Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Outward bound

Thank you Archbishop John Vlazny
It is our tradition to spend the month of November (from All Saints day) turned inward remembering those family members, and friends, who have left this life. It is a season that Robin and I find both healing, and spiritually nourishing, as we allow sadness and grieving the freedom to move to the joyful recognition of lives gifted to all, and cherished for their being. The Thanksgiving holiday is now just two days away, and shortly thereafter we will move into the advent season, and Christmas. A busy time of the year to be sure, and one that often conflicts with lessons learned from our time spent walking the Camino (got to work on that). The emotional path from All Saints Day to Christmas is always journey of discovery and joy. Beyond the usual call to table, and Christmas gifts, there stirs a quiet and joyful anticipation. We await a birth, a new hope, that will forever change those who choose to "harden not their hearts." It is with this blessing of renewed faith that Robin and I will, once again, set out to walk the Camino. We will be leaving in early January, and will be walking, not towards Santiago, but towards Manresa (close to Barcelona) along the Camino Ignaciano.

Camino Ignaciano
The route we will be following is one that was walked by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1522. Manresa is where St. Ignatius spent several months in a cave gathering his thoughts into what would later lead to the very well known, and still followed today, Spiritual Exercises. We will fly into Bilbao and then make our way into the mountains of the Basque Country and to the Sanctuary of Loyola (in the town of Azpeitia, where St. Ignatius was born). The 400 hundred mile journey will take us generally southward from the Basque mountains down into the vineyards of Rioja where we will swing slightly south of east to parallel the Pyrenees. On the way, after Rioja,  we will also pass through the provinces of Navarra, Arag√≥n, and Catalunya. This is a challenging walk with varied terrain (mountains, hills, plains, desert). It is also a route that is not heavily traveled, especially in the winter. Robin and I do not expect to meet a single other pilgrim, but we will see. I hope to be pleasantly surprised. A little company would always be appreciated. Weather wise, the Basque mountains can be very wet in winter (or ladened with snow). We will have to see where we can pass through and where we might have to deviate (this is not a snowshoe trek). As we move further along the desert area east of Zaragoza can be very cold and windy. Overall, the weather in this part of Spain is probably best characterized as unpredictable. We will just have to take it as it comes. We will be carrying the bare minimum (12.5 pounds for me), but will still be well prepared for the wet and cold. As I recall St. Ignatius set out for Manresa at this same time of year (Jan-Feb). I sort of like that. My packing list is here. I'll post Robin's once she gets it fine tuned.

Pilgrimage is a call of the Spirit and I am always drawn to a scripture quote from the Book of John that just seems to capture what that means for me.

"The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from, or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November Altar

Once again, my November altar has been set and a candle has been lit. I bring myself to the presence of them as I light a candle. My eyes still cloudy from dreams of the night but my heart, as grateful as it can ever be for they have shared their wisdom of love with me.

My father, a gentlest soul I know; Janet, my mother-in-law who taught me to have some fun always though her life on earth was filled with sorrows and heartaches. She always knew the better part of herself; Kyungsook, my sister who left us when she was 39 but never stopped me from being so close to her; Fang, a funniest guy on earth; Teru who lovingly cared for me when I was young, alone and sick in a foreign land; Marcia, my neighbor who kept her grace and dignity throughout her struggle with cancer; Sr Peggy, I still remember catching her rolling eyes over a discussion of one of the Gospels, saying "booooring!"; Bruce, oh, the wildest man from New Zealand; Kathy who died in Assisi, Italy, after wanting to be there for all her life; Deacon John, a sweet, sweet soul; Cindy a hospice nurse, tough and unforgiving on careless mistakes made by those less than experienced staff members (including me!) but is first to lend her helping hands for any and everyone; Janet Perkins, though I didn't know her in person I remember her beautiful presence when I visited her; Nicolas, a seminarian who's life on earth was so short. We'd never know why; Cecilia, a fellow choir member who has dedicated her life to resettling of those immigrants; Fr George who never fails to make me smile, his wisdom, humor, incredible insights he carefully kept hidden behind his light but enormous heart!

So they will reside on my altar throughout this month. My heart trembles with joy for I know the warm greetings will be exchanged as I go about the day, conversations will flow as I retreat myself to their presence and oh my, all the blessings I can't even begin to count as I blow out that candle as the night falls....

"Go forth with peace
for you have followed the good road
Go forth without fear
for God who created you has made you holy
has always protected you
and loves you like a mother."
St Clare