Posts Tagged With: Camino Spirituality

My last day of walking the Camino: The Long Story

Setting out on my last day walking the Camino from Mansilla de las Mulas.

Setting out on my last day walking the Camino from Mansilla de las Mulas.

I walked the Camino Frances in three trips. Camino 1.0 was from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port to Burgos, in June, 2013. Camino 2.0 was from Leon to Santiago, in October 2013. That left the section in the middle from Burgos to Leon for my Camino 3.0, in April, 2015.

That’s the short story of why I was walking into Leon on April 19th, 2015.

After 10 days of walking from Burgos,  I was in Mansillas de las Mulas, only 18 kilometers away from Leon. Here’s the long story of what that day was like.

The night before I walked into Leon I was seriously thinking of taking a taxi because one of my ankles was hurting and when I talked with my husband on the phone, it seemed like the logical thing to do. The walk into Leon was known to be tedious, and lots of pilgrims bussed through it. When I began my second Camino, in October 2013, from Leon, I took a taxi out past the suburbs, and I didn’t regret it.

But when I got up the next morning to head out from Mansilla de los Mulas towards Leon, I felt I needed to walk at least part of the way. I decided I’d see how I felt as the day unfolded.

I had mixed feelings about finishing my Camino 3.0, and finishing the whole Camino in general.

Sign just outside Mansilla de las Mulas

Sign just outside Mansilla de las Mulas

The April trip was empowering. I totally enjoyed the walking, the solitude, and the conversations along the way. Every day I felt physically challenged and spiritually fulfilled. The Camino was as magical as it had been before. Each of my three trips had its own flavor, its own season (summer, fall, and now spring) and each trip took me deeper into the spirituality of walking solo. Camino 3.0, across the Meseta, had been more contemplative than the other two trips, more like a retreat.

There was something very attractive about the sureness of following the yellow arrows on the Camino.  But now the adventure was about to end, and I found myself feeling of sad and wrestling with the feelings of “what’s next?”  I didn’t want Camino 3.0 to end.

When I was a kid I had the habit of saying, “Oh, it doesn’t matter.” My Mom used to respond with, “No, everything matters,” which would make me angry. I realize now that I used to say “It doesn’t matter,”  when I couldn’t express my feelings very well, and that my Mom said “No, everything matters,” to help me.  But she didn’t quite know how to get me to open up and share what was going on inside.  As an adult, and a Mom myself, I realized how frustrating it must have been for her to try and help me process my feelings.

I still struggle with that feeling of emotional ambiguity as an adult, and I was in one of those frustrating “Oh it doesn’t matter” kind of moods as I left Mansilla de las Mulas, and I spent a lot of the day debating whether I should call a taxi or not.

Even on the last day of walking, the Camino had something to teach me.

In the morning, I prayed for strong ankles, and to be open to what the Spirit wanted me to learn. I ate a late breakfast at my beautiful little hotel in Mansilla de las Mulas with the group of Irish women walking together I’d met the night before.

Javier saying

Javier saying “Buen Camino!”

Javier, the owner of the hotel, said “Buen Camino,” and waved me onto the Camino.   He was one of the many gems of hospitality I’d met along the Way.

The 18 kilometers to Leon were not scenic, or beautifully empty, like the Meseta. But there were memorable moments.

Hill fort where the ancient Asturians lost their battle against the Romans.

Hill fort where the ancient Asturians lost their last battle with the Romans.

There was the hill fort at kilometer 3 where the ancient Asturians lost their struggle with the Romans. Right in front of it was a gas station.  I love the juxtapositions of eras along the Camino!  There was a long, medieval bridge at kilometer 6 that was still used by cars. A modern pedestrian bridge had been built alongside it for the pilgrim traffic.

The 20 span Puente Ingente over rio Moro

The 20 span Puente Ingente over rio Moro

I ducked into a village church in Villamorros in the middle of a Mass, and was happy to see a young girl assisting the priest at the altar.  At about kilometer 9, my left ankle began to hurt again. It was midday, and it was hot for April. The Camino was shunted under highway overpasses, and ran next to junkyards.

