Día de Santiago

Feast of St James collage

Top: Sue, St. James, and me, with Dave looking on from behind us. Bottom: Deb looking as cute as ever, ready to hang out longer and wait for her bag to arrive.

Today is the feast of the apostle Saint James. In Spain he is known as Santiago and today is Día de Santiago. In the city of Santiago de Compostela there will be great celebrations. The streets will be teeming with pilgrims – peregrinos – many who are arriving at the end of their pilgrimage.

our feet in santiago

Our pilgrim feet and a way marker in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

The weight of my heart seems to increase with joy as I recollect my own first steps into the city I had long dreamed of and had finally arrived. Santiago – the city of so many hopes and dreams, at last. Perhaps the longest part of the entire journey was walking from the city boundary to the Cathedral plaza. Thanks to many generous souls I was able to make this journey. Each and every day as I pray I continue to think of all of you who supported me and my gratitude is eternal.

The photos at the top of the post are taken with a statue of Santiago that includes a desk – as you can see! We left Frómista on the morning of October 6, 2016 after a stay at a truly terrible albergue. Today that stay makes for some hilarious storytelling, but it was not funny then and  we were grateful to shake the Frómista dust from our shoes and to press onward.

Santa Maria Blanca Villacazar

Santa Maria Blanca Villacazar de Sirga

A few hours later we stopped in Villalcázar de Sirga where we had something to eat at a small cafe and visited a beautiful church, Santa María la Blanca. On our way out of town we stopped at the statue for picture taking. Deb was waiting for her backpack, which she had shipped to this slightly-more-than-halfway point in our journey. Leaving her behind, Sue and I departed and made our way to Carrión de los Condes. If Frómista was one of our least favorite places, Carrión de los Condes ended up one of our favorites. – but that’s another story for another day.

Web-cabecera-rojoRecalling the Camino always reminds me of the joy and goodness all around. The hardest days and worst places perpetually giving way to the sweetest memories, challenge yielding to joy without fail. On this feast day of St. James we are reminded that we are all pilgrims on a path, and that while we may journey separately, we are united in so many ways.

May el apóstol, as Santiago is often referred to in Spain, bless you without end as you make your way.

¡Buen camino y ultreia!ultreia

Looking at Lent, continuing the Camino

First Yellow Arrow St Jean.jpgLent begins this week. Each year many of us make an effort to begin Lent and to stick with whatever we have chosen to give up or take on.

Perhaps last year was too close to the completion of my Camino for me to see this as clearly, but this year I am profoundly aware of the magnetic pull of my Camino as I pray about entering Lent. The two journeys parallel paths are ever closer together, one journey completed, another about to begin. That Camino and Lent are related is not unusual; what is different is how I am experiencing it this year. It is more of an invitation or call, it is less of an idea. It is from deep within, thus so much harder to ignore.

All is know as I prepare to depart is this… my expectations for what will happen and what will happen are likely to be markedly different. This year, may I surrender ever more easily to where theflechas amarillas (or yellow arrow way markers of camino) lead me to, rather than my own dogged persistence about where I “think” or “feel” I should go. Head and heart are required during any spiritual sojourn, but trusting God to lead is the challenge.

How do you imagine your Lenten journey as it approaches?

Caminoversary

EDIT SJPP Waymarker Sept 17.jpgIt has been quite a year… I am at the one year anniversary of going on Camino Santiago. Once again, I thank everyone who supported me in various ways; materially, by walking with me as I trained, and always in prayer and love. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and my feet.

It is interesting to note that now that the anniversary is here, I am emerging. Something happened to me on Camino, not one thing, but it did what pilgrimage does, it set off a series of reactions within me. I’m not even sure how – or if – I will ever write about that, but I can say that I traveled down to the depths. Our culture is based on either denying, ignoring, fixing, and other meddling with these deep dark caves where transformation happens. I will say this much, had I needed medication or feared anything, I would have gone for it, I truly believe that. But no, and no red badge of courage here, I went down and stumbled around in the dark.

But guess what?!  Light is found, a tiny stillpoint of it is found once your eyes adjust to that place. God was there, I never doubted God even though I doubted a lot of other things. It was another pilgrimage, one that went deep within. Today I am grateful for the place I went, the place I stayed with God. It kind of sucked in a lot of ways, mostly that I gained a lot of weight. On the other hand, I can and will work on that, and I can never thank God for what now grows from that seemingly fallow, even dead, field in my heart.  Things are stirring!

