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.


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.

Camino Day One

Arrived in the small town of Castrojeriz yesterday; it’s just an hour’s bus ride from Burgos. I got to Castrojeriz last year where I had to abandon the Camino; I just ran out of time. It’s so good to be back. I went straight to the place where I had left a stone and a conker last year; the stone at least was still there. Stayed in the same hostel and met these friendly Americans at the church vending meal.

A number of things have gone wrong: plane late, missed connection, lost socks, legs tired, but nothing will stop my determination to see the positive in this Camino. Walked through a really barren stretch on my first day. Have already met good people: Ernesto from Spain, Tami from Israel, Julie fro England. Had planned to walk 25 Kim’s but decided 20 would do. Placed my first prayer-stone; the first of many for family and friends and those who have asked me for prayers. Must enquire wher I can get to mass tomorrow. Yes, it’s good to be back.

Sermon 20th Sunday

20thSunday of the Year ( C ) 2019

Jesus speaks of a family of five:  Father & Son, Mother & Daughter, daughter in law & mother in law are divided.  This means the Father and Mother are united; and the son & his wife are united. … Glad someone is!

Most families experience some kind of division. Sometimes due to the in-laws but not always. Long before in-laws come on the scene siblings can fall out. How many funerals and weddings have I been to where one member of the family hasn’t been invited. Too many. 

What causes these divisions: there can be several reasons: but you will find the root of the problem is pride. Someone insulted me and I won’t forgive them. And that goes on for years. What was once a fall out can, over the years, become a chasm dividing siblings and friends. Sometimes the division has lasted so long that no one can remember what the original problem was. 

The Christian is someone who tries to mend divisions. This takes humility and a lot of courage. Humility is the opposite of pride, which is why it is such a precious virtue. The Christian will be one who is willing to say sorry. Now there can be nothing harder in life than saying sorry to someone  you have offended or who has offended you. Our pride will fight against this. It will argue: why should I? I didn’t start it? Let him or her come to me why should I go to them?  It wasn’t my fault it was theirs. … and so on. There is always a reason why I shouldn’t say sorry.  

The problem is that in all relationships we will make mistakes. No one gets it right all the time. As a Christian I must be prepared to acknowledge my mistakes and if I have offended someone then I should ask for forgiveness. Also, if someone asks my forgiveness I should readily accept it. Surely a good marriage, a good friendship, will grow when people ask for forgiveness. I know that when someone says sorry to me they shoot up in my estimation. 

If we don’t say sorry then we will have that kind of family Christ spoke of in the gospel; a terribly divided family. And what kind of example is that to others? Children will grow in love and confidence when they not only hear their parents say they love each other, but also when they ask forgiveness of each other. What a wonderful example this is to the children.  A family home is like a school: it is there that children are prepared for the future, and particularly for future relationships.  

Don’t let pride destroy your family relationships. In a good Christian home you will hear the word ‘love’ said often, but you will also hear the word ‘sorry’. The Church and the world need the example of a good Christian marriage. 

Sermon 19th Sunday

 19thSunday of the Year ( C ) 2019

‘You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’. This sentence is a bit heavy; bit like a threat. Usually, these kind of readings we get at the end of the year when the church focusses on the last things. But this is summer, we’re supposed to be on holiday, sea-side, sun and sand, eating ice-creams that sort of thing. However, real life can come even when we are on holidays.  I remember being on a beach. I noticed a group of people around a man lying still on the sand.  It seems he was dead, a heart attack or something. Someone left the group and came to a phone near why I was, so I could hear the conversation with this man’s wife. The caller told her that her husband had had an accident and had been taken to hospital. This poor woman had no idea that when she got to the hospital she would find her husband dead. 

So even though we are at a time of summer holidays I suppose what the gospel is saying to us is always be ready.  We can spend our lives getting ready for something or other. Getting ready for work, for school, for an appointment. Right now I am getting ready to go on the Camino de Compostella next month. Some of you may know about the Camino, it’s an ancient pilgrimage through Spain to the tomb of St James, in Compostella.  