The Camino meets billboards for the Macy's of Spain

The Camino meets billboards for the Macy’s of Spain

Junkyard Dog outside of Leon

Junkyard Dog outside of Leon

That was the low point.  For the first time since I’d left home, I wondered about how safe it was to be walking alone. Why was I doing this again?

The guidebook said there was an albergue and café just up ahead in Arcahueja. Maybe that’s where I would call my taxi.  When I got to the cafe, I found the five nice Irish women I’d met in Mansilla hanging out. They looked pretty out of sorts, too. We said, “hello” and complained a little about the heat.

Cafe/Bar La Torre in Arcahueja

Cafe/Bar La Torre in Arcahueja

I asked the bartender how far it was to Leon. He said it was only 11K, and “there’s a beautiful view of the city just up ahead.” (I’m sure he tells everyone that!) I asked if a bus stopped in the village or if they had a taxi. “No” he said. Hmmm.

I ordered a slice of tortilla, two deviled eggs, and a café con leche. What should I do? I felt bone tired and was so tempted to call a taxi. My food arrived, and I realized I was ravenous.

Once the protein in the eggs and the tortilla  kicked in, it became clear to me that I really needed to walk the entire way into Leon, and make Camino 3.0 a Cathedral to Cathedral affair.  As my Mom would have said, “it mattered.”

Once I finally got clarity, I felt the need for some encouragement to make it into Leon.

I had an idea. I turned on my phone and checked into the American Pilgrims on the Camino Facebook page. It was 4 a.m. in California, and 7:00 a.m. on the East Coast. Someone must be up and reading the page. I posted that I was 11 K out of Leon and was tempted to take a taxi, and needed some support. I posted it on this blog, too.

Immediately, waves of energy started rolling into that little café in Arcahueja through my iPhone! “You can do it! Don’t quit! Feel the burn!” Over a hundred people responded, cheered me on, and sent prayers via the APOC Facebook page. My brother-in-law in Washington, D.C. saw the post on the blog and gave me a big PUSH.

The Camino taught me—again—that sharing my feelings and asking for support is ok. Feeling vulnerable is ok. It’s usually in those moments when God reaches through our stoic armor and touches us.  My unspoken prayers during my morning’s walk were answered.

I said “Buen Camino” to the Irish crew and headed back out on the Camino, now excited to continue. The guy behind the bar had exaggerated just a little though; it was a long time before I saw the view of Leon.

The last hill before I could see the city of Leon

The last hill before I could see the city of Leon

I passed big box stores, and auto dealerships, and medieval churches with storks nesting on top of them.

The funny thing was, my ankle stopped hurting completely. It was amazing.  I picked up the pace.  There seemed to be very few other pilgrims walking that afternoon.

The Camino crossed the Autovia (freeway) on a dedicated pedestrian bridge, and the amount of concrete and apartment buildings reminded me of my long walk into Santiago in the rain, in October of 2013. But weather was good, and I was very thankful.

Out in the distance I could see the Cathedral in Leon, with the snowy mountains behind it. How I wished I could keep walking on to Astorga and beyond. It was a new experience to know what was up ahead on the Camino. That’s when I knew that I had almost finished the whole Camino Frances.

Cathedral at last, but still a long ways off.

The Cathedral in view at last, but still a long ways off.

Walking from the bar in Arcahueja to the Cathedral took about two hours of brisk walking. I felt great, aligned in my purpose. The feelings of sadness about finishing were still there, but I didn’t blow them off by calling a taxi. I walked and felt sadness and joy, and was determined to finish strong.

Once past the newer parts of Leon, passing apartment blocks and crossing roundabouts, The Camino bridged a small stream and led me through the ancient city walls.

It continued into a tangle of medieval streets and spit me out on the grand avenue in front of the building designed by Gaudi. Suddenly, I knew where I was. The Cathedral was just up ahead. And then I was standing in front of it, looking up at its fantastic exterior.

