Last Blog of my Camino

Yesterday I prayed at the tomb of St James. The magnificent cathedral was closed for public worship but you could still go inside. There was a long queue to the statue of St James which you approach from the back and up a flight of steps. When you get there I did what millions of other pilgrims did before me, I hugged the statue. Then down the steps and more steps till you come to the crypt where you find the tomb of St James: which consists of an ornate silver reliquary. I knelt in prayer for quite a long time. This was my reason for coming all this way. It was a moment of peace and hope; hope that my prayer for Vocations would be answered. This’s wasn’t blind hope but an act of faith and trust. Then, in a sense, it was all over. I went back outside and met up with my friend Ken. We went back into the main square and enjoyed watching people finishing their journey; it was moving to their reactions as they finally arrived, many in tears.

I visited our Carmelite nuns in Compostella. Their convent, with its granite floor and walls looked forbidding, but when I met the prioress and her assistant I was met by typical Carmelite hospitality. They too are struggling for Vocations. The nearest friars are 100 Kms away in Coruna; only two of them. I wondered if we couldn’t eastablish an international community here. The two sisters loved this idea. Maybe this is Inspired.

Then all good things come to an end and it was time to say goodbye to The Camino, to Compostella and to Ken; this was not easy. But life goes on. Back to the UK on Monday. It has been a “buen Camino”. Thank you for following my blog.

20th Day of Camino

I walked into Santiago yesterday, so strictly speaking I’m no longer on the Camino. I walked on my own from where I had stayed last night, 20 Kms away. It was an easy walk. Said my rosary as I walked in the dark through the woods. Not that many people around, but it was 6.30 when I left. Got to Mount Gozo, which means mount of joy; it’s the first time you get to see Santiago. However, it was misty and so I didn’t see Santiago, 4 Kms away. Met Kieron, from Ireland. I’d met him in my hostel two days ago. He was excited to tell me that he’d come to the hostel to get wifi (it’s a problem in so many places) as he was applying for a job and that he’d got it. I felt so happy for him; it was a blessing. I’ve come to expect them.

Walked on for another hour through the busy modern streets of Compostella. Eventually arrived in the historic centre. Managed to find my way to the cathedral. A crowd of Americans called my name and cheered as I walked into the centre. It was an emotional moment. I welled up about an hour later when Kieron said “well done”. It was wonderful to be there and to see others arriving, some laughing, some crying, but everyone had arrived, some limping. We laugh at what we call the ‘Camino walk’: most of us are stiff and sore, so we waddle. One girl wanted me to take a photo of her jumping for joy.

The first thing to do was to get our certificate, this took a long time. You get a number and wait; it’s worth waiting for. Fortunately thanks to modern technology, and my phone in particular, you could scan your number and then watch as it slowly gets to your number:1280. this wasn’t till 6.30 in the afternoon. I went to mass in the evening. Visited the Carmelite nuns, whose Convent is close to my hotel. I’m treating myself to a hotel. I’ll visit the cathedral and St Jame’s tomb tomorrow; that’s the main reason why I’ve walked this way.

My American friend, Ken, treated me to a meal at a plush restaurant adjacent to the cathedral. He had walked all the way from France (st Jean Pied de Port) ; I don’t think his achievement had sunk it. It was a lovely way to spend what had been a special day, one that I had been waiting nineteen days to experience. I’m looking forward to the mass for pilgrims and of course to visiting the tomb.

18th Day of Camino

Tomorrow I arrive in Santiago. We are asking each other, “how do you feel?” Most people are not sure how they feel. We shall have to wait and see. My motivation for doing this was quite precise: I’m praying for vocations to my Order. I shall be saying an earnest prayer when I kneel before the tomb of St James (Santiago). My blogs have been irregular due in great part to poor wifi connections.

Right now I’m sitting on a bed, with my own room, which feels luxurious after sharing a room with many others these passed 18 days; 18 euros. I’m feeling fit and if my friend Ken had said let’s continue to Santiago, I could have done it. But there is no need to rush. I am going to have two days there before being picked up by friends. Right now I don’t feel excited but nor do I feel disappointed. I am looking forward to tomorrow. I shall concelebrate at the evening mass. The cathedral is closed for refurbishment; closed that is for mass, but we can still go in. Mass will be said in another place. I shall concelebrate for the first time since I began the Camino.

