Vox Peregrini - the Night Before the Walking Begins

Vox Peregrini is a singing choir. Thirteen professional singers from across the United States and Canada. All under forty years of age. All university trained, some with terminal degrees. Their director and founder of Vox Peregrini is Dr. John Wiles, professor of choral music at the University of Northern Iowa.

By today they had all arrived in Bunclody, Ireland, a few miles from the starting point of the Wicklow Way. Tonight they rehearsed at St. Mary's Catholic Church. Fr. O'Connor was very gracious to let the group rehearse for three hours. They sat in a circle and sang eleven pieces for the first time as a group. While their director pointed out small nuances he wanted subtle improvement on, Cathy and I sat awash in the polyphonic four part harmony of people dedicated to the craft of their art. It was like sitting in the forest of the divine and listening to the sounds of the gods and godesses uttering otherworldly secret messages to one another. Not only was it a three-hour behind the scenes opportunity to sit in on their rehearsal, it was the privilege to sit encircled in their sound. We were not sitting in the audience. We were not sitting on the stage. We were sitting in the choir. Their melodious notes rose off the floor, danced along the walls, swirled aloft the ceiling. The sound felt as if it drifted down over our souls.

One day you too can hear their voices when the documentary and the music is available. July 2 they will sing at Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick's Cathedral, both in Dublin.

My privilege is to walk with this group. Guide them along the way and be present to their physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Cathy has made preparations for all the lodging and hospitality. Her experience of walking the Way and knowledge of Irish ways is indispensable.

The pilgrimage started a year ago when John launched his plan. Tomorrow morning the walking begins.

-- The Rev. Dr. Gil Stafford Canon Theologian Episcopal Diocese of Arizona Assistant to the Rector, St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Litchfield Park, AZ 2wisdomsway.com 4peregriniblogspot.com

"It is I who ask, was the pilgrimage I made to come to my own self, to learn that, in times like these, and for one like me, God will never be plain and not there, but dark rather, and inexplicable, as though God were in here?"

People need wild places.  Whether or not we think we do, we do.  We need to be able to taste grace and know again that we desire it.  We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers.  To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about us in our place.  It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd.        BARBARA KINGSOLVER, Small Wonder