A young Augustinian monk was sent on a pilgrimage to Rome by his monastery in the year 1510 in the hope that he would be healed from his inner demons. The visit to Rome would turn out to be one of the key events that led to major upheavel of the medieval world.
Although the historical records are scant the 30-year-old monk, Martin Luther, must have walked from Erfurt in Germany to Rome on the Via Francigena on a journey lasting many weeks, accompanied by an unnamed elderly monk from the same religious order.
A pilgrimage to Rome, Santiago de Compostela or Jerusalem at the time was wrought with danger with many pilgrims dying on the way from disease or injury. The pilgrimage routes are dotted with the ruins of ancient hospitals where caring nuns and monks once nursed the weary pilgrims.
One such abandoned ancient hospital can be seen at Le Briccole on the Via Francigena on the leg between San Quirico and Radicofani. According to some records Luther too had to undergo medical treatment for a serious health conditon before reaching Rome.
The expectation of receiving some divine healing or enlightenment on arrival in Rome must have been enormous. But the monk from Erfurt was shattered by what he saw in Rome. The opulent lifestyle displayed by the clergy in Rome with money provided in tithes by the poor stood in sharp contrast to the teachings of the gospels calling for humility and service to the needy. Prostitution was rampant along with venereal and other diseases.
Having been brought up in the Lutheran tradition I was fascinated by the journey on foot by the reformator Martin Luther. The journey to Rome turned out to be one of the key events that fired up the young monk to break from the Catholic church and start the protestant revolution.
Even today we see that religion is often being abused to gain political or financial influence. The hypocrisy displayed by some of these institutions has shocked many believers into leaving the church in disgust, especially after the sexual abuse revelations. Religion has the habit of stifling experiential spirituality through “belief” and “conduct” rules but it gets absurd when the leaders themselves cannot abide by the rules they preach.
At its best religion can offer a platform for spiritual experience and community, offering the individual the freedom to find expression to inner soul truth.
But the whispers from the universe, or God, can be so different with every individual. For me the quiet spaces in nature on long pilgrimage walks have provided answers to many burning soul questions. For others it could be in the contemplation of a work of art, sitting meditation, singing a mantra or even attending a religious ceremony.
“When you hear someone telling you that you need to follow their “truth” that is the only path to “salvation” you need to run the other way! It might well be their path but is it really yours?
The lure of the 10,000 distractions that are primarily aimed at gratifying short-term external, physical needs stand in stark contrast to soul need and purpose. But once on the path of the inner adventure you will not want to turn back. The journey into the unknown offers new insights at every turn.
After having to cut short this year’s pilgrimage walk on the Via Francigena because of looming further travel restrictions and other obligations, the entry into Rome was something of a low climax. The arrival in Santiago de Compostela by contrast is celebrated with a colorful mass attended by hundreds of pilgrims.
During these pandemic times Rome displays nothing of the same international vibrancy felt here during a visit a year ago. Only a handful of visitors can be seen at the famous sites including St. Peters’ Square, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi fountain. The restaurants, bars and cafes in the old part of the city are mostly empty.
On arrival in the city the Italian government had declared new restrictions making the wearing of masks mandatory in all public areas both indoors and outdoors. Temperature checks are made at key entry points such as the main rail station and entering Vatican City. There is a spike in Covid-19 infections in most European countries. Italy was the first country to be hit hard by the virus in Europe and went into a strict lockdown lasting several weeks. The economic repercussions and anxiety can palpably be felt everywhere.
Reino Gevers – Author. Mentor. Speaker
One more thing…
You might want to check out my new book “Deep Walking for Body, Mind and Soul” released as a paperback by Morgan James Publishing on August 11, 2020. It has some valuable tips on creating happiness and boosting your vibrational energy on many levels. You can order it at all major outlets such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble or in my own store. Check out the latest five-star reviews on Goodreads.
“A breathtaking, captivating, transformative walk,” – Tom Dutta, Canada
“The book reminded me of my own journey in life I am walking and how bringing stillness to my busy life and mind is essential.” – Karin, France
“The book compresses on its slim 190 pages an extreme density of life wisdom.” Christina Germany