Easter dawns

Sunrise October 2016 leaving Villar de Mazerife

Dawn breaking over Villar de Mazerife, Spain, October 2016

How often do many of use the old adage “it is always darkest before the dawn” without thinking about it? Very often, that is the answer. When I was on Camino de Santiago in September and October 2016, I learned the truth of the saying. While walking on the portion of the Camino known as “the meseta,” the flat northern plains in Spain, we would leave our albergues in the dark. Walking in darkness, it would actually get a bit colder and a bit darker as sunrise approached. At that time the sun was not coming up until after 8am, so it was not even that early. But it was that cold and that dark.

Then each day would offer us a gift if we turned around, we would see the faintest hint of light on the horizon behind us. Dawn would soon break, dispelling the darkness and the cold. Soon, the sun would blaze overhead and the temperatures would rise. We would walk on, donning hats and sunglasses, adding sunscreen to arms newly bared as we peeled away layers of clothing.

Every day felt new when this moment happened, as if we had not witnessed it the day before. Every day was joy.

Today as I consider that it is Easter, but that it feels like anything but, I am reminded to focus on the cold and dark for a moment before I recognize what it happening… Each day we rise again and again and again.

This Easter may be the coldest and darkest pre-dawn moment that many of us will ever know, but hold this thought in your mind, grasp it as tightly as you do when you cling to Christ… Dawn will break, the darkness will be eradicated and flooded with light, the cold will turn to warmth.

Rejoice in the Alleluia that signifies the Risen Christ! No matter how cold and dark it feels, and often we must remain in that place for longer than we wish, may we all know the hope of belief in the Living God.

May your Easter be blessed in these unusual times. Darkness is dispelled, Jesus has destroyed death forever! New life springs forth! Easter dawns and Christ is risen! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

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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

Foot care area

Deb Santo Domingo

Typical albergue scene. That’s my friend Deb in the albergue with the “FOOT CARE AREA.” Quite naturally, her feet are up!

When on Camino, normal – no, typical behaviors shift. Normal implies they must be the right thing to do; typical indicates what is generally done. At night as you sleep in rooms chock-a-block with wobbly bunkbeds, all sorts of noises erupt from the bodies around you – and perhaps from within you. Snoring, the expulsion of gas, mutterings from those in wild dream, or just two pilgrims who whisper into the night to one another.

Something that is highly normative on Camino is people showing their totally screwed up feet to one another. Taking your shoes off in a cafe or restaurant does not merit a raised eyebrow, it happens all the time. Blisters Continue reading

Transfigured and transformed

Transfiguration_of_Christ_Icon_Sinai_12th_centuryIn today’s Gospel we hear a story of an astonishing transformation known as the Transfiguration. As a kid, I would often wonder what that meant, and I figured it only happened to Jesus. It almost felt as if my eyes would hurt from the “dazzling white” of Jesus’ clothes, which apparently transfigured with him.

As an adult I have been blessed to know a few life-changing experiences. In reality, most of life is nothing like that, ordinary days sometimes punctuated by a startling and heart-churning happening. One such moment for me was Continue reading

What will we give?

mainslide-blessedareIt is Tuesday and I am still thinking about Sunday’s Gospel. That’s not a bad thing, as we are supposed to be thinking of the Gospel if we follow Christ. Last Sunday we heard the Beatitudes from Luke. You might recall that about a week ago I wrote about Sister Dorothy Stang. She was reading aloud from the Beatitudes when she faced her killers, I always imagine how powerfully those words must have sounded as they took her life. By that, I mean how they sounded to them, she already knew what the words meant.

Anyway, post Beatitudes Gospel, my social media feed was flooded with posts putting down the rich. A wider search of friends and acquaintances bore opposite statements reflecting the notion of a “prosperity Gospel.” Ultimately, both stances leave me wanting. Well – the prosperity Gospel actually makes me want to scream and flee, because the idea of a God who “rewards” those who behave properly with material wealth is frankly anathema to me. The idea however that all those who have wealth are somehow disliked by God has plenty its own issues.

That’s why Continue reading

Keep walking

Today is the Feast of St. James, patron of pilgrims. The Camino Santiago is named for him – Saint James translates to Santiago. Two years ago on this day, I dreamed of what it might feel like to go on the Camino de Santiago, to leave St. Jean Pied de Port, France on foot end up in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Like millions of other pilgrims over the past 1200 years or so, I found out.

Saint James Pilgrim Apostle

Santiago, Patron of PIlgrims. Photo taken at the Museo das Peregrinacións e de Santiago.

To walk the Camino is a real gift; it will change your life in every possible way. I know that it did mine! How grateful I am that I was able to be a pilgrim, in great part because of so many of you and your generosity. Your material support and prayers carried me along The Way.  Aches, pains, blisters, frustration were all part of the mix. However, what is enduring is the pure joy of awaking each day, lifting up your pack, and walking. And walking. And walking. The walking is often alone, quiet, peaceful. There is also communal time, shared with joy with friends from around the world.

Leaving CastrojerizAll along the path one is reminded of St. James, Santiago, el apóstol, the patron of pilgrims. On the Camino or in daily life, we are all pilgrims. Today and every day, may your steps be blessed. St James, patron of pilgrims, watch over us all.

Ultreia! Keep Walking! Buen camino! Siempre camino!

But he was silent

 

But he was silent and answered nothing.Mark 14:61

Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.Mark 15:5

PalmsToday is Palm Sunday and we hear once again the Passion proclaimed in our churches. These two sentences struck me as I listened and prayed with the Gospel at mass on Saturday night.

Jesus’ silence says more than his words at these moments. And of course silence is probably one of the Continue reading

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