Camino de Santiago ~ May 28, 2017, video of the sounds of the Camino and my favorite question. 

Camino de Santiago ~ May 28, 2017, video of the sounds of the Camino and my favorite question. 

I came to walk the Camino for several reasons. The Camino was calling me to “be” instead of constantly “doing,” and it was calling me to listen. Most days I woke up not knowing where I was going, where I would eat, or where I would sleep. That was a very different rhythm of life for me. It was exciting, it was adventurous, most of all, it was trusting God for my daily needs. 

I also came to listen. I listened to stories from the mouths of people who literally came from all over the world. We humans really are so alike. I also listened to the sounds of the Camino itself: I listened to the birds, and the wind, and  the church bells that were calling. Click here to listen to a four minute video of the sounds of the Camino. (The scenery is pretty nice too!)

Previously, I spoke of the question that I likeed to ask, “Why are you here?” Another fun question I posed was, “What luxury item are you carrying in your backpack?” After all, each item weighs something, those items get pretty heavy by the end of the day! My own luxury item is a blow up camping pillow, very lite weight, because I like to have two pillows when I sleep. (One is provided by the hostel.)

Some of my favorite answers to that question are as follows: John from New Jersey; a collapsible, plastic wine glass which was used at the wine fountain, amongst other occasions. Swiss woman,; small bottle of shampoo- backpackers recommend taking one  bar of “camping soap” that can wash clothes, body and hair. (Ok, truth, I also had a small shampoo.) Another woman from Maryland had a puff ball scrub wash thingy. (After experiencing all the dirt on the trail that seamed like a great idea.) A young man from Germany confessed his luxury items were a third pair of socks and underwear. (Now I am in trouble, because I also had a third pair of each.) When it rains it takes too long to dry the first pair of socks. Socks are one of your most important items. I am proud to say that I did NOT get blisters thanks to great socks and good shoes from the trail house in Frederick. (I give them a little shout out here as they outfitted me well with the big items, lite weight hiking shoes, pack and great hiking poles.) Another favorite answer was a German/Canadian who said, “I do not have a luxury item.” His wife immediately piped up and asked, “What about that heavy book you have.” He responded, “That is not luxury, I must have my book.” One person’s  luxury is another person’s requirement. Finally, my favorite answer was a man from Holland who literally walked out of his front door and was taking many months to reach Santiago. He left home with some shoe polish and a little brush for his boots, which he confessed that he threw in the trash can three days into his journey.

While Santiago is the usual destination, many continue on a few days more to get to Finisterre , which apparently is a beautiful coastal community and considered literally the end of the earth. Some pilgrims arrive at the beach, burn their clothes, and jump naked into the water. I cannot testify to that reality as I did not get to “the ends of the earth.”

I can testify to my experience, which, as mentioned earlier, I will be preaching about lessons learned beginning June 11. Finally, this is a huge thank you to the folks at Middletown United Methodist Church who allowed me this time of  learning and “being” on sabbatical, with an extra special thanks to Pastor Beth who did a great job of preaching and covering all pastoral duties during my absence. 

 I am considering making one longer video of the entire trip. If that actually gets accomplished I will post it on this blog. Meanwhile, this blog will continue to be used for helping us all grow in discipleship. Thanks again for joining me on this adventure!

Camino de Santiago ~ May 25, 2017, Santiago de Compostela and community 

Certain life experiences are difficult to describe. For me, walking the Camino is one of those times. I had done research, read books, read other people’s accounts of their journeys, in fact I had attempted to prepare physically, mentally and spiritually, (I even wrote a daily prayer which I used, well, daily,) but none of that was enough. There are so many parallels here to our life journey. (Some of a those will be brought forth in our early summer sermon series entitled, “Time Out.” You can listen to those messages, beginning June 11 at this link. Just click on the sermon link.)
Perhaps the sense of community on the Camino was one of the most profound. Community was formed not only out of the common purpose of walking to Santiago, and of being “away” and in this “bubble,” but community is also formed because of the nature of the Camino itself. One always greets another with the words “buen Camino.” The People who live here also want you to have a good experience. One day Paul from Ct and I were walking out of one of the larger cities together. Suddenly the trash man ahead asked if we were pilgrims, we said yes, and he told us we had missed a turn about a block earlier. 
This sense of community is what Jesus was forming in the world. It is found here. One is never alone unless one wants to be alone. On the nights where there were not big tables of pilgrims for meals, smaller groups naturally formed. It’s natural to invite someone to sit with you. So one night I ate with a woman from Bombay, the next night a guy from Sweden, the next a French woman, the next night a woman from Poland, and the next evening a guy from Ireland. (Yes, I did tell him how many American women love the Irish accent.) In each of these cases, deep, profound conversations took place. 

