¡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!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Packing Up Gregory the Great

Waterloo (hopefully for the last time!). With an 8:00 am departure planned for tomorrow, Sunday, today is a "laundry and pack" day in which all the little odds and ends of getting ready for a trip are filled with a quiet excitement and a pleasant feeling of expectation. There is anxiousness in these activities, too. Will the tendon stay well? Will my knee hold up? Will the September weather remain warm enough for my summer-weight clothes, and if so, what about October? How much French have I forgotten in the past month? How lazy and out-of-shape have I become? Do I still have the gumption to get up and go and do this thing? Ah well, as with my last June days in Leuven before commencing this pilgrimage (for the first time), my interior response to the fretting is: "Your job is to just BEGIN; let the Lord and Big Jim take care of the rest!" So I'll just begin...again.

The laundry is now washed and pretty much dry and the sorting of things has begun. It is time to start feeding my socks and shirts and various gizmos back into the wide open mouth of Gregory the Great, my ever-faithful backpack (its brand name is "Gregory"; I added "the Great" in honor of the 6th Century pope who's feastday, by the way, is Monday, September 3rd). Keeping the weight down is, as always, the great challenge as I deal with Gregory, that and actually carrying him, of course.

The plan is to take it easy the first few days; it is about 60 kms from Tonnerre to Vezelay, the great pilgrim town built on a hill, but I'll do those kms in easy to digest "etapes": 10 tomorrow (Sunday afternoon), 15 on Monday, 20 on Tuesday, 15 into Vezelay on Wednesday. I will rest and visit this beautiful town and its basilica dedicated to Mary Magdalene on Thursday before continuing south on Friday. That's the project for this week.

So I am about to take up again the cloak and staff of the walking pilgrim again. I am happy but also hope that I am up to it, not just physically, but interiorly. This is a special kind of work, a sort of "ministry of presence" in the church and world. This is something I discovered in July and have had some time now to think about and relish. How often people along the way came to chat with me and share in a way in my Way. Sometimes, it was almost like they were saying, "Look! A pilgrim passes! Let us go and get a touch of his pilgrim graces!" I felt sometimes like a spiritual talisman or religious charm for them, as if they believed that by greeting me or feeding me or shaking my hand, they were being blessed by Saint Jacques and the Lord, too. There is responsibility in that: to be gracious to them as they are gracious to me, to be a blessing for them as they are a blessing for me, to sow a bit of hope or faith or love in my passing through their lives even as they sow the same in me. Few have ever asked why I am doing this; they seem to know, or it doesn't matter: "Once a pilgrim, for whatever reason, the pilgrim grace is there." I don't think I was imagining this. I look forward to going back to that pilgrim ministry now.

I'll post updates here as often as I am able in the days and, dare I hope, weeks to come. Thanks for following along!