For some this may seem too vague and creepy and you may worry about me. If this sounds confusing, I can only recommend reading and studying the work of Carl Jung, and shadow work.  I am being as clear as I can be, and I am doing really well, as happy as I have been in a long time. Along with that, I’m deeply grateful for my “second pilgrimage.”  Let’s see what lies ahead! In the meantime, buen camino one and all! Ultreia!

Small s sacraments, quotidian grace

144052 Like many, I was very rattled by the events in Charlottesville, and all week I was fraught with a rootless anxiety that swirled about me like the Santa Ana winds. In addition to that were the rough edges of a low level, but chronic bout of ennui, plus I saw a play about the 80’s that reminded me of the roots of today’s politics. Let’s just say it was a tough week. My outlook, generally positive despite my usual litany of complaints had tumbled.

On Saturday we attended a funeral; the mother of one of Mark’s old friends had died. Making our way out to a nearby small town on a sunny day was a small pleasure, but did not lift my spirits. My typically extroverted self was feeling some anxiety about socializing; I did not mention this to Mark, lest I give it more life.

It took us 40 minutes to arrive at this small country church, clearly a very old one.  Entering the sanctuary, we made our way into a narrow pew that one entered by opening a small door panel on the side. The size of the church did not impede the spacious feeling of the Spirit within; it was Continue reading

Ultreia, always ultreia

Ultreia Museum SantiagoJuly 25 is a big day in the city of Santiago de Compostela, in the province of Galicia in the northwest of Spain. On that day the church celebrates the feast of St. James – in Spanish, Santiago – the namesake of the city.

SOD-0725-SaintJamestheApostle-790x480

Saint James, aka Santiago – the pilgrim

Of course that day is today! I can’t imagine the countless peregrinos who will make their way into the city today. Many of them started in Sarria, making the final 100 plus kilometers of the Camino de Santiago. Many others will have begun in other places, a large majority beginning in St. Jean Pied de Port, France to walk the Camino Frances, as I did, or Pamplona, or Burgos, or Leon. Some will have come from further away, Le Puy, France maybe, or those who travel other routes, such as the Camino de la Plata, Camino Portugues, Camino del Norte, or the Primitivo. On foot, with Continue reading

Which way?

EDIT Yo Soy El CaminoRecently I listened to a podcast from The Commonwealth Club that truly captivated my mind and spirit. In this particular episode, Krista Tippett, the host of On Being was interviewed by Rev. Alan Jones. It was spectacular, so much so that I am on my second listen.

There are so many things that I am pondering about this episode, but the entire undercurrent for me is questioning who we are and where we are headed as a people. This has been on my mind already because I have been so deeply unhappy about our political situation at large. The program got me thinking further about which way I think we are headed.

One of the topics addressed by Tippett was the development of inner and outer lives, and how material wealth and poverty drive those lives – or don’t drive them. Of course, the cultivation of inner lives is not something truly valued in our American culture. I suppose that is why we value Continue reading

Wait – what?

photoHot, huffing, and puffing, I was four days into my camino. Strangely enough, my knees were not bothering me nearly as much as I imagined they would, nor were my legs too sore, but I was dogged by blisters. And by the overstimulated exhaustion that can come about in the pursuit of a dream. Four days in, I was still a Camino Santiago neophyte without a clue.

Making it to the top of Alto del Perdon was no joke. It was not as steep as it was to get from St. Jean Pied de Port to Orisson, nor was as long and hard as it was to keep going uphill from there on the way to Roncesvalles. It was however hot! And again, those blisters. Ouchie. Anyway, making it to the top of Alto del Perdon was also a glorious moment – what a famous spot for those who know the Way of St. James! It is the place where the “the path of the wind meets the path of the stars.” In a word – magical.

Alto Sue Fran DeeanneLike most matters of faith, the high is often followed by a challenge. So consumed was I with getting up Alto del Perdon, I gave little thought to getting down. An essential camino lesson for me was this – going down is often far worse than going up. As we began our descent, my weariness gave way to an overwhelming anxiety with each footfall on the steep and rocky path. In fact, I felt certain that I might not be able to get down. I simply believed that I could not do it. And you know where that kind of thinking gets you.

nicodemus nightIn today’s Gospel from John, Nicodemus pays a visit to Jesus. At night. I love this imagery, poor old Nicodemus sneaking into see Jesus under the cover of darkness. It is a real struggle for Nicodemus to understand what it means to be “born again” and to be “born of the Spirit.” Here he is wrestling, like anyone who is inclined to being too literal, wondering how a “man once grown old” gets back into the womb to be born again. As usual, Jesus is trying to tell him. Jesus speaks to us in ways that leave us no place to go but deep into our hearts. Our literal and practical heads won’t allow us to understand, although our literal, practical – you know, our “realistic” heads – the ones that we value in the material world. Overvalue, it would seem.  Nicodemus is basically saying, “Wait – what?” Continue reading

Personal desert

EDIT Somewhere between Logrono and Najera Sep 2016I’m enjoying being off of Facebook for Lent, and spending my time on Instagram with one post per day; a photo and a mini-reflection. You will have to head over to my Instagram feed, or to my Facebook page (where my Instagram auto posts) to read my reflection for today. Essentially, I am thinking about Jesus instructing us to love our enemies.