Approaching the Cathedral

Approaching the Cathedral

It was nearly 4:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, and the doors were closed for Siesta.

When the adrenalin subsided, the sad feelings welled up again. No one was there to celebrate my arrival, and I had a wave of homesickness. But Mary was there, up on her pedestal outside, by the locked doors, holding baby Jesus in her arms, and she was smiling.

Mary holding Christ

Mary holding Christ

Thank you for being there, Mary.

Mary greeted me, and sent me off to my hotel to check in and relax. I was grateful for the lessons I’d learned that day. I wasn’t really alone. The Spirit was with me, and I felt blessed by the wave of energy and love from my fellow Pilgrims back in the States that had swept me on, to finish Camino 3.0, and the entire Camino.  Amen.

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Categories: April 2015, Camino de Santiago, Leon, Pilgrimage | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Signs of New Life

  

There were many reasons I wanted to walk the Camino this spring. To finish, of course, to fill in the missing piece of the Meseta that I’d bussed through in 2013.

There was also a desire to have some time to reflect and meditate. The Camino gives you many hours walking alone.

I felt like I needed some time to listen for what God wants me to do next in terms of ministry. What is life-giving? How can I offer my gifts?

Some of those questions got muffled by the meeting of people and the physical challenge–and fun–of walking again.

Then the day I left Sahugun I decided to carry everything that I usually shipped in my daypack, and I walked 20k to Burgo Ranero. It felt heavy, but I felt strong enough to carry it. Well, the extra weight really pressed on my weak point, my ankle tendons. My left foot was hurting the next day. One of the lessons of the Camino seems to be that I have to learn some things over and over again.

The next day I had to go slow, and there was grace in that. It was a contemplative day. I saw the beauty of the simple things: the trees planted along the senda pathway, and how they created a rhythm. You could interpret it as monotonous, but that day they were like prayer beads along a string, one after another, predictable, and pulling me along.   

  

Periodically, along the path,  there were monuments with the Cross of St. James on top. I sat down on one, and no one came by for a long time. I was alone. There were stones left on the ledge. 

  

and on top. I took my pack off and found a stone or two to add. It felt good to bless each one with a thing I wanted to leave behind.

The flowing streams reminded me of Psalm 42, “as the deer pants for the waterbrooks, so my soul thirsts for you, O Lord.”  

Then I noticed the freshly- plowed fields, and the red earth. 

  

The Camino was plowing my soul, getting it ready for the new thing that I hope God is planting in my life. There were lots of examples of new life along the Way. 

  

I spent some time reflecting on what it meant to walk in Eastertide. I was walking in the midst of a beautiful Spring–much more dramatic than at home in my drought-striken Bay Area. It was a long time since I’d experienced a real Spring. 

It made me think of the contrast with all the crucifixes in the churches I’d visited along the Camino, and the tradition of Semana Santa–Holy Week processions–in Spain. There was so much emphasis on Christ’s pain. 

Out here in the campo, the church of the Earth, I felt the overwhelming power of the Resurrection pushing up new life, renewing everything. I could feel the earth humming with energy. Christ was here, on the Camino, renewing us pilgrims, and the whole Earth, giving of himself.

Going slow was a good teacher. Once again, I said “gracias” for all that God, through the Camino, revealed to me, and would reveal to me in the future.

  

  

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela, Spiritual Growth, Wisdom | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

To Sahagun

When I left Albergue Jacque de Molay I had one of those first thing in the morning thrills of freedom. The day was wide open, and exciting. I love that feeling! Zing! My legs felt strong, and everything I had was on my back. (Well almost everything. My daypack  in the vestibule waiting for Jacotrans.) I wonder why I don’t feel it more often. It must be all the endorfins. 

The Camino followed the Autovia for most of the day. I enjoyed the huge directional sign that pretty much described my Camino 3.0: Burgos to Leon!

We also passed out of Palencia and into Leon. The way marker looked like it predates the Autovia.

I love the layers of ancient and modern along the Way.