The sad part is that some of that feeling of community already began breaking up in Santiago, the very place we were destined to walk. Santiago is a big city and also has many tourists. The pilgrims become very spread out, that sense of community becomes lost very quickly. Even though I had a nice conversation with a woman from Australia at the Tapas bar, the conversation was different; less personal, less deep. 

The cathedral itself at Santiago must be one of the largest cathedrals in which I have ever placed my feet. Saint James sits above the alter, his body is in a casket underneath in the crypt. You can actually go up behind the altar and wrap your arms around his golden neck and tell him “thanks” or whatever you want to tell him. 

The pilgrim’s mass is at noon. They give a blessing over the arrival of the pilgrims and they announce their arrivals. Yesterday there was a big group of Germans, Italians, Koreans and people from all over the world. I wish I could have understood the sermon, but my 100 word Spanish vocabulary is not that good. Usually the giant incense burner called the “botafumeiro” is used only on Friday. It takes about 8 guys to swing it back and forth. It was originally used to get rid of the smell of sweat and odor of all the pilgrims. (I can assure you, that is needed for me and my clothes about now.) In any case, we were blessed and they used the botafumeiro. What an exciting experience! The Spanish woman next to me did lower her head a few times for fear of being hit! By the way, they are doing work on the cathedral, so there was no going through the famous door and seeing “Jessie’s tree.”

The pilgrim’s office is about two blocks away from the cathedral. It is there that the pilgrims await to receive their Compostela, or certificate of completion. A certificate is only given if you have walked the last 100 km. While I have walked 200 km, I was not eligible for the certificate. I knew that when I made the decision to walk in the mountains instead of the busy and crowded last 100 km. It’s a decision that I do not regret. I did wait in the 1 1/2 hour line of other pilgrims in order to receive my last stamp in my credential “passport.” It is the stamp from the cathedral itself. 

Finally, the food in Santiago is amazing. Any weight loss that I might have had was instantly gained back here! There are a few places here that still serve “pilgrim meals” for 11 €. (I ate with a Frenchman who had just completed his third Camino, this time for him was the Portugal Camino.) We had an awesome meal of octopus, a delicacy of the region and fish. After that, for dinner, it was Tapas all the way!

I should explain that there are many different routes for the Camino. All paths lead to Santiago. Perhaps the one I did, the Camino Frances, is the most well know. There are many paths from France, one from Paris too. There are different paths in the North, one from Portugal, and one that is called “primitive.” As stated in an earlier post, pilgrims from the Middle Ages walked out of their front door to arrive to Santiago. They also had to turn around and walk back home! (A few pilgrims walk back home today, but only a few. There were many more Europeans walking from their front door to Santiago. Some do the walk over a course of a few years, a few weeks at a time.) many also continue a few days more to Finisterre, which was considered “the ends of a he earth.” It was here that the miracle of Saint James happened, and there are two different tales of how his body, which was being transported from Jerusalem to Spain, went into the sea. A storm caused the body to be lost, the miracle is that he came out alive, covered with scallop shells, hence the symbol of the scallop shell for all the pilgrims. 

I am currently in the airport in Santiago about to return to Paris where I will spend some time with my girlfriend and her family. Then the end of my sabbatical will be a week with my extended family and grandchildren in the states. I have one more post that I want to share within a few days, along with a few other pictures and a video of the sounds of the Camino. Thanks for joining me on this amazing journey. 

