I walked this Camino thinking that I might be posting, as I did this spring, nightly. Obviously, I did not. I spent much time thinking and contemplating, like before, but this time with a fixed group - All Saints Episcopal Church Pasadena's Transformational Journeys- traveling together as one. So some of the time I would have spent writing was spent sharing stories and breaking bread.
And increasingly, as the 10 day trip continued, I felt humbled. I didn't think of myself as a group leader per se. I was there to help guide people on their journey in my mind, to make it a safe space. A friend on Twitter posted yesterday :
Now that I think about it, a walking meditation group may not be safe. What will the church do if a member is injured or dies on a walk?I responded
Pilgrimage isn't about safetySo though in my heart, I knew that risks are always taken when one goes on pilgrimage, I was serving these new friends of mine in a way not to create the journey, not to create the spiritual space, not to inspire, but merely to make that journey just a little bit safer, a little less frightening, a little less scary.
In between the delicate spider webs, the soaring spires, the wide open fields, the rolling hills of forests, different people had blisters, and stomach issues, and sun exposure. Sooner or later, someone would wander far ahead or far behind. But the gentle rhythm of life in a pilgrimage walk keeps you moving and drives you forward, and you flow through and with and in that stream in community with others.
So as the days passed, I grew increasingly humbled that I had the opportunity to be a part of this journey with others. That in my own way, as someone who was there to care for the safety of others, I got to draw inspiration as they did, to find new insights into my own journey, and into my own failings.
I had another coincidence involving meeting someone from home. This spring, I ran into Nancy at the Cruz de Ferro. Well this time, my friend Ralph and I had been speaking this summer about his coming Camino. As it turned out, we ended up in Palas de Rei on the same night. He started in Saint Jean Pied-de-Port in early September and caught up with us on our shorter journey. I was thrilled to be able to sit in the Cathedral with him as he watched the botafumeiro swinging wildly from the ceiling. With both these instances, the Holy Spirit just wanted to remind me that we are never alone and that always walk with others.
My pack felt incredibly light this trip. Did I really pack that much less? I don't think I did. I may have packed more. But I felt strong and confident in body, which was quite ironic because I started the trip with a visit to Urgent Care in Madrid. You see, I felt I had a growth or something in my chin that I tried to attend to in Pasadena before I left but time ran out before my flight. So, I went to the Spanish doctor who gave me antibiotics which nipped the problem quite well. Physically, I felt fine, but I talked awkwardly (and unbeknownst to others perhaps, with discomfort) for a couple days. Everything got better with each passing day and soon I recovered.
The flowers had passed by this time of year but the weather was spectacular. Normally Galicia is rainy, but it never rained on us more heavily than a light mist for 5 minutes out of the whole week. This made my walk and the walk of others that much easier and made it easier to take photos.
Given this background, I was thinking about my three angels from the last camino. Thor, the one who saved me; Daniel, the one who showed beautiful love and life; and Sylvia, the one who cried at the well. (I recounted their stories in Walking in the Kingdom of Heaven). I thought of my journey in life, and what I was doing on the Camino this time around.
Every day we did morning prayer and we tried to do prayers every evening before dinner. At first we did it in my room, but then we took it out into the open and just did the prayers in public. It felt so good. It felt right. We were keeping the spiritual journey focused with these prayers. And we prayed not in isolation, but with the world, as we prayed for the people in Haiti, Syria, and our community. As a Lay Eucharistic Minister, I brought some consecrated bread and wine with me and surprised them so that we could have communion on our Sunday walk and on our last day walking. I was moved that they were appreciative of this, as I was of being able to share with them the Eucharistic feast.
So with all that, yes, I grew increasingly humbled by where my journey was leading me. A hymn kept popping up in my head that I didn't consciously bring along but wouldn't leave me alone:
Take, O take me as I amIt's a hymn from the Iona community in Scotland by John L Bell, of the Church of Scotland. I wasn't guiding, I wasn't leading, I wasn't pushing people along. Instead, I felt like I was just asking to be taken as I am, with the imploring plea that I become the person I was meant to be. And with the grace of love on my heart, may that love live within me. Not exactly the hymn you think a pilgrimage leader would have, but there you go, that's what was going on in my head as I went to sleep, as I walked over streams, as I broke bread.
Summon out what I should be
Set a Seal upon my a heart
and live in me
I got home last night, tired and a little under the weather. Not surprising I suppose because after the Camino, I went off to a beach-filled rest in the Canary Islands then to meet with a friend in chilly Mainz, Germany. But I got home, had dinner with Stephen, and then glanced at this weekend's readings and had to smile.
The reading will likely be used at churches across the country to talk about sin, idolatry, and perhaps even the current election season. But I smiled because I thought it fit with this Camino oh so well. I find it hard to think of myself as a leader in spirituality, when I am on the journey as much as everyone else is. But perhaps, that's what the Holy Spirit is summoning out of me. Perhaps, I've got to accept that it's my brokenness that my personhood is justified.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14 NIV