Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Lost in their own country

When I had finished my blog I found that two groups had formed on the patio. The older Americans were talking loudly and guzzling beer while a younger group were drinking wine as if prohibition were returning tomorrow!  As I observed them two Spanish couples arrived and looked terribly lost. After a while I lay on my bed and rested before supper. I had arranged to have supper with Paul. It was funny as he had joined the younger drinking group and was quite high when we headed off. The Canadian couple from yesterday were in the restaurant. I had some lovely Hake and a good chat with Paul.
When I returned to my special bed one of the Spanish ladies was sitting on her bunks. She was clearly thrilled when I addressed her in Spanish!  Eventually her three companions joined her. They are from Irun and are spending a week on the Camino. They couldn't believe that I was a priest. One of them said that he had been really frustrated this afternoon as he wanted to talk about the experience and everyone was speaking English. I said that I found it embarrassing that Spanish people should feel outsiders in their own country. We had a lovely conversation.
Despite some amazingly loud snorers I slept well. I did not get up until 7.00am as this was a short day. It dawned overcast but not as cold as yesterday. At one point I stopped to take off my fleece and my Spanish friends passed me with warm greetings. The main part of the route today is up a hill appropriately called the hill of pardon. On the pilgrimage you spend a lot of time for giving others and allowing yourself to be forgiven.
There is a special place in this part of Spain which I first discovered with my dear friends Andre and Barbara Phanjoo. It is the Ermita de Santa Maria de Eunate. It is one of the most numinous places that I know. I would say that it is in the middle of nowhere but in the centre of everything. It is one thing to arrive at Eunate in a car but to know that you have walked over 850kms to get here is something special!  Seeing the chapel across the cornfields brought tears to my eyes. I prayed for deceased friends. Over the last two days I have been praying a lot for a girl called Holly Grogan who, at the age of 15, ended her life in terrible circumstances 4 years ago. I prayed for her her parents and her brother.
I left my rucksack outside the chapel and went in. It was overwhelming. So often on this pilgrimage I am overawed by the privilege. Kathleen Raines line: "how can a house so small contain a company so great", came to mind. On pilgrimage you feel an amazing connectedness to so many people. Just as I was finishing my prayers the music was one of my favourite Taize chants: "the Kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit". I can vouch for the fact that there is much joy in the Holy Spirit on the pilgrimage. Paul was outside having a cigarette!  He is a glorious combination of the uninhibited nature of youth.
As we walked into Puente La Reina I stopped to let a man passed. He is David from Switzerland who has spent 30 days walking from Arles. We had a lovely conversation and arranged to meet tomorrow. Today's gite is something else. It is the basement of a three star hotel. Even though it is bunk accommodation the bunks are divided into groups of 4, I took the dinner, bed and breakfast option and still only paid 27euros. Paul, Jan (from Denmark) and I wallowed in the showers. I told Paul that I was going to pay for the washing machine. I offered him the chance to put some stuff in!  I thought that he was going to strip naked as he was so happy to take advantage, Jan had a few things to dry and I suggested that he leave them with ours. What is the pilgrimage I said if you cannot share.
I then headed up to the hotel restaurant for the 10 euros buffet lunch, I commented to the girl in charge that the music was Mexican rancheros, Halfway through the lunch something amazing happened. The song was Las Manjanitas. This is the traditional song sung on a person's birthday. Every year in El Salvador there would be a chorus outside my bedroom complete with musicians singing this song for me. I was transported back to those wonderful and big hearted people of Chalatenango. Priesthood is not about status it is about walking with people especially people who are suffering. I have been amazingly privileged to have walked with so many people in their suffering. It is overwhelming to contemplate how much they have blessed me, I was reminded of the words of Oscar Romero: with these people it is not difficult to be a pastor, 

1 comment:

  1. Those of us who were touched by your time as Chaplain at St Edward's might think that your response to the children and their reciprocation was a manifestation of Romero's sentiment. Holly's death was a tragedy which affected many people both within and outside the School community.Your response was a very significant factor in the speed at which the School recovered and you were a true pastor throughout your tenure.