Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Il n'y pas le chemin. ..

Those of you who have walked the Camino know that, as you approach Santiago, there is a sense of sadness. The very act of walking, and it's rituals, becomes the focus of your life. Today, as I shouldered my sack for the final time, I experienced that sadness.
There are two aspects to this -what is experienced on the Camino is really precious, but what makes it even more precious is our ability to translate the lessons learned to our daily lives. I was reminded of the saying written above the fire at Le Ferme de Bousee.  'Il n'y a pas le chemin au bonheur, le bonheur c'est le chemin. '

As we walk the Camino we learn things about ourselves and others. The challenge is not to forget them when we return home.

Monday, 23 May 2016

The gift of joy

As the days progressed before my departure for this pilgrimage I reflected that it would coincide with the Feast of Pentecost. The three months from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost have been a time of great pastoral activity in the parish made more intense by the celebration of the Holy Year of Mercy.
Not only did I feel the need for a break, but also for some spiritual replenishment. Tomorrow will be my eighth day of walking ( the traditional length of a short retreat). As the days have developed I have sensed the spiritual graces in this pilgrimage for myself.
On Friday, in Valenca, it came upon me as an overwhelming sense of joy. Today, as we wandered through the woods I felt a similar sense of joy. Now joy features prominently in the bible. In one of the Psalms for Compline we pray: 'You have put into my heart a greater sense of joy than they have from an abundance of corn and new wine.' Now those of you who know me well know that I like both food and good wine! The joy spoken of here is much more profound. In the letters of Paul it becomes on of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And so it is, on my Pentecost pilgrimage that I receive the gift of joy. Camino blessings

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Reunited with a dear friend.

I have a vivid (and not pleasant memory) from the first day of my Camino in 2013. I had set out from Le Puy en Velay with much trepidation about the enormity of what I was attempting. As the morning progressed my apprehension grew as did the pain in my feet and my back. In some nondescript hamlet I found a stone table by the side of the path. With effort I took off my pack and,  for a brief moment,  stood looking at it and wondering how I could carry it over a thousand miles.
Over the next few days I learned to appreciate my pack, and its crucial importance to the success of the Camino. Eventually I christened the pack in memory of a wonderful dog with whom I had shared so many adventures. Over the next weeks Oscar (the sack) became an extension of me.
When, eventually I shouldered him for the final days walking I experienced a sense of loss.
Since December 2013 Oscar has hung on the back of the door in my house and, in a fleeting glance, I have remembered so much shared. When Mel Shuldham invited me to join her at the end of her Camino Portugese I said that I would have my luggage taken by taxi. After several practice walks with 7kg in my day sack I decided that Oscar should have another Camino adventure. The first day of our reunion had its moment but now it is as if we are back in 2013 (although he is much less full).

Of course, judging what we need and do not need is one essential aspect of the Camino. Letting go of things is an essential part of the process. There is a freedom when we know that what is on our back is the sum total of our necessities.

Eels and Mariscos

On arriving at Redondela I happened to see a nun and asked her about mass.She said that Mass is at 8.00pm. When I explained that I am a priest she suggested that the local priest might ask me to celebrate as he was celebrating a funeral. Around 6.45pm I set off to find the church. Two ladies were stripping the branches of some tree and explained to me where I might find the Church. It was both cool and beautiful inside. After some prayer I approached a diminutive lady who was clearly curious about me. She was called Peregrina! When I explained that I was a priest she was all for taking me to the priest's door immediately. I said that I would come back and set off to visit this little town. On a hot Friday it was full of local people enjoying the start of the weekend.
It was just before 7 when I got back to the church and Peregrina was still keeping an eye on things. A little later the nun arrived. When it got to 7.30pm Peregrina could contain herself no longer!  She led me to the house and, with a conspiratorial look in her eye said that she never knocks at the door but on the window of the priest's office. The shutter was closed and I had misgivings about this enterprise!  Within seconds the shutter was opened to reveal the serene and cheerful face of the priest. He greeted me warmly (the nun must have warned him of my presence) and invited me to celebrate.
I returned to the church with Peregrina and se about organising the Missal. A few minutes later Padre Benito came in and, with the same warmth with which he had first greeted me, he set about telling me about his ministry. He took me outside to see the Parish Albergue which he has just set up. Back in the Sacristy he talked about eels and mariscos.It seemed a little incongruous since I could here the recitation of the rosary through the open door of the sacristy. Benito was un phased. He has that rare capacity of complete engagement. It was a joy to talk with him and to sense his total fulfillment after 50 years of priesthood. He helped me to vest and wanted to give me the offering for the mass. It was a lesson in gratitude. After mass when I took leave of him he gave me a warm hug and joked that we would meet in heaven. I felt blessed by the encounter. The angels that cross our paths come in many guises even if they talk about eels and marisc.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Watch this space!

After three years it is my plan to accompany a friend on the Camino Portugese. The plan is to meet up at Barcelos on 16th May and walk to Santiago