A little farher on, I ran into Tami again. She had ended up at the other Albergue in town for the night. (There are less than 100 people in the village. The Albergues are the only businesses.)

It was good to see her, and we walked all the way to Sahagun together. We’d only met a few days ago, but it felt like I’d known her a long time. She and I were comfortable saying hello and good-bye, and wordlessly knew when to give each other space. We both wanted to experience the Camino solo, but enjoyed each others’ company. She had walked the whole Camino multiple times. The rigor and beauty of the Camino challenged her and gave her peace, as it did for me.

Her more evangelical vocabulary of faith was different than mine, and yet we talked about God and I enjoyed her perspective. She talked about “knowing Christ,” and it made me think, “do I know Christ? I strive to follow him, and worship him, but do I know him?” Thought-provoking.

The last few kilometers to Sahagun were tedious. The Camino wound through a lot of indescript and abandoned houses with “se vende” signs. Just as I was going into “grind it out” mode we came upon a spot that had a strong spiritual energy.

It was a like a place out of time: a little Roman bridge that crossed a fast-running river. The weeping willows were leafing out and there was an ancient (locked) chapel on the other side. We stopped and took pictures.

There’s that saying that pets cross over “the rainbow bridge” when they die. I wonder if I’ll cross over one of the many beautiful bridges on the Camino when it’s my turn.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Post Camino thoughts: What a blessing!

Preaching on Pentecost 2013

Preaching on Pentecost 2013

Just over a year ago we celebrated the great feast of Pentecost at Trinity, Menlo Park.  After nearly seven years of serving in the parish, I was moving on, and I was moved by the experience of saying good-bye to a place and community that I loved.  At the same time, I was excited about going on vacation with my husband in France, and making our way to St. Jean Pied-de-Port, the jumping off point for my Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. It was a beautiful leave-taking.

In the Episcopal Church—and in other denominations, too, I’m sure— there’s a tradition of blessing members and clergy on their last Sunday at the parish.  As we were planning the Pentecost liturgy last spring, I found this Blessing of the Pilgrims online, and we personalized it for my last service:

Blessing of the Pilgrims

O God, who brought your servant Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans, protecting him in his wanderings, who guided the Hebrew people across the desert, we ask that you watch over your servant Beth, who for the love of your name, walks to Santiago de Compostela.

Be her companion on the walk,

Her guide at the crossroads,

Her breath in her weariness,

Her protection in danger,

Her shelter on the Camino,

Her shade in the heat,

Her light in the darkness,

Her consolation in her discouragements,

And her strength in her intentions.

So that with your guidance she may arrive safe and sound at the end of the Road,

And, enriched with grace and virtue, return safely to her home, filled with joy.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Near the end of the liturgy, the dear people of Trinity encircled me, and the whole community was connected by the laying on of hands as I received the blessing.  My heart was full, and overflowing with love. The Holy Spirit was there with us.

Community Blessing on my last Sunday at Trinity

Community Blessing on my last Sunday at Trinity

Two weeks later I walked the Camino over the Pyrennes to Roncevalles, the first stop in Spain. I went to the Pilgrim’s Mass at the 13th Century Royal Collegiate Church that night with several hundred of my new best Pilgrim friends from around the world.

At the end of the Pilgrim’s Mass, the priest blessed the gathered Pilgrims in Spanish—with the same blessing we’d used at Trinity on my last Sunday!

Pilgrim's Mass at Roncevalles

Pilgrim’s Mass at Roncevalles

It was my first experience on the Camino of bawling my eyes out because something had touched me so deeply and so unexpectedly. I came to recognize these surprising experiences of joy as Holy Spirit moments. There were more to come.

It’s only in retrospect that I can now appreciate the power of that Blessing by the Trinity Community on Pentecost.

When I read the Blessing now, a year later, each phrase calls to mind a specific experience on the Camino where I felt God’s presence.

It marked a transition in my ministry, and the beginning of my Camino. In that moment, I received the grace and courage to become a Pilgrim, and to walk with a wholehearted sense of purpose: to learn to live into a new sense of joy, and a deeper faith.