Camino de Santiago ~ May 25, 2017, Santiago de Compostela, community

Certain life experiences are difficult to describe. For me, walking the Camino is one of those times. I had done research, read books, read other people’s accounts of their journeys, in fact I had attempted to prepare physically, mentally and spiritually,  (I even wrote a daily prayer which I used, well, daily,) but none of that was enough. There are so many parallels here to our life journey. (Some of a those will be brought forth in our early summer sermon series entitled, “Time Out.” You can listen to those messages, beginning June 11 at this link. Just click on the sermon link.)

Perhaps the sense of community on the Camino was one of the most profound. Community was formed not only out of the common purpose of walking to Santiago, and of being “away” and in this “bubble,” but community is also formed because of the nature of the Camino itself. One always greets another with the words “buen Camino.” The People who live here also want you to have a good experience. One day Paul from Ct and I were walking out of one of the larger cities together. Suddenly the trash man ahead asked if we were pilgrims, we said yes, and he told us we had missed a turn about a block earlier. 

This sense of community is what Jesus was forming in the world. It is found here. One is never alone unless one wants to be alone. On the nights where there were not big tables of pilgrims for meals, smaller groups naturally formed. It’s natural to invite someone to sit with you. So one night I ate with a woman from Bombay, the next night a guy from Sweden, the next a French woman, the next night a woman from Poland, and the next evening a guy from Ireland. (Yes, I did tell him how many American women love the Irish accent.) In each of these cases, deep, profound conversations took place. 

The sad part is that some of that feeling of community already began breaking up in Santiago, the very place we were destined to walk. Santiago is a big city and also has many tourists. The pilgrims become very spread out, that sense of community becomes lost very quickly. Even though I had a nice conversation with a woman from Australia at the Tapas bar, the conversation was different; less personal, less deep. 

The cathedral itself at Santiago must be one of the largest cathedrals in which I have ever placed my feet. Saint James sits above the alter, his body is in a casket underneath in the crypt. You can actually go up behind the altar and wrap your arms around his golden neck and tell him “thanks” or whatever you want to tell him. 

The pilgrim’s mass is at noon. They give a blessing over the arrival of the pilgrims and they announce their arrivals.  Yesterday there was a big group of Germans, Italians, Koreans and people from all over the world. I wish I could have understood the sermon, but my 100 word Spanish vocabulary is not that good. Usually the giant incense burner called the “botafumeiro” is used only on Friday. It takes about 8 guys to swing it back and forth. It was originally used to get rid of the smell of sweat and odor of all the pilgrims. (I can assure you, that is needed for me and my clothes about now.) In any case, we were blessed and they used the botafumeiro. What an exciting experience! The Spanish woman next to me did lower her head a few times for fear of being hit! By the way, they are doing work on the cathedral, so there was no going through the famous door and seeing “Jessie’s tree.”

The pilgrim’s office is about two blocks away from the cathedral. It is there that the pilgrims await to receive their Compostela, or certificate of completion. A certificate is only given if you have walked the last 100 km. While I have walked 200 km, I was not eligible for the certificate. I knew that when I made the decision to walk in the mountains instead of the busy and crowded last 100 km. It’s a decision that I do not regret. I did wait in the 1 1/2 hour line of other pilgrims in order to receive my last stamp in my credential “passport.” It is the stamp from the cathedral itself. 

Finally, the food in Santiago is amazing. Any weight loss that I might have had was instantly gained back here! There are a few places here that still serve “pilgrim meals” for 11 €. (I ate with a Frenchman who had just completed his third Camino, this time for him was the Portugal Camino.) We had an awesome meal of octopus, a delicacy of the region and fish. After that, for dinner, it was Tapas all the way!

I should explain that there are many different routes for the Camino. All paths lead to Santiago. Perhaps the one I did, the Camino Frances, is the most well know. There are many paths from France, one from Paris too. There are different paths in the North, one from Portugal, and one that is called “primitive.” As stated in an earlier post, pilgrims from the Middle Ages walked out of their front door to arrive to Santiago. They also had to turn around and walk back home! (A few pilgrims walk back home today, but only a few. There were many more Europeans walking from their front door to Santiago. Some do the walk over a course of a few years, a few weeks at a time.) many also continue a few days more to Finisterre, which was considered “the ends of a he earth.” It was here that the miracle of Saint James happened, and there are two different tales of how his body, which was being transported from Jerusalem to Spain, went into the sea. A storm caused the body to be lost, the miracle is that he came out alive, covered with scallop shells, hence the symbol of the scallop shell for all the pilgrims. 

