Final Camino Post

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We have completed our Camino! We arrived in Santiago de Compostela on the 4th of July. We laughed as we approached the Cathedral because in every other city you could see the Cathedral from far away, but in Santiago we really could never see it until we were right there.

One of our Camino friends was in the square and got up and greeted us and took this picture.
We walked for 34 days and reached our destination. And we were ready to stop walking! But not before we picked up the package we mailed here with our pack travel covers and Debbie’s dress – Jerry did that – and after a bit of searching found where to get our certificates at the pilgrim’s office. We didn’t get to our Albergue until after 5pm, but we had run into a number of our Camino friends and celebrated with them.
On Thursday the 5th we had planned to go to the Pilgrim’s Mass at Noon and then to lunch with      the teachers and the 3 women from the Midwest who became our Camino Family. But they also had an English Mass at 10am in the Cathedral in a side chapel. Inside the chapel the main statue was of Our Lady of Sorrows! Her feast day is my birthday, and I felt like she was just there for me! I will forever more feel that connection with her. It was a small group of pilgrims for the Mass, maybe 30 or so, but we filled the little chapel. They asked for volunteers to help with the liturgy, and I was able to be an extraordinary minister of the cup, the only time I have seen the cup given in Spain! They also allowed us to offer petitions and light a candle for them to put in front of the altar if we wanted, so I prayed for our Parish, and for all the parishes of those present that God would make them Parishes of True Discipleship. It was a beautiful Mass and I was practically in tears before it was over.
Then we sat in the main Cathedral, lit a candle for our family, and waited for our friends and the Pilgrim Mass. We all found one another and had lovely seats for the Mass in Spanish and were rewarded with the swinging of the Botafumeiro or the huge thurible which swings from ceiling to ceiling with incense right over our heads. It isn’t always done so we felt very fortunate to experience it! We had a wonderful lunch together which began on the plaza, but was moved indoors as it sprinkled. We shared contact information for our homes and said goodbye to the girls who were flying to Paris and then home.
We took the last leg of the Camino via bus to Finisterre on Friday. Here we will rest, recover – we are still a bit exhausted – and reflect. Our 3 older Camino family members rented a car and were already here in the area. They met us for dinner, and drove us to the lighthouse where we had dessert and then sat on the rocks to watch the sunset at the point that was considered the end of the world. We felt incredibly blessed by each of these people and experiences!
(Jerry’s note): Something that really struck me is just how many different people you meet and speak with—and all this conversation immersed in hours of personal silence. You never really know if you’ll ever see any of the pilgrims again   so you learn to be simply present to each encounter in a non-possessive way.
I find myself needing to sleep a lot after so much walking. For those interested in numbers, we averaged 14.7 miles a day with two days around 18.4 miles.
After some rest it will be time to further digest the experience. God has been gracious and many things have come to mind over these days. Now comes the part of integrating what we learned into our daily lives.
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Fifth Mellin Camino Post

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We have had some beautiful moments on the Camino this week. Near the high point in the Camino is a place called Cruz Ferro. There is a tall pole with a cross above where people leave rocks, notes and symbols of the intentions or burdens they have carried. As you walk up to it, there is silence. Everyone understands it is a sacred place. I went up first and attached the SJV Prayer Warrior prayers to the poll and set down the rocks I had carried. I prayed briefly at the poll. Then Jerry went up and set down some intentions he had carried and prayed for. We probably spent 30 minutes at the poll, both waiting our turn and watching others who came after. Even the young people who talk ,sing and play their way along the Camino were reverent here.
Another beautiful and reverent moment was at La Faba. Indira Pethebridge at SJV had encouraged us to stay there for this experience. She was so right! German Volunteers staff the Albergue and they provide a truly beautiful pilgrim ritual in the Church next door complete with passing around a lamp for which we were to offer our hopes or prayers as we held it, washing one another’s feet, holding hands around the altar and then offering a hug of peace to one another. We were also with some wonderful women that we have run into often here from the Midwest. It was beautiful especially to share the experience with them.
We are now in Galicia in Triacastela. We went over another peak today not quite as high in the Galician mountains. The views were spectacular! It was a 16 mile day of hard climbing and descending, but the heat wave has broken and that makes walking a bit easier. Tomorrow we will walk in rain, but it will be a shorter day. We are grateful for today and the beautiful views and to have the last steep trail not slippery and wet! I am listening to the rain and thunder as I type.
My leg pain has its ups and downs. I am just continuing to ship my pack each day to avoid the extra weight. We are now into our final week of walking and it has an anticipatory but also melancholy feel. I am a bit homesick, but I will also miss the job of walking, the time to pray, the people you meet who share amazing things with you. We befriended two young teachers on the Camino. They are ahead of us now, but have written us to see if we can meet them for the pilgrim’s mass and lunch in Santiago before they fly away. We hope to be able to do that, so I am praying we both hold up to walk there in time. Jerry has been doing really well, but we both need a lot of rest after walking. It is a special rhythm of life and we are blessed and grateful for this time.
(Jerry’s notes): There are also physical and spiritual deserts from time to time on the Camino. I was gently reminded by the Spirit that these moments are actually a special gift. It is when we can love through the most difficult moments that we understand just how much God is the ground of our being. I am also learning greater patience and trust. If I have placed something in God’s hands, I need to trust that he will work in his own time and way.

