The Narrow Path. October 31, 2014. Happy Halloween 🎃🎃🎃

Walking into Sarria, an important part of the Camino since you must walk from this town to Santiago in order to receive your pilgrim Credential, I encountered a pilgrim walking in the OPPOSITE direction, rarely a good “sign.” Yet, it was one of those simple signs from God that awakened me to what the Lord meant when he told the disciples to “choose the narrow path,” not the one that is wide open and free flowing.

I Asked this man if I was going in the right direction and on the right path. He pointed his walking pole in the direction I was walking and said, “Santiago.” Then he told me he was going BACK to France. He was on the right path for him, walking in the right direction. I, too, was on the right path for me, and walking in the right direction.

We all have a path marked out for us by God, and it is “narrow” because it is chosen just for us , with the right doors and windows open and all the others closed. This “narrow path” is the one that always leads to life and creates inner tranquility when we are on this chosen path. We have to learn that certain doors and windows must be closed and remain closed. A life with no direction and ALL doors and windows open is a life that leads absolutely nowhere. I have met a number of pilgrims who seems to be on such a path of no commitment.

However, there are always voices within and “spirits of deception” that beckon on to choose other paths. Often times we must take risks and make changes, but only ones consistent with our calling and temperament. We look at others on their paths and we compare our selves and our moods with our “perception” of their inner state. And we always perceive these people as happier and more fulfilled. This creates an inner restlessness that almost compels us to change paths by leaving relationships, communities, marriages , careers or vocations. I’m not saying that, perhaps, the narrow path might mean making a massive change in the direction our lives are taking. But this must be done in prayer and discernment with people wise in the spiritual life. If the change is a monumental one it must bring us onto that “narrow path ,” the one we left along the pilgrimage of life.
Just don’t a deceived.
Can you imagine if I turned around ?

Buen camino. Fr. Frank

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Samos. The Oldest Monastery in Spain. October 31, 2014

Last night I spent the night in the village with oldest church, tonight I stay in Samos, the village with the oldest monastery in Spain. And the Benedictine monks are still here praying the Hours of the Liturgy everyday. The buildings are magnificent, but upon my arrival, the doors are locked. They are supposed to open soon and many of us wait for the turn of the lock and an open door.

This seems to be a theme throughout this Camino and the first one, two years ago. Locked doors, locked churches and locked monasteries don’t make fertile grounds for welcome and evangelization. There is something very wrong with this picture.

The locked doors of churches might very well be symbols of locked doors to the human heart. I hear a sound now…. the lock is being turned and an actual living monk comes out and says, “un momento,” and the door opens. I will finish this reflection while the doors are still open and I can get inside…

Back again. The monk let us inside….a gift shop !!!! We waited to get inside a gift shop so he could sell us tickets for the guided tour. I bought one and at least got to see where the monks live and the majestic church where they pray, but it was all in Spanish so just spent time in front of an old painting of our patron : Teresa of Avila. Best part of the tour for me , which when complete , the doors were shut in an instant.

We all must see how our own hearts need to be open so the Lord can enter freely breathing peace and joy. A closed heart, like a closed door, prevents life from entering and leaving. We embrace only to let go and trust that new life will enter and it always does.
Buen camino. Fr. Frank

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The Oldest Church on Camino. October 30, 2014

O’Cebreiro. A tiny village of Celtic origins and my favorite place on earth , after Assisi. This village has pre-Romanic origins and has been a place of rest and sanctuary for over 1,000 years. It was founded by Benedictine monks in around the ninth century. The church and surrounding buildings have been restored and there are several little thatched roofed huts called “pallozas” still standing and are considered protected historical landmarks.

What draws many people here is a miracle/legend to have occurred in the 14th century. As it goes, a pilgrim was entering the village, tired and wearied, desiring to go to Mass. He wanted to see the consecration and be uplifted. He mentioned this to a daft, angry priest who ridiculed the man’s simple faith. The priest had lost his faith in the Eucharist…easy to happen. At the time of the consecration , the host was transformed into flesh and the Blood of Christ in the chalice boiled over onto the corporal or altar linen.
Needless to say, the priest had a bit of a change of heart.
The relics of the chalice and Host and stained corporal are enshrined to the right of the altar. The feast of this miracle occurs on sept. 8 and 9. And

and attracts over 50,000 people. The importance of this miracle is evidenced in the fact that the composer, Wagoner, dedicated his masterpiece , Parsifal, to this chalice.

This is the oldest and most beautiful church on the camino, particularly for its simplicity and warmth. I lit a candle in honor of all your prayers left at the shrine of Cruz de Ferrel. It is the tallest red votive in the photo, shining next to the relics of the miracle of the Eucharist. Light ONE candle in the darkness and that darkness is dispelled. The focus is not on the darkness but the light.
The most important candle in every Catholic Church is the Paschal Candle, the Easter Candle, in which the Light of Christ dispels the darkness of sin. In the renovation of the church, a hearth will be built into the plaza outside the doors of the church as a permanent symbol of the Light of Christ. We will light the Easter fire and the Paschal candle from this very hearth and carry that Light into a darkened church, coming to “light” by Christ.

Christ shines in the darkness of your heart. He is that one Light you must focus on, especially when grief, anger , bitterness and loneliness seem to overwhelm. Each one of us is to become a living “candle ” a candle in human form, shining the brightness of Christ’s love on those you meet.
Buen camino. Fr. Frank

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Ascent To God. October 29, 2014

This was the hardest day on the journey so far. I don’t remember the climb up the mountain into the tiny village of O’Cebreiro to have been this difficult and treacherous. A woman fell off the side of a steep incline as a small herd of cattle came at her from around the bend. I heard her screaming and another pilgrim nearby told me he saw what had happened. We both went to the edge and stayed with her until she was able to get her bearings. Then we helped her get up onto the path. She was totally fine, thanks be to God. I saw her later on in O’Cebreiro and she seemed great.