I should have good wifi in Santiago so can let you know how I felt getting there. Until tomorrow.

14th Day of Camino

Left Sarria this morning at 6.30. Was surprised to find that I was on my own for the first hour. I like to say the rosary first thing. Once the sun had come up I began to put stones on distance-markers along the way. My stones joined others with the same idea. It’s a lovely way to think and pray for people as you journey to Compostella. I prayed for lots of people this morning. My American friend, Ken, asked me what I was doing; I was surprised he didn’t know. I was introduced to this by an American lady (Meghan) last year.

Today was an easy day. Just 22 Kms. I arrived in Portmarron about 1.00 and checked into the municipal hostel; just 6 euros, but no plugs. As I queued up to register (it takes ages to do this: they stamp your card called a ‘credencial’ which you present in Santiago to get a certificate, and take details from your passport; all by hand), I met two extraordinary young people, who had walked from the Czech Republic and Slovakia: Wendy & Joseph. That’s extraordinary enough but there’s more: Wendy was personal assistant to a paraplegic, a man like Stephen Hawking. He wanted to go to Compostella, and Wendy agreed to push him in a wheelchair. She sought support using Facebook. Eventually six of them set out in March. Sadly the man, Milan, died in France: they had walked together 2000 miles. Wendy, Joseph and the others decided to continue; they have now just five days to go. When they get to Santiago they will hitch-hike back to their respective countries. They have no money left; the money Milan gave them from the sponsorship has run out. I’m wondering how I can help them. They gave me a card about what they done with a web-site: http://www.lifewithabackpack.co It would have been worthwhile coming all this way to meet these two marvellous examples of youth.

The hostel is noisy as I write this, it’s raining so everyone is inside. Wendy and Joseph are speaking to a man from Eastern Europe, who noticed the card they’d given me. He told them he’d seen this card in hundreds of churches as he passed through Europe; he must have been following them. A great coincidence. There are some truly remarkable people on this pilgrimage.

Bye for now.

13th Day of Camino

I now feel I’m on the home stretch. I walked an extra 7kms today in order to avoid going up and down a high hill. I’m now in a a place called Sarria. It’s from here the majority of those doing the Camino start. I’m staying in a monastery dedicated to St Mary Magdalen. I was surprised when the receptionist asked for 10 euro; the most I’ve paid till now is 6. She explained its private, i.e., not municipal. But the only difference I can see is that here the sinks have plugs in them. You would have thought that in a monastery there would be sepeate toilet and showers for men and women, not here. Have to keep my eyes down. There’s mass this evening here at 8pm. Tomorrow I’m expecting a procession of people on the road. I’ll start by 6.30. Off to meet my friend Ken from California, whose been trying to catch up with me the last 3 days. Bye for now

12th Day of Camino

Today was both the most difficult and the most rewarding. I walked for almost 30 Kms which is already a lot but the last ten were uphill, and at times steep. I walked up Mt Snowden to prepare for this. I met two special young men as I walked along; Peter from the Cheque Republic who has walked all the way, he began in May. And Ambrose from France whose getting married next year.

When I eventually arrived at my destination, a place called O’Cebreiro, 1,400 meters up, I was exhausted. I checked into the municipal hostel, then looked for the church. It was built in the 9th century; that’s as old as the Camino. It’s the oldest church on the Camino. I almost cried when I sat down to give thanks for getting here. Later I went to the 6pm mass. The first thing that struck me was the youthfulness of the priest; by far the youngest priest I have come across. He also seemed to understand better then the others the significance of what we were doing. After the mass he asked all pilgrims to come for a blessing; there must have benn sixty or seventy of us. , he gave each one a hug and a small stone. I found this very moving and for the first time I cried, indeed I sobbed.

In coming to this place I sense that I am coming closer to my final destination, Santiago. I lost my Californian friend, Ken, he’s now a day behind. On the Camino you are always meeting people, some of whom you walk a kilometre or two with. I’ve met some lovely people, they shorten the journey. Bye for now.