I am currently in the airport in Santiago about to return to Paris where I will spend some time with my girlfriend and her family. Then the end of my sabbatical will be a week with my extended family and grandchildren in the states. I have one more post that I want to share tomorrow along with a few other pictures. Thanks for joining me on this amazing journey. 

Camino de Santiago ~ May 23, 2017, O’Cebreiro, in Galicia

Over and over again I hear of the culture and people of Galicia. Santiago itself is in Galicia, the region boarder is crossed about 2 k from the top of the mountain at O’CEBREIRO. Since I worked so hard in climbing this mountain, I was going to enjoy this little village situated on top of the world. 

Brierly states that, “The mountains of Galicia are the first object in 5,000 km that the westerly winds coming across the Atlantic hit, so expect a weather change.” Indeed, the wind was howling, the sun was warm in the day, and the winds were bitter at night. In addition, one could enjoy both the sunset and the sunrise over the mountains that seem to go on forever. Once again, I was on top of the world. 

The adaptation to the environment had the people build huts out of stone with a thick straw roof. (When I get a stronger Internet I will upload photos.) The people here in the Ancares mountain region lived off the mountain land by farming, raising cattle, sheep and planting big gardens. They have one of the huts open for visitation. In addition to being part of the Camino, this cute little village is also popular with tourists. 

The church here, Santa Maria la Real dates from the 9 th century and is the oldest existing church associated directly with the pilgrim way. It has administered to the needs of pilgrims since the “twilight of the first millennium.”

An earlier parish priest, Don Elias Valina Sampedro is buried here. Much of his life was spent restoring the integrity of the Camino, and it was his idea to mark the path with the yellow arrows all along the way. It was largely due to his efforts that pilgrims can walk the route today, especially without getting lost! Can I tell you how MUCH I love those arrows?

Today I spent much of the morning praying in the church. It was good to be there. I had tears of gratitude as my time here is starting to wind down. It has been an exciting journey! I also spent time just looking at the mountains and giving thanks, with Psalm 148 taking the lead. I gave thanks for this sacred time on the Camino that has blessed me beyond measure. I hope my writing this little travel journal has enabled you to join me on this journey. 

Since I have been walking to Santiago, but I know I do not have time to get there on foot, tomorrow I will take an early morning bus so that I can at least see the church and the relics that I have been journeying towards; yet the journey has been so much more. It has never really been about the final destination, but rather it had been about the journey itself. It is always about the journey!

Camino de Santiago ~ May 22. 2017 the last big climb and Spanish toilets 

Today I walked literally until the cows came home. (Picture to follow.) The internet connection is not good, so I will post pictures tomorrow. We are at 1,400 meters, and most of that climb over this mountain was during the last 5 k. There is a great commaraderie as people from all nationalities encourage one another for the steep climb. The saving grace was the little villages all along the way where one could stop for a snack or a bite to eat, and of course, the views. John Bierly’s guide book is often used by English speakers, and of the last 5 k he said, “gird up your loins!” For tonight, I am sitting on top of the world, and the view from my bed in the municipal albergue is spectacular! (I just heard they ran out of beds, glad I left at 6 am.)
I wanted to share about the basic needs along the Camino, toilets! Anyone who knows me knows that I drink a lot of water, consequently, I often need facilities. For the most part, there are plenty along the route. The other day there was a primitive hole in a wooden shack, which I will picturelater. Often you need your own paper, but what drives me crazy are the auto turn off lights in the toilet stalls. Most are timed to go off in a short time period. The first time I ran into that problem was when I used the stall after someone else had used it, and before I was finished, the light went out, and it was very dark. Sometimes your business takes a little longer than the auto timer thinks it should take, and once again, you are sitting in in the dark. This gives an entire new meaning to “Being in the dark.” Thank goodness for lights on cell phones!