Striking Out by Stephen Cottrell


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Striking Out
by Stephen Cottrell

A great way to introduce the next Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell. He is already a prolific author, always engaging, original and lively. Here is a collection of poems and reflections written on his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the ancient 450-mile route through France and northern Spain to the astonishing cathedral and city dedicated to St James. I walked a ‘mini Camino’ in 2012 and it was a profound experience, now undertaken by thousands of people every year, many of whom have no professed faith.

Pilgrimage is an expression of our searching and restlessness, our openness to encounter holy places, and to discover the journey is often more meaningful than the destination. As we emerge from ‘lockdown’ this is a good read to be reminded of the old paths, the freedom to walk and the joy of travelling with others.

The Very Reverend Nicola Sullivan
Dean of Southwell

On a September morning, Bishop Stephen Cottrell said mass in his chapel, kissed his wife goodbye, stepped out of his front door and walked two miles to the nearest station. It was the start of a 700 kilometre pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Choosing the least travelled route across northern Spain, he craved the solitude of the road and felt the small vulnerabilities of not knowing what each day would bring – where meals or a bed would be found – would be beneficial.

As a busy diocesan bishop, he looked forward not so much to arriving at the great destination, but to what the journey itself would reveal to him.

This is a spiritual diary of that journey, comprising reflections, prayer poems and evocative images from the road and poetry which Stephen Cottrell has written for many years.

Arranged in four sections, each with seven paired reflections and poems, the shape of the book echoes the rhythm of walking and is an intimate and honest account of the profound effect of the age-old tradition of going on pilgrimage.