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A Community Called Camino

A Community Called Camino

One evening after a meal, Paul said to me "God has a remnant and many of them walk the Camino". He was expressing a sentiment about the types of people who walk or are drawn to the Camino. What is intriguing is that all of these people form a community along the way. The community is usually not permanent, but many times some of these strands come together in unusual ways. 

On the first night after walking we stopped in a monastery at Roncesvalles, there was a young woman named Chloe who had set out to walk 800 Km from France to the Camino and then the 780 Km to the end. One week before she had an operation on her toes and was in serious pain. Max, also a veteran walker, seven weeks walking, assisted with the challenge. The next day some of the young women took her to a clinic and insisted she receive treatment. They took care of her. Chloe has not walked for many days but we see her as she buses to where we are to hang out with us. 

On the first days a little community formed around the Eucharist.  There was Fr. Peter from Korea who also brought a mass kit and we celebrated mass several times. Around us was Maria from Peru living in Seattle, Steve and Colleen who were faithful to mass every day, Maria and Colleen had foot injuries and they are now walking at a slower pace. Then there is the couple from Wisconsin, Mary and Keith, Catholics who keep turning up most days - a really great couple with energy and openness and joy.  

Over the last few days I have been walking with Chris and Sarah. Sarah approached me one day and we began a conversation. She studied environmental Science and I was intrigued. I asked her what her faith tradition was and she said Catholic and I further asked if she had read Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. She had not. That evening Maria brought her to mass. She has been at mass ever since. 

Chris met me casually a few times and then one morning early at a cafe we sat together and spoke a bit. Then for the next few days when he saw me he said we need to walk and talk together. That happened yesterday and it was a really great conversation. The three of us walked 42 km in very hot weather. Today we did another 30 Km in very hot weather. Long days but we supported each other along the journey. 

Today in our Albergue we met Grace from Paris and Emma from Washington State. They are full of life and bring great joy.

This is just like the life of the disciple along the inner Camino. People come and people go along the way. We are called to be present to those who show up and interact with us giving them the gift of companionship along the journey and also, we give them an opportunity for friendship and where possible development. 

The challenge for both types of pilgrims is to know when to attach and form community and when to detach and continue along the journey. The Good Samaritan did not stop his journey to tend to the man beaten up along the road by brigands.  He paused and did what he could do for him and went along his journey. On the other hand Jesus formed community with his disciples.

What is also interesting is that many of those with whom I have interacted deeply came only to participate in the Eucharist - just to be present in the ordinary of peoples’ lives. Then along the way they seek out a different interaction and a deeper connection. This too is a model of evangelization--meeting people where they are with their life questions and developmental challenges. No agenda just sacred presence.

In our inner Caminos let us become more conscious of those whose lives cross our path.  We do not know God’s intention for our interaction with them.  Grace interacted with a Frenchman earlier today and decided she did not want to walk with him. Many kilometers along the journey, he dropped his sleeping bag and did now know it. Grace and Chris saw it, picked it up, and returned it to the owner. Now she knows there is a connection that God wants, one which she does not yet understand. 

 

Every person who crosses our Camino, inner and outer, God has sent for a reason. It is our adventure to be present to discern just what God intends in this relationship and then to fulfil that call and be fulfilled by this great adventure that He invites us to. 

+ Bishop Jason

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Where You Look Is How You Walk

Where You Look Is How You Walk

We all learnt to walk when we were very young, or did we? Now that I am walking several hours every day so many things emerge. Did you know that where you look determines how you walk?

If you keep your eyes looking down at your feet you tend to slouch over which slows down your walking and shortens your stride. It also causes some anxiety.

 

If on the other hand you look up in the sky you tend to lean back too much which throws the balance and obscures the path. You could find your feet in puddles as well.

 

 

Looking at the middle view gives you a great sense of perspective, great balance and your best stride. You can see the immediate and into the distance.

 

There is someone I know who was walking through a town and saw a strange person coming from the opposite direction. They looked up to see in the rear-view mirror; to catch another glimpse of the person. Of course they laughed silly because there is no mirror when you walk! 

In our inner Camino where we look is also how we walk! Yesterday, Sunday I walked looking at the rear-view mirror for much of the day. All of the many stupid things I have done, and my many faults, my shortcomings, were ever before my eyes, a bit like the Psalmist in Plasm 51. This made the day a difficult day and it also meant that I was unable to finish this because I was depleted. 

