Earlier this month, Bishop David Gillett, Ripeau Taurere, Linda Gow and myself reminisced on the theme of pilgrimage at the first Retreat of 2016 at Vaughan Park.
Both times I have travelled the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, I have become aware of the importance of gratefulness, the need to consciously be thankful for all the good, all the blessings I receive that comes each day my way. The Camino has helped me to know that God can become known in the bad and the good of life that befalls me. But for this, I need to remind myself each new day, to look with new lenses, for God asks me this question when I am faced by a situation: what is your response? Entitlement, impatience, anger, frustration, sadness, envy; or can you find the seed of gratefulness in it somehow?
An example from our first trip: After walking the Camino, Linda and I line up for a long time in Santiago to get our "Stamp of Authenticity" to say we have done it. It is an important symbolic moment in the life of every Pilgrim, because those kilometers add up to very sore feet, moments of considering giving up, uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, and so on. We have walked many kilometers and have the proof of it, every kilometer. But within the last 100kms, Lindy’s feet swelled up, and so we needed to take a taxi for 10 kilometers, as she could not walk!
The lady behind the desk says, “Have you walked the last 100 kilometers? No we say, for 10 kilometers exactly we took a taxi." "Oh" she says, "You have to ‘walk’ the last 100 kilometers. You did not; I am sorry, but because of this, we cannot give you the stamp. But do not worry; we can give you another stamp.” I look at Lindy and see she is shocked; her eyes begin to water as her feet are now beyond sore. A voice within me speaks up silently, “what a lesser stamp; a second class stamp?”
Vocally now, I explain slowly the logic of our position; “we have walked much more than the last 100 kilometers and we were told you only need to do 100 kilometers!” “Yes”, she says, “that is true, but if you had read the document properly, the last 100 has to be done on foot!” She shows us the form, but our Spanish is not that good!
Now I muster the big guns, “Did you know”, I say in my most compassionate and holy of voices, “that I am a priest and the Bible talks about the spirit and the letter of the Law! Surely, this is about the spirit of the law being applied, as my wife has been hurt?” She counters, “There are many who walk the Camino and do the 100 kilometers and are not priests;
A deeper voice stirs within me, maybe the voice of God? It asks of me, “Why am I so quick to want to debate? Do I feel I have been done an injustice? Has a gross injury been done to me? Does it ‘really matter’? Why is it so important?” What willl be your response Iain?
I see with new eyes. Gratefulness for what Lindy and I have achieved.
We look at each other; Lindy and I smile realizing that this is one of the lessons of the Camino, to learn to respond differently to situations. We say to each other, “Buen Camino!” We say to the lady across the counter, “Bless you!” I go outside smiling, feeling a sense of lightness and freedom. I take a coffee in the Plaza. Life is good. A homeless lady comes up the table and asks me for money! Oh no….not another spiritual lesson!
On the second time, we walked the Camino, I had to take a taxi for eight kilometers! Linda walked the whole of the last 100 kilometers! After 700 plus kilometers plus, I walked up to the counter. The lady, a different one this time after five years, smiled at us and stamped Linda’s certificate. She turned to me and said, “And would you like one Sir…?”