasting and solitude, could have endured such a place.  Yet I might have added another qualification for them, namely an eye for scenic beauty, or what Hopkins calls “God’s grandeur”.  My Japanese students were, however, more interested in having their photos taken on the top of the inaccessible crags, while perched on their very edge.  It was in vain I warned them of the danger, telling them that if they wanted to commit suicide they should at least wait till we returned to Japan – when I wouldn’t have the responsibility.  Anyhow, they wanted to have their photos taken first, and then they obeyed me.  Another notable episode was when we were warned beforehand by our hotel that one of the monasteries we proposed to visit wouldn’t admit girls wearing pants.  So we provided ourselves with table cloths for them to drape round themselves.  Then, so far from looking comic, they were remarkably elegant, as if they were wearing the latest fashion in kimono!

 

   In Italy we visited the standard places for tourists, such as St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel, none of which held any special attraction for me.  I am no fan of Baroque!  I much preferred the ruins of the Roman Forum, culminating in the Colosseum and the Baths of Caracalla.  Then we went on to Assisi, as being a living museum of the Middle Ages and the life of St Francis of Assisi, with Giotto’s inimitable fresco of the saint preaching to the birds – as I often do to the canaries on the sixth floor of SJ House!  Then on to Florence, not for Michelangelo, whom I despise almost as unaffectedly as Shaw professed to despise Shakespeare, but for his greater predecessor, the Dominican Fra Angelico, whose frescoes line the walls of the former Convent, now Museum, of San Marco.  The last time I had been to Florence had been nothing but tragedy.  Then I found I had ruined a whole film of 36 slides by not having inserted it properly from the beginning.  Secondly, the price we were charged at the restaurant recommended to us by our driver was impossibly high.  Lastly, the same driver, who had guided us round all the places in the city associated with Michelangelo in the morning, had assured us that we might well leave the Museum of San Marco till the afternoon, but he was wrong.  When we got there after lunch, we found that it was closed for the rest of the day, according to the universal Italian custom of siesta.  This time, however, instead of tragedy we encountered comedy, in Dante’s meaning of a happy ending, and so we could appreciate Fra Angelico’s genius to our hearts’ content.

 

   Finally, with the rain, we came to Spain.  Only, in the sunny South, fortunately for us, it wasn’t raining, partly because, once we left Seville, the plains gave place to mountains.  Seville we found a golden city, with her Alcazar and Giralda, up which, we were told, a horseman could ride all the way to the top without once getting off his horse.  Only, by the time they reached the top, the poor animal would have been quite exhausted!  From Seville we made our way to Jerez for a visit to the sherry bodega, or winery, of Domecq, where we were instructed in the secrets of making sherry.  What particularly horrified me was the information that, in order to concentrate on the sherry industry, the farmers of Jerez had been forbidden by the faceless dictators of the EU at Brussels to make any more oil and to cut down all their olive trees.  That was indeed autocratic bureaucracy at its worst!  At Seville there was, of course, the alleged tomb of Christopher Columbus, at which we paid our respects, especially as it was singularly lacking in singularity and worldly pretension.  Most of my students were excited at the prospect of watching the flamenco dancers, for whom Seville is chiefly famous in Japan.  But alas, on the very evening appointed for their performance I had promised to have dinner with a friend of mine who was the Jesuit superior of the college there, and I could hardly tell him of my preference for the dancers! 

 

   Then we went on to Cordoba, still, like Seville, on the banks of the river Guadalquivir.  There we passed a herd of cows grazing on the green pastures of an island in the middle of the river.  What a charming sight, not least for one like myself born in the Year of the Cow!  At Cordoba, of course, our main focus of interest was the old mosque of the Mezquita, though right in the middle the victorious Christians had imposed a singularly ugly cathedral in the Baroque style.  Yet when it came to ugliness those Christians were no match for the modern Spanish government, who had turned the mosque into a mess in their concern to modernize the place in preparation for the World Fair to be held in the near future at Seville.  What most attracted me about the city, however, with her evident historicity, were her narrow, winding, mediaeval streets.  Wandering among them, I came upon an interesting statue of the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, so much admired by the great Catholic theologian St Thomas Aquinas.  Along these streets I came from time to time upon open doorways affording glimpses of little patios and old-world gardens, reminding me of the tiny door through which the little heroine had gazed on her ideal rose garden in Alice in Wonderland.

   At last, we came to the climax of our pilgrimage in Granada with the magnificent Muslim palace of the Alhambra.  We were ourselves lodged at a nearby hotel built in much the same style of architecture, if in more modern times.  Here it was that Columbus had his famous interview with the great Queen Isabella and received her permission to set sail for the New World – though when he got there, on the national feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, October 12, he imagined he had discovered an opposite way to Asia or, as he called them, the Indies.  In the main square of the city there was a statue of him kneeling before the queen and receiving her inscribed permission, though he actually set sail from the river Guadalquivir below Seville.  All my attention, however, was taken up with the heights on which the palace was built, with its series of dream garden after dream garden.  Then there were the other dream gardens of the Generalife on the neighbouring hill, for us to enjoy while looking down on ever changing vistas of the city and across the valley to another hill honey-combed with dwellings of gypsies.  Here, however, there was no holy shrine for the end of our pilgrimage, such as we had at Santiago.  All was secular, even from a Muslim viewpoint, devoted to the pleasures of the senses.  Only, we had come here in the footsteps of Columbus, as he had gone from here via Seville to the New World, that “brave new world” of which Shakespeare speaks so enthusiastically at the end of his last play, The Tempest.  Meanwhile, we were about to return to the new world of his dreams in Japan, since he had been so convinced on his arrival in San Salvador, which was all he knew of the New World, that he had come close to Japan.  So much for his world and all its boasting!

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