Truth to tell I have been ready for the last month. I have made a list of everything I will need: a map and a guide book, these are essential, the right kind of clothing and especially footwear, toiletries: a torch for walking in the morning before light; a good hat, sun tan lotion, plasters for blisters. I’ve bought euros for the daily expenses.  I’ve yet to get insurance; I must do that before I leave. Then I am ready.  

‘The Camino’, as it’s called, is like a pilgrimage of life. You could call life a journey or even better a pilgrimage. And we should always be ready for that pilgrimage. However, what we need are not guide books and clothing, euros and insurance, but other things, things that will last. On our pilgrimage through life we need first and foremost faith and trust in God: better than any map or satnav. With this faith and trust you will never get lost, you may take the wrong turn now and again, but you’ll never get lost. Then fill up your rucksack with virtues; beginning with kindness: be kind to people as you journey through life; even those who are not kind to you; this will be your heavenly insurance. Put also in your rucksack generosity; be generous and the Lord promises that He will overlook our innumerable sins: just as well. Be compassionate: as you journey through life you will meet other pilgrims who will be suffering and far worse than blisters: many people you meet will have heavy crosses to bear; your compassion will make that cross lighter.  You will need the sacraments; this will be your food, your nourishment to keep you going, especially when the journey gets tough. And finally, don’t forget to put prayer in your heavenly rucksack. It is prayer that will keep you in touch with your heavenly Guide. Prayer will always keep you on the right road. 

            In this way we shall be ready for life and even for death. It is now we prepare for death; not by being morbid, but by living in such a way today, that if tomorrow never comes we will be ready.  

16th Sunday of the Year

16thSunday of the Year ( C ) 2019

Martha and Mary were sisters. They were also friends of Jesus. When ever he was in the area he would call in at their house. He loved to do this because of their friendship and hospitality.  This gospel of often misunderstood, in my opinion: Jesus isn’t saying Mary is better than Martha. Look at the scenario. Jesus has been out ministering all day. He comes to his friends’ house, he is tired and hungry.  Martha prepares the food for the meal while Mary listens to him; she sat down at his feet. Now just suppose Martha also sat down at Jesus feet. Remember Jesus is tired and hungry. After a while what do you think he would say? I don’t think he’d say oh thank you ladies for sitting at my feet and listening to me. No. Surely he would say: “Oi, I’m starving! Whose going to prepare the meal?” or words to that effect. 

Notice what Jesus criticizes Martha for, he says: “You worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one”. He criticizes her because she worries and frets about so many things.  But isn’t she like so many of us. Don’t we all worry and fret about things. Who doesn’t worry and fret about money, or the lack of it, or about our health of someone else’s? Who doesn’t worry and fret about the world we are living in; global warming, the environment, the violence in our society; just to name a few things. Is it wrong to worry? Is Jesus saying that we lack faith because we worry. No, I don’t think so. Notice what he says to Mary, notice the last words: “Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed, only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part”. Notice that: ‘It is Mary who has chosen the better part”. And what is Mary doing? She is listening to Jesus. 

The problem we have with worrying is that we get absorbed in the worry and can think of nothing else. I rang a friend of mine up recently, he had had a heart attack. When I spoke to him I said “you don’t sound very worried”. He said “I’m not, my wife does enough of that for both of us”.  But isn’t it true: when you are something you are worried about it can be that it takes over your whole existence. You wake up in the morning and straight away are worried. You go through the day and can’t think of nothing else. Then at night you take sleeping pills because your worries keeps you awake. It becomes the be all and end all of your being. But as Christians we are not meant to worry like this. 

Jesus doesn’t tell Martha to stop working; he doesn’t say: come and sit at my feet and listen to me. He just tells her to stop worrying. He tells her in the midst of her worries to listen to him. My sister likes to listen to BBC radio while she’s washing or ironing. She is doing two things at once. It isn’t a problem for her. But in a similar way this is what Jesus is saying to us: “in the midst of your worries listen to me. Don’t be so absorbed in your worries that you forget all about me. I am here at your side to help you, to lighten the burden. Can you not hear me calling to you?” 

So tonight when you mothers and wives are slaving over a hot cooker and your husband and children are sat down watching the tv, don’t complain to them. Complain rather to God who is with you. In the midst of your troubles and woes listen to him.