Yesterday my elder brother sent me a text in which Dante refers to the Camino. Beatrice identifies St James in this way: ¨look, look! This is the saint because of whom on earth Galicia is visited!" What my brother did not know is that the previous evening in Carrion de Los Condes I had stayed in a Monastery of Poor Clares where St Francis of Assisi had stayed. When I was preparing for the camino I found out that it is possible that Geoffrey Chaucer might have done the camino before he wrote the Canterbury Tales. Between St Francis of Assisi, Dante Alighieri, and Geoffrey Chaucer we have three of the most significant figures of the 12th - 14th century. This proves to me that the Camino is something that has figured in European history for more than a thousand years. That is an awesome fact. What we attempt today is part of the long march of humanity. Of course it is not just recent history . From the Aubrac, through the Causse,and right to Galicia, the presence of dolmens and standing stones remind us that this path has been trod for many thousands of years.
On 1st September I set off from Saint Antoine with Raphael and Hubert in the gloom on an extraordinarily hot day. During September I walked for 28 out of the 30 days. The 1st of Ocotber could not have been more different. it was pouring with rain when we set off and the rain did not let up throughout the six hours of walking. It was truely a day when you knew that you had walked the camino. What added to the exertion is that,beyond Carrion,there is the longest stretch (17km) without a single village.
After 45 days there is a certain weariness. It is not physical - although I am currently nursing a slight cold- it is the waeriness of the absence of creature comforts and the endless adjustment to the rigours of community living in close quarters. For four days the walking has been in terrble conditions. But, of course, that is the penitential aspect of the Camino. We have to be stripped of our ilusions and we have to be made aware of our humaness. It is truely a ´Via Purgativo.´´
With October beginnig it is clear that the stages of the process are much clearer. There is a focus in knowing that Santiago is now only a couple of weeks away.
At the Monastery in Carrion the nuns were singing the novena of St Francis whose feast is on friday. Francis was a man of great simplicity and evangelical poverty. He is clearly an inspiration to each one of us. It is so appropriate that Pope Francis has made this the clear message of his papacy. As I move through the Camino I am conscious that it is an opportunuty to make choices for the future which will have implications both for the way I live and for the way in which I relate to others.