This year we have seen a lot more people at Ilam Pilgrimage than other years. There were Orthodox Christians from many different parts of the country. The Church was full to its maximum capacity. The weather was burning hot and we had to keep both doors to the front and the back open to get enough fresh air for everyone.
Many pilgrims were coming through the south chapel gate where St. Bertram's tomb is, lighting a candle, venerating the icons and the stone that according to the legend was once bread turned into stone by the prayers of St. Bertram (thus, the evil one attempted to suggest that he [Bertram] should turn stones into bread by his prayer. Instead of this, the man of God started praying so that bread could be turned into stone. True or not, according to the evidence of 1516, the parish church in the village of Barthomley housed several stones believed to be the same "St. Bertram's stones" ... see here ...
Father Samuel brought one of these stones for the day.
Although the physical presence of his relics is argued about, the saint's spiritual presence on this very holy spot is evident for everyone who visits it. We could feel it everywhere and in the hills where we went and sang along the priest by the Holy Well of St. Bertram. Traditionally, we brought some of the water back to church with us as usual for blessings and to give to all the pilgrims to take home in the spirit and grace received that day.