After a chocolate Neopolitan and orange juice, I walked on and almost immediately ran into Daniel. He's from Oxford and did several research trips to Quito. And he's got cerebral palsy which forced him to walk on crutches. He began May 5 from St Jean and hopes to finish by July 25, on the feast of St James. A converted and devout Roman Catholic, he will need to do almost 7-8 miles per day to arrive on time.
We got along so very well. Although I walk quickly usually, and was walking slower to be careful of blisters, I slowed tremendously to walk with him... And barely noticed. We talked of pilgrimage, faith, Lourdes, Fatima, Our Lady of Guadelupe, fear. He seemed genuinely kind and happy all the time. We talked and walked for several hours.
During that time, as people passed us, we would Buen Camino folks and they would smile and give him the thumbs up. He extruded the nicest out of folks as they, perhaps like me, realized that our discomforts and challenges on the Camino paled against his.
It's not a race. But we recognize privilege and courage when lacking it when we see it. And he counts himself lucky. Felipe from Argentina stopped and since he sent his pack ahead, offered to take Daniel's backpack to his destination albergue. I fought back the tears.
While I tried to help Daniel by blocking others from seeing him do what we sometimes have to do in public on the Camino, Linda from First United Methodist at San Diego introduced herself, saw my labyrinth rosary, and fell into conversation with us. Linda heads their labyrinth ministry. She just gave a talk for the American Pilgrim on the Camino society about labyrinths.
We walked until Cirueña, a folly ghost town of lovely homes mostly empty because of government over confidence in building homes in the middle of nowhere. There we left Daniel with a South African woman Teresa looking for a place. Daniel decided he wanted to rest and lunch and press on to where Linda and I were staying. As it turned out he gave up his room to Teresa.
So we said goodbye. But first let me share something that happened with Daniel and Linda during the morning. I mentioned that I had Lourdes water to share with others. Daniel's eyes lit up. We said a prayer on the trail, and I gave him a sip. He dipped his head so I made a blessing with the water on his head and rubbed some into his bruised hands. He seemed genuinely happy to share in the waters brought forth by Our Lady of Lourdes.
Later on, Linda asked for some when I offered. She had the waters poured into her hands. She sipped. She crossed herself with the water.
Today, the hard to explain feeling of a call to bring the waters to those on the Camino was quenched. Not sated, but quenched. I felt like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.
Linda and I happened to be staying at the same Cistercian Hospederia. Our walk together was deep and touching. It seemed a shame to end it with details like staying overnight somewhere. The old nun was awesome checking us in. Very precise about us knowing the way to use the high tech keys and the rules. I napped. Even though I could have been done hours earlier, I wasn't tired. So I walked around Santo Domino de la Caldeza to take pictures and heard a voice calling me from above. It was Diane and Claude from Ottawa. They were on the third floor of the former Franciscan monastery now parador (first class hotel). They've clearly modified their trip much to deal with her blisters. They had already eaten and we're going to sleep early for a good rest. What a lovely way to end my day, or so I thought.
My Limping returned so I don't think I can wear sandals around town after all. So I turned to the cathedral and there's Daniel. He did walk on. He mentioned that he found out mass was at 8 and if I'd like to eat then pray with him. We agreed to meet at 6:45 with Linda.
In the cathedral I saw good art and most importantly the chickens that they keep in the east transept above us. There's a story of about chickens and the merciful saving of death for a foreigner by Santo Domingo so chickens are in cathedral, albergues, logos, etc.
We met up with Daniel and Corolla, a successful artist and property owner from Germany, who after her husband left her now does village water cleaning training in Uganda. It was a nice pilgrim's menu. I did not notice until later that in this town, I ordered a roast chicken without any sense of irony.
We were late to mass but that's ok. It was a fitting way to end a perfect day. We said our goodbyes but before we did, as we walked out of the church, I overheard Daniel give alms to a beggar and ask him if he was safe.
I may have shared the water of Lourdes, but I was the one who felt healed.
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