Hardest. Thing. Ever.

I’ll gladly take a long walk with a heavy cross on my back than to do this. Yet, I try to constantly push myself to do so. I suck at it, by the way. Big time.

It occurs to me that part of the problem is my own lack of willingness to look at the enemy within. Of course I am well aware of that enemy, but my inner looking often results in things like my own defensiveness about myself, my shame, and my superhuman strength at avoiding and denial. I’m great at that stuff. Big time.

All of this is an invitation to me, a good deal of which is more clear this Lent because I am spending less time “talking” via Facebook. Painful is my awareness this Lent that the driest and most arid desert is often found deep within my own heart. Thus, the gifts of death and new life are made clear, but only if I am willing to keep going.

What does your inner search Please be assured of my prayers as we ply our way through deserts of our own making. God offers us so much more, but even for those of us who say we will follow, do we really?

Blisters of privilege, prayers of choice

san-bol-feet

My blistered feet entering an allegedly healing pool.

They were sometimes like a hot knife plunged into my lower extremities, at other times, simply walking on broken glass. My blisters during the first two weeks of my Camino were horrible. One day, Sue and I entered the town of Villafranca Montes de Oca and I simply had to stop walking. It was too much, I could not take the pain. What happened next is a long story for another day, just let it suffice to say, my feet were wrecked. Would I be able to continue my Camino? (Spoiler alert for new readers, thanks be to God, I did.)

With nearly every blistered step I took, I was aware of how privileged I was to even be in this situation. All I could think about when my feet, my knees, or general tiredness bothered me was that I chose to be where I was. Not so far away from me, migrants were to be found all over Europe. The vast majority of them fled their homes, not by choice, not due to any luxury, but due to violence, hunger, the threat of war, and the ever-present reality of death. I tried to pray with and for them with every painful footfall, even after my blisters were overall healed.

Today is Continue reading

Lost in Logroño

google-maps-logoOne of the least faithful elements of my Camino was my reliance on Google maps. At the least provocation, I would grab my phone and start checking details, often when I was in a city. This happened in Logroño when we went in search of a Decathalon store. We did not get lost, but did we ever get misguided because we were sent very far out of our way. This not good for my already ailing feet, bringing new meaning to 10 steps forward, 5 steps back.  The problem was not that I used Google maps; the problem was my utter reliance on something external, and not trusting my instincts. Or God. All while on a… pilgrimage.

Lost is my overwhelming feeling as I begin Advent this year, and there is no Google map app to help me find my way. Thank God! It slowly begins to dawn on me, as I try to “wait in motion” that perhaps the lessons of Logroño offer me a clue.

The Camino was a seed in my heart, albeit a dormant one, for many years. My guess puts my first knowledge of it to around 1992, maybe even late 1991. Although dormant, the Camino was a form of waiting in motion in my heart. Two and half years ago the seed began to sprout when Sue and I began to plan our journey. #SquadGoals, right? And a personal goal as well. The focus became clearer and clearer, even when I felt fear, discouragement, or doubt. My sense of being lost right now has to do with the fact that my goal has been achieved. Veni, vidi, vici! Great. There goes over 20 years of longing… Now what?

Am I really lost? Do I simply need a new goal? What happens next?

img_4429-1Back to Logroño – maybe I am not so lost as I am misguided. Trusting a tiny piece of technology outside of me instead of trusting God within is a challenge. Yet that challenge provides me with some direction. If only I toss the phone of my heart,  take a look at what’s around me, ask for directions, and just walk.  This requires things like contemplation, action, patience, faith, courage – and the willingness to truly get lost in order to get found. Trust in God. Why didn’t I see those directions on my Google map?

Today’s Scriptures sent a glimmer of hope to me, helping to keep the momentum of my waiting in motion up. This is from the responsorial psalm…

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.

It is also better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in Google maps. Don’t get me wrong, the maps – like humans – have their place in the greater scheme, but they are not the Christ I await this Advent. Again, the notion of a goal springs forth. There is but one goal and that goal is God. I’m not sure how to find my way to the Christ being born, but I do know this, I will not get there if I don’t put the phone away, and trust in God. I pray this day that I can do just that. Care to join me?