I couldn't resist this photo, given that today was my last pilgrimage day!
I managed to tick a few final things off my 'to do' list, including a visit to St Stephen's church, known as the Pepper Pot, and reading a chapter or two of James Joyce's Ulysses (in the comfort of Pearse Street public library).
I kept on coming across people I had met or crossed paths with earlier in the pilgrimage and it struck me that while this experience would stop for me today, their reality will continue.
Over lunch, I got chatting to a man and told him I was from Glasgow. He began telling a story about how, when he was younger, he would rob warehouses, never people's homes, and take the big casks of booze. I'm not sure whether the Glasgow connection in his mind was the alcohol or the robbing. But, as he was finishing, one of the volunteers in the centre came to our table. The man began apologising to her for being a bit rude the previous day, when he had been drunk, and as part of the apology he gave her a present. It looked like a chocolate egg and I assumed that it was something he had picked up in one of the centres, given that the day before I had managed to pick up some Christmas dinner flavour crisps (seasonal products, close to sell by date). The point is that as he handed over the gift, something one of the Capuchin friars had said to me yesterday came to mind: 'what you receive in charity, give in charity' - an idea I will come back to later
These past few weeks have been a time of many blessings, but this final day has been one of mixed emotions. The most dominant feeling for much of this evening was a sense of discomfort, almost at a gut level.
I was in two minds about what to do for food tonight. I could have just walked around until 8 o'clock and then come back to the place I am staying and got stuck in to whatever was here, after all the pilgrimage would be over. But that didn't feel right - it felt like going back to the way things were before, as though the pilgrimage had made no difference.
The other option was to look for food as normal. But of course this time, more so than others, there was the sense that I would be taking food on a false pretence, given that by 8 o'clock I wouldn't really need it. In the end, I did go looking for food as usual, and as it happens I found it, not just enough, but way more than enough.
The discomfort was rooted firmly in these choices and in that outcome. And in those feelings of unease is the beginning of some useful final thoughts on what the pilgrimage has been about. There is an invitation in there and, in trying to understand it, the Capuchin's phrase from earlier came to mind again: I receive - tonight, in particular - in abundance but in what ways do I give?
It is an invitation to not pack this experience up in a box and put it away somewhere safe, but rather to let it change me.