Friday, 13 September 2013

cont' d

A delightful sacristan helped prepare everything but we couldn't find the lectionary. As I was going onto the altar she asked whether I wanted a microphone- I said that I thought that wouldn't be necessary. After the liturgical greeting I introduced myself. I stressed that like them I was first and foremost a pilgrim. I also warned them that I speak French very badly! I am glad that I did because I know that I murdered the text. The church had a wonderful resonance and, of course my voice boomed around it!  I signalled to Hubert to read and was amused that, in an instant Pierre had rushed to the lectern. The gospel was about the man with the withered hand and the antagonism of the Pharisees to Jesus. We all have some deformity, and we all have resistances to the Gospel. I made no attempt to preach!
At the end the pilgrims were very grateful. One person said: there is something about your voice!  How many times have I heard that. We were then taken over to a room where we were served copious quantities of sweet Jurancon wine. The local priest came in and went round greeting us all. On the wall there is a world map and pilgrims are invited to mark their home country. I told one of the ladies of my connection with El Salvador and she agreed that I should put a pin in from there. Before I left they were very keen that I put a message in their book. It was a very happy encounter.
It was about 7.20 when Pierre, Isabel and I returned to the Gite. In the patio an impressive salad had been laid out with significant symbols of the Chemin. As the 13 guests assembled I noticed that 9 of them had been at the mass. L'Alchemiste (Gaetane) seemed to spend his time observing the gathering. As well as Manuel there was a woman in her 30s who seemed to be part of the team. At 8.00pm Manuel rang the bell. L'Alchemiste greeted us,explained the menu and then said that Manuel would explain the salad. With a drum and a song he did a parable of the Camino.
Even though the sky had clouded over we sat in the patio. I was next to Raphael, opposite Pierre who had Manuel next to him and beyond Manuel there was a remarkable man called Pablo who was originally from Romania. Manuel was full of fascinating information. I asked him about the hospitality at the Church. He said that is controversial. Apparently the main expense ( the purchase of the wine) is met by the town council many of the council think that the pilgrims drink too much wine!  I commented that it was 3 bottles tonight. That is nothing he said. I also commented that the Abbey at Conques has been the most expensive place to stay. More out of sadness than anger he said that the Church has much to learn about the pilgrimage! Here at the Gite they have no price-you give what you think it is worth. Manuel said that often poor or homeless people are often sent to them from the church. He also had the good news that I can include the wonderful church at Eunate in my itinerary.
We had a joyous time with much sharing and camaraderie. Around 9.45 Manuel said that it was time for the washing up. We can fit 10 in the kitchen. I had proffered my creencial to Manuel but he said that L'Alchemiste would take care of that . As I headed upstairs he said that it would be waiting for me in the morning. I asked him to include a message. Since the next day would be a short walk (17km), and rain was forecast I suggested a 7.00am rise. This provoked an amusing incident. Raphael has been complaining about the snorers. This morning Pierre, Isabel and I were all awake at 6. I resisted the temptation to get up early and the three of us listened to Raphael snoring loudly. Later in the day we teased him mercilessly. At 6.50 I slipped to the toilet and then downstairs in my underpants to retrieve my clothes. Patrice was already up . We exchanged a greeting and I settled down to breakfast. ( In the gites you spend a lot of time in your underpants. In some ways it is a reminder that the pilgrimage is about being stripped of many illusions. My creencial was in the middle of the table and Manuel had included the directions to Eunate. By the stamp there was this message: ' Comme moi tu es SACRE,Laissons le faire et ensemble:oeuvrons.
Eventually Raphael and I went out into the pouring rain to do our shopping-bread, tomatoes, some fruit and some biscuits. Returning to the Gite I went around saying my farewells. Neither Manuel nor the Alchemiste were around. The girl gave me a very warm embrace and said that it had been a blessing to share with them. Just out of the village there was a note saying that in wet weather the GR 65 was not good. Raphael and the two other pilgrims ignored this but I set off down the D115. Since I was alone I said Ps94 aloud followed by the Angelus. I then sang the Come Holy Ghost. It gave me a chance to reflect on the conviviality of the previous evening. Walking in the rain gives a clear sense of focus with few distractions. Eventually I came to a crossroads where I saw the familiar waymarkers. There was also a kiosk selling Pate at special pilgrim prices. I bought two. I later passed a private house where a table had been set up for pilgrims-another sign of the generosity of the local people. Around 11.30, with a little less than an hour to go I settled into a shelter to have my lunch. I had nearly finished when Raphael appeared. He was quite surprised to see me I waited with him as he had his lunch. A familiar voice could be heard and Pierre appeared . At the Gite Raphael asked if I wanted the uupper or lower bunk . I said the lower.

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