What a blessing!

As we approach Pentecost 2014, I give thanks for my time at Trinity, for my colleagues there, and for all the people of the Trinity community. I give thanks for my year of discovery, on the Camino, and afterwards, and for a renewed sense of call.

I give thanks, too, for the gift of the Holy Spirit. She continues to blow through our lives with unexpected joys, filling us with her power. She leads us ever onwards, to new experiences, new connections, new life.

My Camino begins

My Camino begins

Categories: Camino, Camino de Santiago, Pilgrim's Mass, Reflections, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Post Camino thoughts: I Live in a Body

Commuting

Rush Hour Traffic

Six months ago, I flew home from Madrid to San Francisco after finishing the second half of my Camino.  It feels like time to share some of my thoughts about what I learned from walking the Camino.

Lesson #1: “I live in a Body.”

On the Camino you walk places.  And keep walking to the next place, and the next. I covered about 10-15 miles a day at about 3 miles per hour.

During my years as a commuter, I covered 70 miles a day, often in bumper to bumper traffic, or at 70 mph.,  but my body was sitting in a padded driver’s seat.  Walking the Camino made me see how much I drove and how bad it was for my body.

Walking to Najera

Walking to Najera

During my first Camino in June my body struggled to move from being a commuter into being a pilgrim.  I was not used to that level of movement,  and I expected too much out of my body, hence the ankle injury.  When I returned in October, my body was more prepared, I took my time, and I began to experience being in my body in a new way.

There was unique physical pleasure in walking the Camino.  It went beyond the usual pleasures of day hiking, even in the Sierra, the Rockies, or other scenic places where I’d recently hiked. It was pleasurable to realize I was moving myself across the landscape under my own power. It’s a primal thing that we in the 21st Century never experience.  I felt a bond with people of earlier centuries for whom walking was the only way to travel.

It was pleasurable to feel my body grow stronger day by day.  It was pleasurable to start walking slowly in the morning, and then move into a comfortable pace.  The walking became meditative. My body was working, and my mind was relaxed. It was pleasurable to feel my physical self, my emotional self, and my intellectual self move into alignment.

I learned that my intellectual self is usually in charge, often wrestles with my emotional self, and my physical self usually comes along for the ride. It was a surprise to see what it felt like to do it differently.

At the end of the day it was pleasurable to feel the sensations of being truly hungry and thirsty. My body was happily challenged, and used.  I felt alive in a  physical way I’d never experienced before. Walking 3-5 hours a day felt like what my body was built to do.

On the Camino,  I made friends with my body, instead of using it primarily as my “vehicle” for propelling my “head” around.   I lived more in the moment. God never felt closer than in those days on the Camino.

Becoming a Pilgrim

Becoming a Pilgrim

When I returned home, I was in the best shape I’d ever been in, and I wanted to stay that fit.  But it’s not my natural inclination to work-out for the sake of working-out.  On the Camino, working-out was integrated into the whole journey of discovery. Most of all, I wanted to preserve the feeling of well-being and spirituality that came with it.

Now I see that walking the Camino was good practice for the rest of my life. When I take a hike, or do yoga, or swim, I feel that now familiar sense of alignment between my physical self, my emotional self, and my intellectual self.  It’s more than working out, or building muscle, it’s become a spiritual discipline. In those moments of joy, I feel God is close.

I live in a body, and it is good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Camino de Santiago, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

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There are no stained glass windows in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella. Well, there’s one, of St. James, over the Holy Door, which will be opened in 2021, the next Holy Year, when St. James’s day, July 25, falls on a Sunday.

The Cathedral is ancient, finished in the 1100’s, a solid Romanesque beauty.

It was built over an even older structure that sheltered the remains of St. James, which were discovered in 800. Pilgrims began arriving soon after that, and they’ve been coming ever since. And the spirit of the Camino permeates the place today.

I love Cathedrals: Chartres, Canterbury, and Grace are close to my heart. But I think Santiago takes the cake. It’s historic, ancient, and has a deep spirituality; it’s a place of living faith.

