28 July 2015

Not That El Camino: or, God Can Speak through Tee Shirts, Too

I wanted to write about the El Camino I saw on Saturday-- the feast of St. James the Greater, or as he is also known, Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moorslayer).  

And I will tell you up front that this post will be rather long-- I haven't posted in eight days, so deal with it.

I speak not of the official car of 1970s Arnold, MO, but, rather, of el Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage route to the tomb of St. James the Greater in Santiago de Compostela.  I should say "routes", because there are several main ones, with the most popular one being the Camino Frances, which begins (for most) at the town of St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France.  It crosses the Pyrenees into Roncesvalles, and continues in the northern third of Spain through Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, and Astorga, finishing in Galicia. 800 km in all, or about 500 miles.

A list of famous pilgrims on the Camino would be long, but St. Francis of Assisi took it, and St. Ignatius of Loyola took it. That is inspiring. Perhaps slightly less inspiring, so did Jenna Bush.

The full Camino Frances can take five weeks or so.  That is hard for a working lawyer to arrange.  In fact, it is hard for a non-working lawyer to arrange. At best, I could arrange two to three weeks, allowing for my practice; allowing for children's care, I could allow zero.  So, though I have long had the desire to make this pilgrimage, here I am in my late forties still unpilgrimized.

Those pilgrims who can verify (through walk-acquired stamps in their pilgrim credentials) that they walked at least 100 km receive a Compostela, a document issued by the Church at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which is rather impressive indeed.  So, many pilgrims who are pressed for time but who like validation, begin the journey at a spot along the Camino Frances to match the time they have.  The shortest distance places the pilgrim at the town of Sarria.  Some people with two weeks begin in Leon.  

I would not criticize anyone's starting point; the commitment to pilgrimage (for many on the way still hold this as a religious pilgrimage) is laudable, even for a walk of three to five days.  But since the Camino Frances is so hallowed, and because I pray to walk it from start to finish before I die, starting in the "middle" or near the end, doesn't satisfy somehow. 

But, there are other routes, as I said.  And so, I have set my sights on the Camino Portugues, which has its own famous pilgrim-- St. Isabel (Elizabeth) of Portugal.  The route can start in Lisbon, but Porto, where St. Isabel began, is also a traditional starting point.  It takes roughly twelve days of walking to go from Porto to Santiago, passing through Barcelos and crossing the Rio Minho into Spain at Tui. Hence, one can walk a "complete" route in the time of a typical American vacation.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I, and two of our friends, made tentative plans to go on this pilgrimage to ask God for a cure for a friend who was very ill.  We only had a minimum of time, and planned on a whim, so we thought to do the bare minimum walk from Sarria to Santiago on the Camino Frances.  As it turned out, we couldn't make that plan work, and so we refrained.

Now, on to the title of my post.  As I said, Saturday, July 25, 2015, the Feast of St. James the Greater, I saw a sign I believe to be from God.  Yes, it was on a tee shirt.  I was driving back home from taking my daughter to dance class, and as I neared an intersection I saw a young boy walking his bicycle, waiting to cross.  His tee shirt was yellow and red-- the color of the Spanish flag.  I looked at what was written on it: it read "El Camino".  Below some image was written "de Santiago".

I hear my brother scoffing as he reads, but I ask you: is it impossible for God to speak through tee shirts?  No, sir.  And I choose to take this unlikely tee shirt, worn by a child in St. Louis, MO, of all places, on St. James' very feast day, of all times, as a sign that time is wasting.  It is time to go walking.

It is time to make a real pilgrimage.  If I could arrange it, I would make it coincide with the Synod against on the Family this October. Certainly my sins have contributed to this mess, and a little (or more like a lot) expiation would do me good, and maybe, in God's providence, do some good for the Church.  If God wants that plan to come about, He will have to act in a practically obvious way to clear my schedule, because otherwise I see it as unlikely.

But I wanted to "go public" with my plan to walk the Camino Portugues in 2016.  If the Synod goes horribly, expiation is called for.  If it miraculously goes well, thanksgiving is in order.  And, really, I would like to dedicate it to my wife in thanksgiving for 25 years of a wonderful marriage, and to seek forgiveness of all of my failings towards her over the years.

Now, far be it from me to suggest anything to the Institute, but wouldn't it be great to have a priest to offer the traditional Mass along the way?

However it may go, I want to go.  And with God's help, I will go.


Long-Skirts said...

A boy who just graduated from high school and his sister in her early 20s just went on this pilgrimage from our church, St Mary's Assumption with one of the society priests. Father took about 25 young people with him. They're on their way back to St. Louis as I write. I pray you and your wife will be able to make this pilgrimage.

The Riopel Family said...

We have started planning and stopped planning three times now. My 6 kids are ages 20 down to 9 so it would be a while before I could go for more than 12-14 days and that leaves me the bare minimum for the walk. I am with you in that I want to walk the whole thing (how long will that take?!) so it may have to wait until my youngest is 18 but I keep thinking that, if it is God's will, plans will start falling into place. I hope you get to go (so you can tell me what to do and, more importantly, what NOT to do). I can' t help but think that it would be such a life changing and soul changing experience. And, I love the many ways that God reveals His holy will for us....even t-shirts :)

dulac90 said...

Still in...even if I have to push your wheelchair! Only death can prove me wrong.

Lynne said...

I would love to walk this too. Given that I'm a contractor and so if I don't work, I don't get paid, I don't know how I'd afford it but with God, all things are possible...

Anonymous said...

My husband and I plan to do this. We are going to take our kids which I know can be a unique way of doing this but we only have three. We have friends that have been and it is doubtful we will do the whole way. We generally head for warm weather and beaches so this will be a more serious trip for us.