These are posts in which I relate the story of my walk on the Camino de Santiago with my friends Bill and Derrick in September/October 2019.
Yesterday I cut a hole in my right shoe toe, hopefully, to make room – not for my little toe but for the blister that had grown as large as my little toe on the side of my little toe. I put it on in the early morning knowing that I will have to find new shoes in Burgos, our next stop, or I’ll be walking in my sandals. I put my right shoe on that morning as gingerly as you put a cold, still damp bathing suit back on. The walk ahead would be about 19km.
We arrived in Burgos fairly early but it is a large city and finding our albergue for the night was not as easy as it usually was. We used a map app on our phone, using the GPS, and eventually found our way to the Church of San José Obrero, and Casa de Peregrinos de Emmaus, that had inexpensive beds for pilgrims. Outside the door was a sign that beds were for one night only and you could not stay there if you had been in Burgos the night before. We rang the bell and a voice spoke to us in an Italian version (we learned later) of Spanish. Bill and I both spoke English but we eventually worked out that we were pilgrim’s in search of beds and we were buzzed in.
The sister in charge met us and explained another sister, originally from Italy, was helping out for a moment but she would help us herself now and could speak to us in English. She asked us for our credentials – our pilgrim’s passport – and gave us a tour of the building. Behind one door was a continuous prayer group and she asked that we be very quiet as we walked past. Behind another door was the chapel where Mass would be said that evening and we were welcome to attend. Up one more flight of stairs we came to the men’s wing. Nice bunk beds, clean, bright space. Another pilgrim was already there, settling in.
We cleaned up and then headed into Burgos – going separate ways. I was searching for a store that sold hiking shoes and Bill was taking our clothes to find a lavatore to wash our clothes. Several blocks away I found a sporting good store and they had a Salomon hiking shoe with a wide toe box. The salesperson had better English than I had Spanish and he was extra kind to me as a pilgrim. He had me all set and on my way quicker than I had imagined possible. What this meant was that Bill and I could meet back up and explore the cathedral in Burgos.
We walked to where the great cathedral was, stopped for a café con leche and a bocadillo first and then just as a downpour hit we made our way to the enormous, and beautiful cathedral. It was amazing. Such beauty. Such art. Everything inside the building pulled my heart heavenward. Pilgrims with credentials received a discounted price to tour the building and as we walked through the massive structure there were many opportunities for reflection and prayer.
That night we ate a simple dinner together with the other pilgrims staying in our albergue and we attended the Mass together. When it came time for the eucharist, we pilgrims were invited to come to the front to receive the host and a blessing from the priest. I hesitated, knowing that in some parishes non-catholics are not offered the host. I asked the sister who was looking after us what we should do and she asked, “What would you do at home? Would you receive the bread and the wine?” “Yes,” I told her, “I would.” “Then go forward.” She told me. There were many holy moments on this Camino for me but standing in front of the priest, receiving the Host from him and having him lay his hands on my head and pray a blessing on me was one of the most powerful. My eyes were full of tears and my heart was full of love.
Later, after our meal, we sat together and the sister led us in a time of sharing, reflection and prayer together with our fellow pilgrims. This was the blessing that we prayed together:
Lord, bless the pilgrim’s feet…Bless his suffering, the result of many kilometers. Bless these feet which have borne the weight of the day; bless every step of this way and bless all the ways and steps of his life. Lord, bless his history. Lord, bless his rucksack. Bless the weight he carries on his shoulders, bless everything he’s left at home, before leaving and suffering: bless his family his work, his relationships… May your blessing, Lord, lighten the weight of the day. Lord, bless his eyes. You made them for contemplation. All along the way, may his eyes become familiar with the beauty of creation, the beauty of each gesture of affection and of service. Open his eyes that one day they may meet you and recognize you! Lord, bless his heart. That all along the road YOU may be his special guest. Like the disciples of Emmaus, I say to you: “Stay with me, Lord, and YOU shall be my greatest blessing.” Amen.