Along the Camino, there are numerous Cathedrals. Pamplona, Burgos and Astorga had beautifully artistic cathedrals, but they felt deflated and preserved. You needed a ticket to enter. In Santiago, the door was open to all from 7:00 am to 11:00 at night.

Santiago feels alive, busy with pilgrim traffic, and every Pilgrim mass was full to overflowing with Peregrinos in their hiking clothes, sandals and socks.

Most of all, it is the endpoint of the Camino, and the burial place of the Apostol, James.

In the movie, “the Way” The characters enter the Cathedral through the front door and encounter the Portico of Glory, carved by Maestro Mateo in the 12th Century. There, James greets the pilgrim atop a pilar carved into an exquisite Tree of Jesse, that links Christ back to Adam.

The traditional pilgrim ritual was: touch your hand to the Tree of Jesse, and then enter the cathedral, venerate the tomb of St. James, and climb the stairs behind the altar and hug the jewel-encrusted statue of the Saint. Quite a multi-sensory experience when you add in the flying of the Butafumiero!

These days, the front door is closed and the Portico of Glory is being restored. It’s behind a fence that requires a museum ticket.

About 5 years ago they stopped allowing pilgrims to touch their hands to the Tree of Jesse, to preserve it. The spot where pilgrims put their hands for 800 years wore 5 deep finger holes into the stone, like the grip in a bowling ball. Not being able to place my hand there was my only disappointment in Santiago.

But I completed the other rituals: hugging the statue of St. James, praying at his tomb, and attending the pilgrim mass and seeing the Butafumiero fly.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the Cathedral was remodeled in the Baroque style. A giant decorative structure, reminiscent of St. Peter’s in Rome, was erected over the altar. It’s upheld by a crew of massive baby angels with strong arms, one of my favorite features within the space. There’s an amazing amount of gold. Towers, and a new facade changed the outer profile in the 18th Century. Now it all looks unified by the overgrowth of lichen and ferns on the damp stone.

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Categories: Cathedral de Santiago de Compostella, October 2013, Santiago de Compostela, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Landfall at the 12:00 Pilgrim’s Mass

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Friday morning I woke up in my “garret SRO” room and knew I had to move house. My pack and boots were still sopping wet and they told me at the reception desk that the heat was off until November 1st. OK.

I went on Booking.com, then went out in the neighborhood looking for the hotels on the site. I asked a jewelry store owner for directions and she suggested a hotel a little further on. They were super friendly when I arrived, more like my favorite albergues, and they have radiators that are in use!

After checking in with all my wet worldly goods, I headed back to the Cathedral where I planned to spend most of the day: the 12:00 mass, (the Butafumiero, the giant incense burner, was scheduled to swing) and then the museum and roof tour. I still felt keyed up.

At 11:30 I was fortunate to find a seat on the aisle in the transept, and waited for the 12:00 Pilgrim’s Mass to begin.

The Butafumiero is a giant incense burner made of silver that hangs from a rope attached to a pulley system above the altar. It takes a crew of men to make the Butafumiero fly. You can see the knot of ropes attached to a pillar at the crossing when it is set up for the Mass.

I felt regret that I had not arrived right then, before the Mass, like many people around sitting near me. One of my tasks of the journey is to let go of regrets, and be less hard on myself for things, for not doing things perfectly. I let it go. Like the rest of the journey, this was my Camino, with twists and particularity. It was ok.

A nun led us in singing the responses before the Mass began. There were announcements in multiple languages for silence, and that NO PHOTOS or MOBILE use during the service.

The Mass began, all in Spanish of course, but I found, through familiarity with the liturgy, and perhaps a new comprehension of Spanish that I understood a lot of it.

There was a familiar and touching moment when one of the priests moved into place to read the Gospel and he was pulled back by another priest to allow a Deacon to proclaim it. At that moment, I wanted to be with them, at the altar. But I let that thought go, too, because it felt like I was where I was supposed to be, receiving.