Fourth Mellin Camino Post

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Today we moved on from Astorga. We began the climb that will take us to the highest point on the Camino. Leon was beautiful, and the gothic Cathedral there was indeed inspiring. The Cathedral in Burgos was a hodgepodge of styles and chapels with no unifying theme. This one was light and airy with amazing stained glass windows and a complete sense of the builders desire to uplift the soul to heaven and to contemplate transcendence. It was amazing!

One of the things we have seen though is how few people today actually seem to do that in Spain. The only Mass is in a chapel with 30 other people at the most and that includes pilgrims. At Astorga we toured their Cathedral which was more Romanesque in structure, but with emotional centerpiece statues in each of the retablos behind the altars in the many chapels. The one of John the Baptist was particularly striking, which was appropriate since we went to the one Saturday evening Mass offered in that part of town for the Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist at the Church next door. There were about 60 people for that Mass which featured a door alarm which whined through most of the readings and the homily! The celebrant actually had to ask the concelebrant to shut it down after the Prayers of the Faithful. I am struck by the fact that not only are their few people, but there are few liturgical ministers and no one that takes initiative (I was pretty tempted to start roaming around myself to figure out what the problem was.) It really made me appreciate that much more all that I see each week in our SJV community and especially the beautiful way the community came together to celebrate Fr. Jim’s life! As I walked out of Astorga we passed a rare modern Church this Sunday morning and it reminded me of our Church and made me feel emotional. This one was pretty from the outside, but all locked up and might not even be active today.
The other thing that happened in Leon is that I began to have some pain in my shin. It got worse on the day out and despite resting it all afternoon Friday was still very painful as we walked to Astorga on Saturday. Many people on the Camino that we have walked with have had struggles with foot problems or knee pain. We had been very lucky not to suffer from more than one day of intestinal distress. Today I shipped my backpack and shortened our destination to about 20 kilometers so I could try to heal my left shin. Jerry has been wonderful, supportive and patient. I am humbled, trying to be patient, to keep moving, and to trust God. We go over the high point tomorrow, and I feel better and ready. I also take all of you with me as I walk.
(Jerry’s note): We talk about our spiritual journeys when things come to mind, as they often do when we have so much time to think. That process is part of the Camino. My prayer has been less about what is important—as we all know we are to love God and our neighbor, to become another Christ on earth—but that I would be open to the Spirit and more courageous in living out my faith.

Third Mellin Camino Post

 

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We are more than halfway through the Camino now. We continue to walk through beautiful farmland and our red poppies still cheer us. We have had some long stretches with no towns or services. And our previous cool weather has turned warm. As a result, we begin our walks very early and watch the sunrise.

Still, it has been a beautiful experience as we spent much of today walking with 3 wonderful women from Minnesota and Iowa. But before they caught up to us, we sat at an overpass to a creek for a break since there was no town. Looking out on the fields with the mountains behind them and our poppies in eye view with the water running below us, I felt this deep emptiness and sadness. I think I had been praying so hard for the community at SJV in preparation for Jim’s funeral, that I was just plain spent and feeling the sadness of not being there physically.
Now I finally have some WiFi (still no email) and I could see pictures of the Vigil and the Funeral. That was a gift!
So now we prepare for León tomorrow, which will be our last big city before Santiago. Cities are lovely, but also a distraction on the Camino. I pray that God continues to show us what we need to see, to show us how we need to love, and continues to be our strength for the journey.
(Jerry’s note) I felt grateful that the SJV family made it possible to feel a sense of connection to the community with the loss of Fr. Jim. I sometimes feel like I am walking with an angel (my very own angel) who surprises me from time to time. I did not see the tears coming over the loss of Fr. Jim, but then I immediately understood their meaning. The Camino is a physical journey for sure, but it is also a metaphor for the rest of life. We don’t just travel to Spain to have this extraordinary experience of God. We travel to understand that life is full of Camino-like journeys that we are meant to take. It is a sort of beginning really, a starting again. The loss of Fr. Jim is both an ending and a beginning. We hold all of you in our prayers.

