Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Good Samaritan

When I returned from lunch Carlos from Madrid had arrived into our cubicle. He was amazed that I spoke to him in Spanish and his two younger companions came to see who this Spanish speaking Englishman was! After they had gone I was organising myself when the receptionist came with an obviously distressed young man. He flopped into a chair and I allowed him to recover a bit. I then introduced myself. I am Gony he said from Tel Aviv. He has been on the Camino for six days but had found today really hard and nearly fainted on the route. I sat with him for a while and suggested that he rested. I was talking to Carlos a little later on and Gony said that he was in the wrong gite. He asked me whether I thought that they would give him his money back. I said that I thought that they would. Within a few minutes he returned. The other gite was full and the girl had warned him that his was the last bed here. He went off for a shower. Carlos said that he had seen Gony on the way and he was clearly struggling. While Gony was still away the girl returned and asked me: donde esta el chico?  I said that he was in the shower. She said she was going to move him and promptly went off with Gony's sack. I thought that is the last thing he needs.
I went off to write my blog and then Paul, Jan and I wandered into town. Puente La Reina has two churches. The first is dedicated to the crucified Christ and has a magnificent medieval crucifix. The second is much grander and too Baroque for my taste but has some lovely statues. We were then helped by a drunken Spanish man to find the supermarket. Paul was cooking his supper and we all needed supplies. We were then looking for a place for a drink. A French couple hailed me. I had seen them this morning and showed them how to find Eunate. They were thrilled to have seen it and thanked me profusely. They had also been at the mass at Navarrenx and were still talking about it. They return to Normandy tomorrow. I told them that I hope to get to Santiago on 18th October. They say that they will think of me on that day.
At the hostel Charles from New Brunswick offered us a glass of wine. He told me that he was surprised at how many people are on the Camino. He commented that a friend of his had done the route from Le Puy and found the French section much more reflective and holy. I went to sort out the laundry and when I returned Charles was sitting on his own and Gony was at another table still looking very tired. I went and sat with him. Apparently the friends that he was meeting were people he had met on the route. I assured him that this is what happens. You meet people for and then you meet others. Paul appeared after his sausage and black pudding dinner and he and Gony got into conversation. Charles then came and joined us followed by Jan. It came to the time for dinner and I could easily have joined an English speaking table but I had suggested to Carlos that we dine together. At the door to the dining room it turned out that Carlos had no ticket. I said that I would save him a place. At this point Gony turned up and asked if he could sit with me. I asked the waiter if he could set a third place. It was a comical gathering since Carlos speaks no English and Gony no Spanish. Giving translations to both of them we had a far reaching conversation which lasted until 9.00pm. Gony was fascinated when I suggested that the journeys of Abraham and the Exodus are the paradigms for the Camino. He also commented that, unlike Catholicism, Judaism is not hierarchical. He said that Judaism thrives on interpretation and that the Jewish philosophy is to make people think. Towards the end of the evening Carlos said that his wife will not believe it when he says that he had supper with a Spanish speaking English priest and a highly intelligent 23 year old Jew.
Back in the cubicle the french couple had arrived and were thrilled when I engaged them in conversation in French. It was a noisy night but you still get enough sleep. The only problem is that everyone wants to be up early. It doesn't get light now until after 7.00am and so there is no need to be up until 6.30. This morning there was chaos from 5.45. I found Paul in the kitchen complaining about the noise but happy because he had clean clothes and milk for his muesli. I set off about 7.20. Here in Spain there is a procession in the morning and then people spread out. Once we climbed up from the valley you could see the path snaking away for 2 or 3 kilometres.
As I crossed the bridge I noticed something walking quite carefully. It was Gony. I said that I was sure that we would meet again. Once he is fit he will walk much quicker than I. I then reflected on the encounter with him. I have very trenchant views about Israel and its appalling treatment of the Palestinians. Gony should not be the sort of person that I engage in open conversation. But he needed help and that is what we must do. In retrospect it was a Good Samaritan experience. This led on to another reflection about priesthood. We have clericalised ministry. Jesus was an itinerant preacher not just for two months but for three years. In all of those three years he never put on liturgical finery. ( Indeed the laws of Judaism excluded Him from leading liturgy) The Sunday before I left England a wise lady in Painswick had a group of us round for coffee. She said: you will minister to many people on your pilgrimage. How right she was!  The ministering is about attending to people attentively and respectfully
As the morning progressed we passed through more and more vineyards. For the next few days we are in the heart of the Rioja. Estella has two lovely churches and a XII th century cloister. I took lots of pictures.
Alan Crickmore continues to write thoughtful comments, yesterday I had comments from fellow Lancastrian Peter Walsh, from Helen Lovatt and two from Raphael. Thanks. 

1 comment:

  1. Your encounter with Giry is very interesting. Here is a young Jewish man who may or my not hold the Zionist views that are anathema to most (should be all) Christians.I have been very influenced by the writings of Fr Elias Chacour who is now is the Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. He spent the first part of his ministry attempting to encourage his church's hierarchy to be pro-actively Christian while engaging with Arab Muslims and the ruling Israelis who were and still are, I perceive, anti anything but Jewish. Like Fr Basil in Salvador, this ministry was punctuated by personal danger and small but important step towards reconciliation with both Arabs and Jews. The hard line of the Israelis has been perhaps his most difficult hurdle. So I wonder why an Israeli Jew is walking The Camino? How does it happen that he should chance across a Roman Catholic priest whose pro Palestinian feelings are so entrenched? How does it transpire that the priest is moved to help rather than spurn a young man in need? I think that God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform. Trite, perhaps, but true. We are all placed in positions of choice when it comes to our fellow human beings. Let's hope that the compassion shown to Giry by you and others will help him to have compassion and stand up for the downtrodden in his part of the world. The Good Samaritan didn't become friends with the man in need (the Gospel doesn't say if he was Jewish but I think it implied given that it was Jewish people who passed by) but ensured his well-being despite their cultural and religious differences. How apt that the parable of the Good Samaritan is reported only in the Gospel according to St Luke. Remember that on 18 October when sadly I will be with you only in spirit and prayer.