Eleventh Day of Camino

today was a hard day, in part because I got lost. I set out early, 6am., to cover the 30 Kms. By now I’m accustomed to packing my rucksack in the dark. I stepped out of the hostel, which had cost me 6 euros. Dora, a South African followed me as she didn’t want to walk alone. She was a fast walker. An hour later We came to a roundabout where we knew to be on the alert for directions. Dora and I doubled checked, now joined by Tiger and Sue from Australia, but could only see the yellow arrow pointing straight on, the arrow was accompanied by a sign, ‘Camino invierno’ which means ‘Sumer camino’. We didn’t really know what this meant other than we were on the right path: if you follow the yellow arrows you can never got lost. We’ll we managed to. We were following the Camino path only it was one of several. We walked for miles up and down steep hills, through sleepy villages whose bars were not open. We walked for six hours like this, dreaming of a cafe con leche. At last we decided we couldn’t go any further. I checked my google map only to discover we were more than five hours away from our destination. You could ask why didn’t you check before, but that would be too difficult to explain; besides I don’t always do the sensible. We took a taxi. It’s the worst thing pilgrims can do, but we had no choice. My feet are now beginning to hurt and hot spots appearing. But that’s ok, like scars on a soldier. I’m going to sleep well tonight.

Caio.

Tenth Day of Camino

I love the history and culture that I see as I pass so slowly through Spain. When I touched this 12th century font I thought of the countless people who had been baptised in it.

Today was physically hard as I walked about 1500 meters down hill. But now I’m at the bottom I’m happy and rested, though my leg muscles are stiff. You can’t help but notice the pettiness of local politics, as signs showing ‘Castile Y Leon’, a region that has been united for centuries, have been effaced, to show just ‘Leon’. The pilgrims are above such things, you won’t find many nationalists on the Camino; I did see a Catalan lady with her flag hanging from her rucksack, but she’s an exception.

Two days ago I walked 35 Kms, by mistake. I won’t go into why but I thought it was all worthwhile when I stepped inside the hostal, with its atmosphere of peace. This thought was further enhanced when I met two Korean sisters: Kim and Eyeung (or something like that). They are not Christian but I first met them in church the day before, which made me think they were. But they are so open, curious and intelligent that I’m sue the Camino will have an effect on them. Just like it did to Berne, my German Franciscan friend. He decided to become a Franciscan after he first walked the Camino.

I could go on. This is a physically demanding thing to do but so worthwhile. I remembered to pray (leaving a stone in a significant place) for all my family and friends. Hasta la prossima.

8th Day of Camino

The last four days have been difficult due to the monotony of the trail and being on my own. I now understand why people miss this section. Had I known I might have to. All this walking makes you thirsty, I’ve never cranks so much water.

The Camino, like life itself, is about the people you meet. I’ve been privileged to meet some really good people. I’ve made friends with Ken from California. We had dinne r together last night. M struck by the openness of people who walk the Camino. There’s no nationalism here. I met two Koreans who went to church. They are not Christian but they are curious, interested to learn and intelligent. A nun whom you meet early on: she sits in a small chapel and gives out medals, told some one that he Camino is how God wishes people to be. People look out for each other, do the extra mile are generous, willing to suffer in silence and to keep going.

I’ve had problems with wifi in this part of the world so my communications have been few. I’ve not forgotten to pray for my family and friends. Tday is Sunday, the greatest day of the week. I’m happy to be here on the Camino. It is such a privilege.

U til the next time.

Day Two of Camino

Shared a room with two women: Yuko from Japan & Robyn from USA. This was not envisaged when I was a novice! Up at 6.30 and on the road at 7.15. I found my socks I thought I’d lost; I’d rolled them up with my sleeping-bag, also no discomfort in my back; a good start to the day. Walked for an hour before gettting to the next town for breakfast: Fomista. Met a lady on her way home (England); felt sorry for her, remembering that I had to leave early next year. The next 15 Kms were described as “soulless” by my guidebook. They followed the road but I thought of all the pilgrims who’d walked this road and it didn’t bother me. You know you’re going due west by your shadow, which acts like a compass. I met Ken from California and we walked the rest of the way together. When we got to our destination Carrion de los Condes, I thanked him for shortening the journey: this is what appears to happen when you engage someone in conversation. I got the last place in the hostel: I’ll be sharing with 20 others: just 5 euros! Must bet ready for evening mass. I sat in the square at lunch time, ordered a salad and a glass of whistle wine, watched the locals with their families, and just felt good about life. I’m still saying those prayers.