Then there was a Sermon. A real 20 minute sermon! And I swear I understood most of it. It was about the power of the Camino to transform us into the image of Christ. He is not an idea in our heads we’re supposed to “believe” in, but a person who is there with us. The trials and joys, the friendships of the Camino are a metaphor for life. Through them we can know Christ.

St. James knew Jesus and took the Gospel here to Galicia, and we are called to take the message back into our lives.

At the end of your Camino here in Santiago you may take home souvenirs, but the the most important one is being closer to Christ.

I looked around and noticed that I saw at least 6 or 7 people I’d walked with. Tears. People in flip flops and sandals with socks. Pilgrims. Were here together in Santiago. More tears.

At that moment, I arrived.

I felt such weepy joy shuffling shoulder to shoulder with the crowds of pilgrims to receive Communion.

I have never seen a church, let alone a cathedral, so full. It was standing room only. Like an unwashed Easter.

After the Blessing, the Butafumiero crew came out in their maroon cassocks and untied the massive ropes, and it was lowered so the incense and coals could go in. Then the “captain” of the crew signaled for it to go up above his head, he grasped the bottom of it and gave it a mighty swing towards us.

The men yanked the rope down and up, and it began to fly higher and higher over our heads and then back across the other side of the transept. Each time it swung away from us I could see the red hot coals glowing through the slots in its side. It almost touched the ceiling above my head!

Joy, pure joy, awe, amazement. So this is why I came. Not to see this spectacle, but to feel this warm opening in my heart, and the Spirit moving among the people, and within me, such love.

Of course, the crowd (me, too) whipped out their phones and took photos, but that seemed authentic to our time, as much as the extreme stinkiness (which was the origin of the Burafumiero) of our medieval friends must have been. Like them, we’re a little uncouth and worn around the edges. And that’s one of the fruits of the Camino. We’re more real.

The Butafumiero took its last pendulum swing and the “captain” caught it, and pivoted around with it on his heel, a fine Spanish flourish, like he was the Matador and the incense burner was the bull. Massive waves of applause!

As the baroque organ played, we began to move, waves of people, towards the opposite side door on the Plaza de Quintana.

Suddenly I saw Lisa and Harold, from Quebec! Lisa and fell into each other’s arms and sobbed. She was someone who I’d talked with for hours on the Camino, very quiet and unassuming, from a tiny town in Quebec.

She said, “so this is what it’s all about, at the end of our lives it’s going to be like this, it’s all going to make sense, our crazy lives, and it will be so beautiful!!”

Yes. It will.

We met Eric and Vi, from Bristol, Linda from Hong Kong, and her Austrian friend, on the Plaza, and found a “free buffet” of 9e for a spontaneous lunch. And there was a salad bar and broccoli!

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Categories: Camino, Cathedral de Santiago de Compostella, Conversations on the Camino, October 2013, Pilgrim's Mass, Santiago de Compostela, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Inner Journey

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I’ve been on the move for almost two weeks. I’ve slept in bunk beds and nice hotels. Every morning I’m excited to start the next segment of the journey. I love seeing the yellow arrows pointing me onwards. The Camino has welcomed me back into its embrace.

What about the inner journey? What am I learning along the Way?

I’m a world class worrier. I’ve known that for a long time. But with hours along the Camino I can see more clearly how I seem to have a need to worry about something, no matter how insignificant. What if my pack isn’t delivered or gets lost? What if there’s no where to stay? (Somewhat irrelevant in October.)

I have a talent for seeing the glass as half-empty.

The Camino gently leads me towards the half-full view. Today I came into Samos drenched and coughing, and fell into a tiny coffee bar. The owner greeted me and guided me to a seat. She served me Caldo Gallego, which was made for this drizzly weather: garbonzo beans, peppers, and beef bones. After I finished I asked her how she made it, and she spent some time in the kitchen teaching me how to cook it.

Last night, after walking up, up, up the mountain in the driving rain, I attended Mass in a 9th Century church with people from all over the world and we stood in a circle around the altar as the priest presided in Spanish and English.

