Sunday, May 13, 2012

And So We Begin

I bought my walking stick for the Camino de Santiago in Lourdes (left) and I had it engraved with the name of my patron saint, Joseph. The man at the shop gave me the option of having my own name engraved. When there was a momentary confusion about whether Joseph was my name, or whether perhaps I thought that I myself was a saint, the merchant set me straight by saying, "That's a hat on your head, not a halo."

[NOTE: This is the beginning of a series of posts on the Camino de Santiago, which I walked with my daughter Marian in May–June 2012. At the bottom of this post and each succeeding one, you will find a link to the next in the series.]

Buying this beautiful staff hewn from what looks like the branch of a vine seemed to be a good way of reminding myself of graces received in Lourdes en route to Santiago—at confession Friday afternoon with a German military chaplain, at a French Mass Saturday morning in the crypt of the basilica, and then in the waters of Lourdes, where the strength of my intention quite overwhelmed me. 

With the walking stick in hand, I followed Marian to the train station in Lourdes. Thank God she has inherited her mother's sense of direction and not my own. On the train to Bayonne, in the Bayonne station, and particularly on the single car that forged upriver from Bayonne to St. Jean Pied de Port, we began to meet fellow pilgrims. The first surprise was that the average pilgrim appears to be closer to my age (60) than Marian's (24). I expected a flood of college students just released from school.

I began asking my fellow passengers why they are walking the Camino—what their intentions are. The answers included no reference to Jesus, Christ, or the Church. Peter from Germany, whom I liked immediately, pointed to his heart and said that this was the right time in his life for him to be doing this. A man from Italy, who spoke no English but made a game effort to communicate with me, said that he was making the Camino for a sixth time because he has found that the long march refreshes his spirit. Everyone I asked said they were beginning the Camino tomorrow, Sunday, May 13. Marian and I have decided to wait until Monday.

We took it as a good omen when we saw a man in a Boston Red Sox hat riding the final leg to St. Jean. There were further omens, all good. When I asked where he was from, John told me he was from Quincy, Mass., the hometown of my pastor. I knew he was telling the truth because he pronounced it Quin'-zee. When I asked John when he was beginning the Camino, he said Monday. Because Sunday is the 13th—bad luck!

Monday it will be.

[NOTE: This series of posts on my Camino continues here.]

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