 

 

Many of us in our inner Camino keep looking back with great regret. Each time we pause or have silence, we think of the things of the past and there, we are filled with anxiety and pain. For those who walk looking at the rear-view mirror, remember this is a Year of Mercy! In such a year God's mercy and grace is where we should focus. Walk to confession, lay all your regrets from the past at the feet of Jesus through the ministry of the priest, say the Creed, one Our Father, three Hail Mary's and a Glory Be and walk through the Holy Door of your diocese. God forgives all, bring it to him. 

There are two moments in spirituality; one is the rear-view mirror where we look at our sin sickness. This leads us to the experience of St. Paul in Rom 7:  “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  St Paul felt the full weight of the burden of sin in his life. If we stay here too long we will yield to despair.

The second moment is during the heavenly gaze, when we look into the loving gaze of God and know that we are loved and redeemed. Here St. Paul ends: “Thanks be to God for Christ Jesus our Lord!” He continues in Chapter 8: “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Wow! This loving God has redeemed us. We cannot stay here too long, for if we do, we will forget the truth of our need for redemption and we will slip into pride and presumption. 

To do the inner Camino with a middle gaze is to see the ground and the sky, the earth and the heavens, our sin sickness and God's merciful gaze. It is to stay in that place where you are present to the walking and to God and to the beauty of the environment. It is to live fully in the present moment. This is the goal of spirituality, to always be conscious of these three. 

Having reflected on this last night and this morning, a young man walked with me today.  He was looking in the rear-view mirror. Over the 42 Km we walked today in Spanish heat, he began to see God's face of mercy as he experienced the power of forgiveness. 

 

Remember for both the inner and the outer Camino, where you look determines how you walk. 

 

+ Bishop Jason

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Why Do People Walk The Camino?

Why Do People Walk The Camino?

This is a hot topic on the Camino? Many people open the conversation with other pilgrims with this question: “So why are you walking the Camino?”  At the bus station waiting on the bus for Saint Jean Pied du Port I was engaged by three young people separately with this question. Each re-emerged during the Camino in different ways. 

This is the story of Christina, who ended up sitting next to me on the bus that first night. She was tired and anxious as we approached the city of our destination and the beginning of the Camino. 

I was distracted by booking a hostel to stay that night as it was getting late. She was asking all sort of practical questions and I was part reassuring her and part scaring her. But we met and hit it off.  We met several times along the way and recognized each other. On the fourth day we were siting for breakfast in a small village and she said to me, “Rumour has it you are a priest, is it true?”  I told her, sometimes, not too often, rumours are true, and this one was. We laughed and she teased me for not being adventurous, for ordering a ham sanguage, and we were on our way. 

Much later in the day at Muruzabal Christina was sitting on the pavement. I went up to greet her but felt she wanted something more, so I took off my back pack and sat. Her story came tumbling out. Christina had lost her sister six years before in a car crash, and on the night of the funeral her friend died in a crash on his way home from the funeral. She was distraught, shut down and angry for years. The double grief led her to believe that God was punishing, vengeful and capricious. Her God-image came directly from her loss. God was a good place to put all her rage and anger.

I spoke to her about my loss of Shane my nephew, in September 2015 and about what we had learnt about Shane after he died; the great stories that we heard from his friends and the incredible impact he had on the planet during his short life. 

Grief is a very human emotion and it blinds us to the obvious. She was asking the wrong questions and so going down a dead end road rather than up a mountain of encountering God. 

The years of grief had its deep impact on her and she has learnt many lessons from it. Now recovering from grief and its impact, Christina has a deep desire to help young women make better choices in life. Her grief has become a channel of Grace and an invitation from God to experience His unconditional love. 

Christina did not come to the Camino; it was the Camino that called her to resolve the many questions that Life has thrown at her. By walking she has been resolving the questions, by speaking she is gaining perspective. Now she stands at a crossroad and needs to make many decisions--is God a God of judgement and punishment or a God of love and unconditional forgiveness. If God is love, then every experience in her short and wonderful life needs to be reinterpreted from the key of LOVE. This work will continue long after the Camino.

Here on the Camino Christina was able to speak about her pain, her regret and ultimately her need to forgive herself and others. By walking, Christina has fallen into the hands of a loving God who was walking with her all this time. She just could not see it that way.