Just when I feel depleted, the Camino provides, and fills me with hope.

I’m still praying for clarity on where God is calling me when I return to the Bay Area. Maybe I’m being taught to trust.

For now, I’m heading out each day on the Camino, putting one foot in front of the other. Half an hour on the trail I find myself encountering joy.

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Categories: October 2013, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

I am the Vine, you are the branches.

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I’ve seen grapevines all my life in Wine Country of Napa and Sonoma Counties.  But walking through the Wine Region of Rioja in Spain was a different experience.  We were not whizzing by in a car.  I could reach out and touch those vines, feel the texture of the leaves. I stepped on the same soil they were growing in.  It was much more real.

We often saw workers in the vineyards trimming and pruning the vines by hand.  It reminded me of this passage in John’s Gospel.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed[ by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  John 15: 1-6

Entering into the rhythm of the Camino, “abiding” in it,  brought me joy and meaning. As I walked, I felt an unspoken connection with other Pilgrims walking with me towards a common goal. I also walked in the joy of the present moment.  With each step, I felt very much like a branch connected to the Vine of life, being nourished and encouraged to grow spiritually and physically.

I walked by ancient grapevines, twisted and rough. Bright green, pliant vines were bursting out of their knarled fists of bark.

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One day we passed a pile of grapevines that had been pulled out, and stacked by the side of the Camino.  Their fruitful life had ended.  New grapevines were being planted in their place.  That, too, was a symbol of Resurrection, and gave me new insight into Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John.

Categories: Camino, Gospel of John, Reflections, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A time to walk and a time to heal

Yesterday I took a taxi to the Universidad de Leon Hospital and limped into the ER to have a medical professional look at my foot. It was a fascinating window into the Spanish medical system. They don’t take your blood pressure or weigh you or make you fill out any forms. They have a “concierge” guy at the door of the ER who directs you where to go, and a very no nonsense triage guy. It’s so much quieter than an American ER, no TV or paging, and the lighting was subdued, not hospital bright.

I can’t believe I did it all in Spanish! Because no one at the hospital spoke English. The female doctor spoke a little. Had an X-ray done, and also tried to pay. I’m supposed to give the documentation to Kaiser.

Her diagnosis was Plantar Fasciatis. She said I should not try to continue the Camino.

The treatment is RICE: rest, ice, elevation, compression and anti-inflammatory drugs.

My Camino friends from Chicago arrived at the hotel in the afternoon, and we sat in their room and I heard about their days of walking and how tired they were. As we talked, I realized that, for me, walking the Camino was over. I could follow along by bus, but that wasn’t really a pilgrimage. I found so much joy in the walking, and talking on the path, and watching for the yellow arrows, and coming into tiny villages—the whole experience.

It made me sad to come to grips with my situation, even though I knew I wasn’t alone. Many people in our “class of Orisson” were going home with injuries.

So I went upstairs and prayed about what to do, and cried. I had to have a destination for the morning. Astorga or Santiago by bus? Madrid and then SFO? Hang out somewhere for 3 weeks? I talked to Hale on Skype. Coming home seemed like the right decision. I called Delta on Skype and was able to change my ticket.

I met Gina and Caroline in the bar and we talked like Camino friends talk, honestly and with love. They are gifts of the Camino; I’ve learned so much from both of them.

We met in the morning for the awesome Parador hotel breakfast buffet. I decided to give Gina my Camelbak and my copy of the Brierley guidebook for the rest of the journey. The Camino has made me more generous. It feels good to know she has them as she moves into Galicia. We posed at the statue outside the Parador, and then it was time for my taxi to the train station.

I’m in Madrid now. I will keep posting my reflections on my experience of the Camino as I move forward, as well as more photos.

I know that it will continue to teach me and inform my ministry.

Today in Madrid I looked up at the cathedral and saw a statue on the roof of St. James with his staff and shell. Later, I had tapas at an outdoor cafe and noticed that we were on Calle Santiago. He is looking out for me, I think.

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Categories: Camino, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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