Thursday, 28 November 2013

Meseta sketches

After the exertions of Sunday, Simon and I opted for a relatively short day of 26th km. As I mentioned in an earlier post there is a section beyond Carrion where there are 17km without a village. The weather was not particularly conducive to convivial walking as rain had set in just as we left Carrion . This was more of a pity since the path follows the Via Aquitana, a Roman road which is still recognisable today.
We hadn't booked an Albergue but found places in a modern complex on the edge of Terradillos de los Templarios. Since we were amongst the first to arrive there was time to do our washing and have an early lunch.
There are two memories of this stay. For days now Simon has been suffering with his feet. After lunch David set to work to drain his blisters for him. Laurie (from Canada) helped as Marjory(also from Canada) looked on. It was a vivid example of pilgrims helping each other. The other memory is less happy . Simon and I were given a room with two double bunks and an en suite . The lady asked us to use one pair of bunks so that the other pair were available for whoever comes next . In these circumstances people usually find a common language and arrange some simple ways of spending the time together.
Our fellow room mates were a couple. They arrived while we were at lunch and we didn't see them all afternoon . When Simon and I went back to settle for the night at a the normal time they were already in bed and apparently asleep . We settled down quietly and were then regaled with some of the noisiest snoring! Eventually I called across in the hope that I might disturb the snorer!
In the morning there was no sign of movement from our neighbours so we got ready by torch light. Our surprise was that we had hardly settled down to breakfast when our neighbours arrived! Fortunately such behaviour was very rare on the Camino.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Translation of the Pilgrim prayer

It is interesting that this prayer is a personal reflection inviting each pilgrim to see how the experience has impacted their own life:

Even though I have walked all of the caminos,
Crossed mountains and valleys from East to West,
If I haven't discovered the freedom of being myself
I haven't arrived anywhere.

Even though I have shared all that I have
with people of different languages and cultures,
made friends with pilgrims of a thousand paths
or shared albergues with saints and princes
if I am not capable of forgiving my neighbour tomorrow
I haven't arrived anywhere.

Even though I have carried my pack every step of the way
and waited for every pilgrim in need of encouragement
or given up my bed to a latecomer,
and given away my water bottle in return for nothing,
if,when I return home and to work,I am not able
to create fellowship and spread joy, peace and unity,
I haven't arrived anywhere.

Even though I have had food and drink every day,
and enjoyed a roof over my head and a shower every night
or been well cared for with my injuries
if I haven't discovered the love of God in all of this,
I haven't arrived anywhere.

Even though I have seen all the great monuments
and contemplated the best sunsets;
Even though I have learned how to greet people in every language,
or tried fresh water from every spring,
if I have not discovered who is the author
of such bountiful beauty and such peace
I haven't arrived anywhere.

If, from today onwards, I don't follow in Your ways,
seeking and living what I have learned;
If, from today onwards,I don't see in each person,
friend and enemy,a companion on the way;
If,from today onwards,I don't recognise God,
the God of Jesus of Nazareth, as the only God of my life
I haven't arrived anywhere.

Pilgrim's prayer

The church in the tiny hamlet of O Cebreiro is extremely beautiful and dominates the hamlet . On 10th October I was able to concelebrate with Padre Roberto. At the entrance to the Church is a chapel adorned with the following :

Aunque hubiera recorrido todos los caminos
Cruzado montanas y valles desde Oriente hasta Occidente,
si no he descubierto la libertad de ser yo mismo
no he llegado a ningun sitio.

Aunque hubiera compartido todos mis bienes
con gentes de otra lengua y cultura,
hecho amistad con peregrinos de mil senderos
o compartido albergue con santos y principes,
si no soy capaz de perdonar maƱana a mi vecino
no he llegado a ningun sitio.

Aunque hubiera cargado mi mochila de principio a fin
y esperado por cada peregrino necesitado de animo,
o cedido mi cama a quien llego despues,
y regalado mi botellin de agua a cambio de nada,
si de regreso a mi casa y mi trabajo no soy capaz
de crear fraternidad y poner alegria, paz y unidad,
no he llegado a ningun sitio.

Aunque hubiera tenido comida y agua cada dia,
y disfrutado de techo y ducha todas las noches,
o hubiera sido bien atendido de mis heridas
si no he descubierto en todo ello el amor de Dios
no he llegado a ningun sitio.

Aunque hubiera visto todos los monumentos
y contemplado las mejores puestas del sol;
Aunque hubiera aprendido un saludo en cada idioma,
o probado el agua limpia de todas las fuentes,
si no he descubierto quien es autor
de tanta belleza gratuita y tanta paz
no he llegado a ningun sitio.

