A Pilgrim of the Way of Saint James

I’ll NEVER forget my “second” arrival at Santiago in 1993, after a botched pilgrimage where I gave up halfway, hitch-hiked home, rested three days, received a telephone call forcing me to get back walking (very complex reasons, can’t explain here) (time between the phone call and me walking out of the door back towards Compostela was BTW lower than 20 minutes), hitch-hiked back to the Camino, and searched for my friends again thanks to help from a Galician Camino sentry in a Range Rover.

After our arrival in Santiago, we had gone on toward the Altlantic Coast, NOT Fisterra, where we had eaten a perfectly unforgettable meal of fresh-gathered mussels in onion broth on a deserted beach, prepared under a torrential rain and an open fire, washed down with the almost vinegar-bitter but delightfully pure white wine of the coast …

We started making our way back via Compostela, hitch-hike IIRC, and arrived under the Seminary in a back-street, in darkness, no moon, drenching rain, total silence — and a mediaeval stair up between an ancient wall and darkened houses, exhausted, hungry, longing for home, making our way up centuries-old slippery cobbles towards the single light we could see burning in the city up in the Seminary, not knowing if the door would be open, not knowing if there would be a bed, but certain that we would not be eating until the following day, but at the same time marvelling in and humbled by this fact of arriving in Santiago in the EXACT manner of the pilgrims of centuries before.

And burning in me, the knowledge that I hadn’t been a “true pilgrim”, and that I needed to walk to Santiago again, from my home at the time, “properly”, and with no compromises, no failures, no surrender to the weaknesses along the Way.

But with this dark and shining memory always with me, of this unplanned and unlooked-for and utterly beautiful mediaeval arrival, that no matter the difficulties along the Way, the perfect arrival in Compostela was simultaneously in my memory and in my future.

THAT was when I became a Pilgrim of the Way of Saint James.



Sublime image. (click on image for larger size version)

(I may point out some subtleties about this encounter in the comments, we’ll see)

“For The Poor”

My confessor gave a wonderful Mass at St Joseph’s yesterday evening for the celebration of our Patron Day, but I couldn’t help but feel a stab of black humour listening to both his homily, and the speech later given by our local mayor, at their remarks that “there are no poor here” (paraphrased) and “everyone here has enough to eat” and “our charity therefore needs to be focused on people elsewhere” ; paraphrased : “we here live in wealth and happiness, so we needn’t give our charity to any among us, but only to those living afar” — not only is this attitude perfectly blind to the hardships and poverty existing here and under people’s very noses (and NO, NOT “everyone” here has “enough” to eat), but it’s a complete betrayal of the very principles of Christian Charity, as our Blessed Pope John Paul II once explained them, in one of his more important homilies (given before I was even a Catholic) — Christian Charity ALWAYS starts with those who are closest and dearest to us, and then those living around us, those we can see, and touch, and speak to.

Pope John Paul II rightly reminded us that if we don’t care for and pay attention to the poverty and the suffering that we can see on our doorsteps, then whatever donations and aid that we may provide for those living far away, no matter how worthy our efforts may be, are not Charity in the Catholic Christian sense, because those who we are being asked to help in our own flesh, by our own presence, through the Spirit within ourselves, will have been ignored in favour of some distant strangers.

Our Blessed Pope also pointed out that this sort of help from afar reduces charity to a figure on a cheque or on some banknotes and coins (though I’m paraphrasing here), which is about as far away from true Charity that you can get.

True Charity is to be a Christian presence in the flesh amidst the poor and suffering ; True Charity is to be WITH the poor and suffering in our own persons, to be with them, to accept them into our own lives, our own hearts, into True Holy Communion with our very souls and with their own souls, in the One True Church of our Risen Christ.

Not this bourgeois masquerade posing in its place.