¡Buen Camino!

Dear Friends,
It has taken three tries and nine years, but as of July 2012, I have finally walked the entire Way of Compostela from my former home in Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, to Santiago de Composela!
My first pilgrimage experience from the French frontier with Spain to Santiago itself took place in 2003. You can read the details of this first walk along the famous Camino across Spain in my book, To The Field of Stars: A Pilgrim's Journey to Santiago de Compostela, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (2008). (You can order it from the publisher, from Amazon.com, or from your local bookseller).
In the summer and early fall of 2007, I walked from Belgium most of the way across France, with the hope of at least making it to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port near the Spanish border, where I began the first pilgrimage. I didn't quite make it. A bad case of plantar fasciitis took me down in the Bordeaux village of Sainte-Ferme. I continued on to Santiago by train and bus, but the "defeat of my feet" and those last 175 miles or so that were left undone, gnawed at me over the ensuing five years. Happily, I was finally able to wrap up this grand pilgrimage with a third walk from Sainte-Ferme to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port this past summer (2012). It was a joy to have completed all 2,370 kilometers between Leuven and Santiago.
My adventures and misadventures, my thoughts and prayers of both the 2007 and 2012 pilgrimages have been shared in this blog. I will leave the blog and its archives open for some time to come; if you want to read bits and pieces of it, feel free, but remember that the beginning is at the bottom and the end is at the top.
My contact e-mail remains the same: kacodd@gmail.com; I am always happy to receive mail!
As the pilgrims in Spain greet one another, so I greet you, my reader: "Buen Camino!"
And as the people of France greet their pilgrims along the "Chemin", I also wish to you: "Courage!"

Grace and peace to you all!

Friday, June 8, 2007

A Preliminary: Maastricht's Saint Servatius

On Wednesday of this week, I was welcomed to the beautiful city of Maastricht, about an hour's drive from Leuven. One of our College's students, Alexander de Graaf Woutering, is a priest of the Roermond Diocese that includes this city with plenty of roots going back to Roman times. Our visit was not primarily a touristic one; Father Alexander wanted me to see the wonderful Basilica of Saint Servatius ("Sint-Servaas" in Dutch) through the eyes of its pastor for almost two decades, Monsignor Matthieu Hanneman [http://www.sintservaas.nl].
Sint-Servaas was a fourth-century Armenian Christian who first traveled to Jerusalem, and then up to present-day Belgium as one of the founding "apostles" of Christianity in the region. From very early on after his death in 384 AD in Maastricht, the site of his burial was venerated by locals and eventually became a favored destination of Europe's Christian pilgrims.
Msgr. Hanneman and Alexander led me through the ancient basilica of Sint-Servaas, guiding me to a number of places not usually open to tourists. Their enthusiastic explanations and intepretations of what I was seeing allowed me to see the church's details as they see them, with love and appreciation for what they were showing to me was infectious. The highlight of the visit was being led to the burial crypt of Servaas himself beneath the floor of the nave of the basilica. There, Msgr. Henneman unlocked two wrought iron gates to allow me into the heart of the crypt. A stone sarcophogus was set within and though most of Servaas' bones were long ago scattered to many other churches in the region as relics, still here within the original tomb remain some elements of his mortal body. As this has been for many centuries one of Christian Europe's significant pilgrimage sites, I felt as I stood within the crypt that I was unexpectedly making a first stage of my own pilgrimage by joining the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims across the ages who had already visited Servaas. I set my hands upon his tomb, knelt for a moment, asked him for a bit of help along the Way that I will soon be commencing, and gave his tomb a little pat of appreciation.

These old time apostles have become special to me. Jacob/James/Jacques/Santiago did this to me: by following his Way three years ago I came to understand in a much richer way that these Old Holies are still with us and we are all brothers and sisters in the same family, one that is not bound by centuries or death. Jesus Christ took care of that. So having greeted Servaas to the east in Maastricht, I now feel ready to look south and west to Compostela and my old friend there who I presume upon to be awaiting a return visit.

On another note, I visited the orthopedist earlier today. He identified my problem as the meniscus on the inside of my right knee, probably worn and torn a bit. But if I can walk on it, he said, walk. So I shall walk, troubled meniscus or not.