Mountains figure quite a bit in Scripture and in many of the spiritual writings in a number of religious traditions.
Jesus brought Peter , james and john up the mountain of Transfiguration… They “ascended” this mountain to experience jesus in his glory. But ascending ANY mountain always involves discomfort and even pain.

Ascending the Galician mountains was very difficult and painful for me. St. John of the Cross titled his most famous poem as the Ascent of Mt Carmel. This poem, in which we get the Dark Night of the Soul, is a beautiful metaphor on the soul’s journey to God being a struggle like ascending a mountain. In the struggle, we gradually surrender our selfishness and ego, our “false self”, and allow the Spirit of Christ to possess our hearts. We then become rooted in our “true self” , the self rooted in God. When we live out of this self, our lives have purpose and joy.
Ascending to God involves sacrifice and letting go, never an easy endeavor. This journey has reminded me that God calls each one to accept the challenge to “ascend ” in spirit the mount of transfiguration. But it will most certainly involve many difficulties
It is easy to live in the false security of the self that clings and controls and manipulates life. If i am this kind person, I will not be a good person to be around.

Let us join the saints as we ascend out of this way of living into a life of selfless love. The tears that we shed as we ascend are tears of remorse at how much we have wasted life. The greatest enemy of this ascent is fear, the fear to change and be changed.
If we surrender to the ascent, our tears of remorse will be transformed into tears of Joy.
Buen camino. Fr. Frank

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Mass at the Cruz de Ferrel. October 27, 2014

The high point of this Camino happened at the highest altitude of the entire Way. This is the shrine where I brought the hundreds of prayers placed on the wooden cross, the many holy cards of memory, and a small rock from the foundation of our church building. I also brought a tiny part of the black metal grill that was a part of the original 1962 church that was removed during the 1988 renovation.
I prayed the Mass with two other pilgrims right at the foot of the shrine.
What an amazing and powerful sight: to see mounds of rocks and stones representing things that needed to be let go of, the heavy inner baggage that ways us down. Underneath these stones were prayers of desire and I am sure, desperation. Plunged in the middle of this shrine of memory and burden, is the Cross of Christ , sitting atop its massive thin pedestal.

The Cross penetrates our hearts, transforming pain and suffering and sin into new life. New life and purpose ALWAYS….always emerge from the Cross, freeing our hearts to beat in joyful love. The mass I celebrated for your loved ones and for the individual prayers expressed was simple and poignant: the earth was the altar, human hands became the ambo(pulpit), the sky was the roof and the sun the light. The bread and wine came from this altar of earth…and so did we who worshipped the God of Creation.

Your prayers and holy cards and a small part of our church foundation are forever a part of this shrine. Nothing more need be said.
Buen Camino. Fr. Frank

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Looking For My Abuela. October 26,2014

Two years ago I wrote in my Camino blog about a tiny woman praying in a wayside chapel. I went to that same little chapel and waited. This time she never came. I waited, hoping she might come. Talk about a long shot. Maybe she was at home praying or cooking or visiting…maybe she left this world and entered the gateway into her life in the Kingdom.
In any event, I saw this as a sign from God. Mind you, I’m not much into asking God for signs and I guess I would welcome some obvious Divine intervention if it were to come my way. But it appears God wants me to rely only on quiet infusions of Grace.
The “sign” I received in that little chapel on the Way was just that: a quiet, nudge from the God of new life that I needed to become for others what that abuela was for me. The emptiness of the chapel became filled with an inner resolve to become a man of deeper prayer. That’s it…real simple.
What a gift this little woman of faith gave to me : a struggling pilgrim trying to find his way. Prayer is the only answer: to pray for others.
Buen camino. Fr. Frank

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Galicia. October 26, 2014

Just entering the most beautiful and difficult terrain of the journey. Sasha made it safe and sound and is doing well but taking care of a sore toe. She’ll be fine. Laura arrives on Halloween just in time to start howling to Santiago.
I had to stay in leon an extra day due to the trifecta : flu, cold and shin splint. All three were minor but reminders that I still have a body that needs some care and attention.
So many of the pilgrims have had to take extra days and even leave the Camino because if physical ailments.
The journey is a pilgrimage of faith for some of us who expect there to be ups and downs and many challenges. But many pilgrims are doing this mainly as a challenge, an experience to test their mettle and strengthen their resolve. We all have our reasons. They all are in God.

This territory of Galicia brings a Spanish Celtic flavor , a culture that predates Christianity.
The territory is spectacular but very difficult to travel on foot. I passed by a
“fence of crosses” with hundreds of wooden crosses formed by tree branches embedded into the fence.
Very moving, for each cross had a story about someone’s struggles and sufferings. Each one of us could place our own special cross which would witness to the ways we help Christ carry the Cross. We are all united in our joys and in our sufferings. Our crosses all find their origin on the One Cross.
Tomorrow I bring all the prayers you asked to be prayed for to the shrine of the Cruz de Ferro: the shrine of the Iron Cross. I will offer these prayers as I pray the Mass ,hopefully, at the foot of the shrine. Carrying those prayers in my backpack has been a privilege. Thank you.

I also want to thank all if you who have written to encourage me on this pilgrimage celebrating our 125th anniversary as a parish community.
The many birthday wishes were such a help on journey that can be lonely and disorienting.
Buen camino. Fr. Frank

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