Si a partir de hoy no sigo caminando en tus caminos,
buscando y viviendo segun lo aprendido;
Si a partir de hoy no veo en cada persona,
amigo y enemigo,un companero de caminos;
Si a partir de hoy no reconozco a Dios
el Dios de Jesus de Nazaret, como el unico Dios de mi vida,
no he llegado a ningun sitio.

Translation to follow!

The Beatitudes of the Pilgrim

On my third day in Spain I called at a small convent outside Pamplona . I was given the following text to help reflection on the Camino:


1.  Blessed are you pilgrim, if you discover that the 'Camino opens your eyes to what is not seen.
2.  Blessed are you pilgrim,if what concerns you most is not to arrive as to arrive with others.
3.  Blessed are you pilgrim,when you contemplate the ' Camino ' and you discover it is full of names and dawns.
4.  Blessed are you pilgrim, because you have discovered that the authentic 'Camino' begins when it is completed.
5.  Blessed are you pilgrim,if your knapsack is emptying of things and your heart does not know where to hang up so many feelings and emotions.
6.  Blessed are you pilgrim,if you discover that one step back to help another is more valuable than a hundred forward without seeing what is at your side.
7.  Blessed are you pilgrim,when you don't have words to give thanks for everything that surprises you at every twist and turn of the way.
8.  Blessed are you pilgrim,if you search for the truth and make the 'Camino' a life, and of your life a way in search of the One who is the Way,the Truth and the Life.
9.  Blessed are you pilgrim,if on your way you meet yourself and gift yourself with time without rushing so as not to disregard the image in your heart.
10. Blessed are you pilgrim,if you discover that the ' Camino'holds a lot of silence,and the silence of prayer. The prayer of meeting with God who is waiting for you.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Healing hands

After a relatively disturbed night in Nogaro the four of us set off together . The intense heat had broken and there was a threat of rain. It was one of the least interesting days with much road walking . I arrived at Aire sur L'Adour before 1 and immediately asked for directions to the Gite . When I arrived there was a notice saying that the Gite would open at 2.30 . I finished off my bread and settled down to wait . I was eventually joined by Pierre and Isabel . At 2.30 Andre,the owner emerged . He was quite put out that we had been waiting and said that we should have rung the bell . I said that he had every right to his rest.
The gite was really a private house and Andre plied us with drinks before he showed us our rooms . He also offered to tend to our feet.
As there was rain threatening he offered to help us dry our washing. Since the first day I had been troubled with a few blisters and so I asked Andre to look at them . He turns out to have been a paramedic who first undertook the Camino in the 1980s. In those days there were no paths and few places to stay he said . You literally had to make your own path!
He carefully worked on my feet for half an hour and then proceeded to refuse the money I offered to help cover the cost of his medical supplies. (From that day onwards I didn't have a single problem with my feet!)
At the start of supper Andre asked me to say grace. I started in French and ended up in Spanish . Andre commented that this was appropriate since the supper was Paella! Andre managed to create a deep atmosphere of reflection and the gathering was quite profound.

A decisive day and choices

After Golinhac the number of wayside crosses increased considerably.Like Chapels, I used them as an opportunity to stop and pray.The final descent into Conques was quite precipitous. It reminded me of the paths in the mountains of Chalatenango. I was joined at this point by Carolina the Dutch girl that I had met two days previously. I commented to her that the entrance to the new museum at Copan in Honduras is shaped like the mouth of a serpent. For the Mayans this signifies entering a new reality. In many ways the arrival at Conques felt similar.
 The Abbey only comes into view when it is less than 50 metres away. I took Carolina to see the tympanum before we checked into the Abbey guesthouse. Despite the satisfaction of knowing that the first stage of the pilgrimage was now complete, when I got to my room I felt a real sense of heaviness and wondered why I was on the Chemin.  It was a thought I would come back to. The community had invited all of the guests to share Vespers and Compline. Carolina and I went to Vespers-the cantor had a stunning voice which filled the corners of this dramatic building. At supper we sat with Daniel and Tim (Dutch man). Compline was even more dramatic than Vespers and it concluded with the blessing of the Pilgrims. Each pilgrim was offered a copy of the Gospel of John to take with them. We were invited to sing  Ulreia as we processed to the carving of the Virgin for the singing of the Salve. The silence at the end was broken by the organ. Afterwards the leader of the community gave a long description of the tympanum and its significance. It was a special experience to stand in front of the tympanum as the light faded.Afterwards we were given the freedom of the Abbey as the organ was played.
I must also mention that the two men from Normandy were there and greeted me warmly. They were clearly embarrassed about what had happened. They said that there were two empty beds which could easily have been used for the other English couple . I was touched by their concern and understanding.