 

Second Mellin Camino Post

 

When we stayed in Burgos, we stayed in a very pretty old hotel called Mason de El Cid. He is an important person born just outside of Burgos and buried in the Cathedral there. A warrior that was legendary, respected and feared by many, though as I read it a bit of a mercenary.

But the cathedral in which he was buried and that we could see from our room was amazing! We toured it rather quickly but it was less like a church and more like a complicated museum with one chapel built and then another so that there isn’t much unity to the structure but each chapel is overwhelming with its art and beauty. We did manage to catch the end of a Mass there in a chapel in this huge cathedral that wouldn’t even hold the 50 people that were there. We had to stand.
They lit the cathedral up at night which was majestic, and then the sun rose behind it with lots of colors…amazing. But it wasn’t so much the Camino, so we didn’t stay an extra day, but moved on. We had to find money and groceries before we left the city, so we were delayed. I spoke of feeling resistance, and distance from God. My left foot was a bit out of whack so we had to go slow. We decided to cut the day shorter than the book and end our day at Hornillos de Camino which was 20 kilometers instead of nearly 30.
On our way into town a charming Irish woman gave us a strawberry and invited us to her restaurant at the end of town. It was called The Green Tree. We had an amazing, celebratory evening there. In the middle of old Spain was this magical place that was kind of alternative with open mic singing, international foods ( curry, kimchi, redbeans and rice) and a crowd happy to join in. We sat with Xandra and Andrea, teachers from Missouri that we befriended the first day.  They are about 25.
During this fun, musical evening we got the text that Fr. Jim had died. Actually Mary texted that “Your prayers are answered, he is now at peace” How beautiful! And in a way it was just that much more fitting that we sang joyfully at his peace and freedom…he can now sing again himself in heaven, and they must be ecstatic to have his beautiful voice!
When we got back to the room, we saw the calls that William had given us, and we called him back. He had even been so loving as to call us from Jim’s room when he went to Atria after he got word. It was a blessing to connect with William and share our love and happiness that Jim is now free and in the hands of our loving God.
We played some of Jim’s favorite Church music before we went to sleep. Today we visited the Church of the Assumption which was miraculously open and hand candles to light as they played a recording of taize music in order to make money to renovate the church. We lit a large candle for Jim…a white resurrection candle and placed it right in the middle where he would like it. I noticed how light I felt today, almost as if I had been freed somewhat along with Jim.
(Jerry’s note) There is a lot of time to reflect, pray and talk on the Camino. Deb and I talked a lot about Jim and his life. It felt good to hold Jim and SJV in our prayers. It sometimes feels as if all of you are walking with us. We prayed today that this would be a special time for SJV as the community celebrates Jim’s life and mourns his loss.

First Mellin Camino post

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We have been on the Camino for about 10 days. We have met many people…many English speakers, even a few who came for a spiritual purpose. The days are long, exhausting and sometimes a bit overwhelming.

They are also beautiful, enriching, grounding as we walk through farmland that is producing the bread and the wine, the vegetables and even fruit we consume ..I’ve never spent so much time on the land in beautiful farm country. The wildflowers are amazing and abundant next to the roads we walk much of the days. The red poppies are our encouragement. It seems God provides them for beauty, amusement, and as a friend to tell us “you can make it!” when we feel spent.
It has been blessedly cool for walking, with just a touch of rain in the afternoons, but today it was really cool and rainy for about 1/3 of the day as we walked. It was hard to warm up when we arrived. But then again I have plenty of time to pray, to think, to talk with Jerry and connect with other pilgrims.
Sometimes I think the rigor of the days makes it difficult to reach out…it feels a bit more like survival. Then I began to see it, like the fields, as an act of being plowed. I am like earth right now being plowed to prepare me for something. I am not sure what God has in store, but I can certainly feel the pain and process of preparation!
Talking and walking with God all day is a blessing. I need God’s strength to keep moving some days! There is also the ever present wishes of both locals and fellow pilgrims of “Buen Camino!”, and the pilgrim’s blessing often conferred after daily Mass. They are also sources of strength.
We had a long walk today on the 12th. It was very cool and a bit wet. The length of walk bothered us less today (17.2 miles), but both of us were sick. Was it a bug, was it something we ate? In any case, Jerry was my hero today and I am filled with gratitude for him. Today we truly walked in step as Fr. William has suggested!