During our conversation she kept saying that I reminded her of her priest back home. What she was really saying was that her priest and I both reminded her of God who was an unconditional Lover who was inviting her home. 

 

Why do we walk the Camino? Well the better question is why does the Camino call so many of us? It was the Camino that brought both of us together on that first night that we approached Saint Jean Pied du Port, and again, four days later to resolve many life questions. This is Grace at work in the depths and unconsciousness of our lives. If we can hear it, and if we accept it, we may come to encounter the God of unconditional love who called us to the Camino.

 

+Bishop Jason

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The Spirit Is Blowing

The Spirit Is Blowing

Isidore and I are twin brothers; both of us Dominican priests. Working together, with the assistance of Skype, we have produced numerous meditations which have been published on various media outlets. On this website we shall now be sharing with you a series of mini meditations on the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Later we shall touch on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

PROLOGUE 1

I shall never forget that glorious day when we were standing on the deck of a schooner   sailing between the islands of Grenada and Carriacou.  There, at the foot of the mast we gazed up at the sails embracing the strong breeze that enabled   our boat to carve its way through the waves towards our destination.

St John tells us that “the wind blows where it pleases,” and that “so it is with everyone that is born of the Spirit,” (Jn. 3.8).  Now it has been said the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit may be compared to the sails of a boat awaiting the breeze that would be its driving force.

In this scenario we can see ourselves as being like the crew of the schooner with the choice of hoisting the sails  so that  their boat might  be enthusiastically on the move  or of  leaving them furled on deck with their tethered  boat  rocking  gently in  port. The obvious parallel is you and I content to be laid-back, lack-lustre Christians or ones eager to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to be activated by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit which we received at our Baptism. It was then that we became Temples of the Holy Spirit – dynamic people who would lead lives that gave great glory to God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches): “By the Sacrament of Confirmation the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed,” (1285).

The Catechism also tells us:

“The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations,” (1831).

More about these Gifts next week in Prologue II

 

Peter Clarke O.P.

 

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Generosity! Extreme Generosity!

Generosity! Extreme Generosity!

One of the most impressive experiences of the Camino is the extreme generosity of so many people many of whom are on very tight budgets. It is as if the Camino attracts generous people from all over the world. 

I would like to give some stories of generosity that have touched me deeply. Two days ago I pulled into a town at around 11:30am, it was a lovely day, and the sun was shining and the sky blue. As I pulled into the first cafe a young Irish man saw me and before I could take off my knapsack he asked: "What are you drinking"? We sat for a while and had a pint together and then got up and were on our way going at different speeds. It was just his generosity. 

That same night a couple from Wisconsin went into a meat market to see the sausages, the place was closed but nonetheless the owner gave the couple some sausages. They cooked them and shared them out with all of us. 

Yesterday evening was the time to do a big laundry. I was putting together my dirty clothes to go to the washing machine to begin. Two other people in the room said: "Are you washing? Let us put a load together.”  We did, one of them paid to wash and the other to dry and neither would take money from me or the others. 

Last night also a young man from Germany asked me what I was doing for dinner. He said, “Join us”, his girlfriend and himself. Although we did not have a stove we managed with a microwave to cook a great pasta meal which we had with a bottle of wine which I bought. 

 

                      

 

These expressions of generosity are so common on the Camino. It is as if generosity is infectious on the way. 

Tonight I sleep in a different kind of Albergue. It is a Donativo; that is, for donation only. Pilgrims come and stay and have a meal at night and share the house of the family and then put a donation in a box when they are leaving. There is no agreed amount and no minimal payment. 

                                           

Here, people see generosity as part of the expected value system of the Camino and it works! You see, there are two ways of seeing the world: 1. a world which is a place of scarcity and one in which we must horde what we need, and 2. a world as a place of abundance and where there will always be more than enough. The first way is the system of the world; the second is that of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. 

On our inner Camino, how are we doing with generosity? Do we see abundance and act this way towards others by being extremely generous? Or do we see scarcity and hold back and horde. The early church demonstrated this abundance mentality in everything it did as is seen in the Acts of the Apostles.

 

Christians should be extremely generous! This was Jesus's witness. He gave everything He had. I invite you to reflect on generosity, how you receive it and how generous you are with you time talent and treasure. Remember, generous people are always very happy people.  If we fill the world with generosity, what a wonderful world it would be!

 

 

                       

 

+ Bishop Jason

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