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





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





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





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





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





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





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




The Signs of the Times. October 24, 2014

A couple of evenings ago, I celebrated a memorable Mass outside the cathedral in Leon. I created a meg-shift altar using metal tables from a cafe and my I Phone for the readings and prayers of the Liturgy.
I brought the rest of the necessary articles for saying mass and packed them neatly in my backpack.

The mass brought together pilgrims from a number of countries, one of whom said he had never participated in a Catholic Mass before. They were mostly young who prayed with depth and faith , even if not familiar with the ritual.
There I was outside the beautiful cathedral celebrating mass rather than inside. I couldn’t have celebrated inside anyway since most of the doors were locked ( the usual story)
and the main door to the cathedral, itself, was open for tourists to take pictures and participate in guided tours. I did what Jesus would have done: celebrate the Mass in the open air, with streams of people passing by, looking and wondering what was going on.
At the homily, I asked them to share what was on their mind or in their hearts and the responses were amazing. Our young truly want to make a difference and they want to reach out and help.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is telling the crowds, US, to read the sign of the times. I tried my hardest to read the signs of the times at this impromptu outside Mass. And what I “read” is that people , especially the young, are hungry for the Truth that will anchor their lives. Four of the young who came to the Liturgy were in the Peace Corps giving their lives to help people in need. They are living the gospel and don’t realize it. Yes, they expressed the idealism of their age and we should encourage them and not drag them down with our myopic vision of life. Pessimism kills the spirit!
The Truth, who is Christ, is sending us into the world , so that we can transform it into His Kingdom. The Liturgy must be at the heart of this transformation as we are formed by Word and Sacrament. But the young are not coming to the Liturgy nor do they see a need to. Organized religion is seen as a barrier to spiritual growth with outdated traditions and teachings.
How can we mend the disconnect ?
We have to witness to our love of Christ, that we KNOW Him and FOLLOW His way. Beginning with the catechism and doctrine is a sure fire way to fail. Jesus can get lost very easy in many expressions of Catholicism.
Yes, we must read the signs of the times… These times NOW. Our Church should be present to the “crowds” of pilgrims, welcoming them with the doors of the church wide open!!!!! And I mean the physical building!! The Church should respond to the times we are living and meet these young where they are at and listen to their hopes AND their fears.
Instead, our churches and beautiful cathedrals are being turned into dens of tourist traps and , worse yet, museums. Many of these magnificent buildings that speak our Faith are being turned into lifeless museums.
It is wonderful to celebrate the Liturgy outside, but just as wonderful gather people inside, close to the altar where they can feel less overwhelmed. Too often people enter these impressive worship spaces (during limited hours) and sense that they are foreigners, not know how to act or what is appropriate. The physical building of the church needs to speak our faith through windows and light, statues , icons, incorporating these expressions in an organized way that has narrative and meaning. The Liturgy, the living celebration of Christ’s love for us , must be at the heart of how the building speaks our faith.
The Catholic Church is missing a phenomenal opportunity to see in this Pilgrimage to Santiago a way to begin to bridge the disconnect , by being present to the pilgrims as they enter the towns and cities along the Way: open the churches, forget the siesta since most pilgrims finish walking around three in the afternoon and are thirsty and hungry, have priests and lay leaders available who speak a variety of languages, have the Mass and prayer offered everyday. The church can be alive and present by reaching out to hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, listening to them ….reading the signs of the times.

Buen camino. Fr. Frank





The Deposition. October 22, 2014

At every trial, a court reporter “takes down” every word spoken by all involved in a trial. A “deposition” is an accurate ,word for word account, aimed at getting to the truth.

In catholic tradition, after Jesus died on the Cross, He is “taken down,” or “deposed,” hence the Deposition. This ” taking down ” off the cross the lifeless body of Jesus, aims at getting to the Truth of all human existence. God entered our life in incarnation and witnessed to the greatness of God’s Love by giving His very Life. This sacrifice of love is what pulses through the human family AND all creation and the cosmos.
Sacrificial Love, every good parent or friend understands exactly what I am saying… is a love that doesn’t “make sense,” nor can it be measured. It is lived, and only later, reflected upon.
The Deposition of Jesus from the Cross expresses the Truth, the absolute Truth. that God’s Love has undone whatever happened at the moment we call the “original sin.” Love undoes the harm and alienation caused by our own act of sin. Love “untied the knot,” so to speak, freeing us to love in the same way.

Rarely does one see the crucifix above the altar portraying the lifeless body of Jesus being taken down from the cross but I found such a church in one of the villages. I was so taken aback by this portrayal that speaks to a part of the Passion we rarely think about : taking the lifeless body of Jesus down from the cross. This beautiful crucifix spoke the Truth in such simplicity of sculpture, as I have never seen before.

And now I write this reflection in s small chapel with an image of Mary holding the lifeless body on her lap: the Pieta. This is a very popular image seen around the world in almost every culture. Mary is gazing down in piercing sadness at her Son, her lifeless son deposed on her lap. His Body is limp in surrender , a Body soon to break the bonds of tomb and death in Resurrection.
Mary’s sadness pierces not only her son but the sadness of everyone reading this. Many the prayers that you pinned on the wooden cross during the liturgies before I departed for the Camino speak sadness. They are prayers that: ask for healing from cancer and so many other illnesses, like ALS and MS, reconciliation in marriage and family, freedom from addictions, fear and depression and a lifting from loneliness.
Mary’s piercing eyes penetrate out sadness with hope , the hope that only this seemingly lifeless body can bring. He returns… He Rises…Jesus, the New Adam and Mary, the New Eve gaze at each one of us, a gaze which transforms heavy sadness into pure JOY…the final stamp on our lives…JOY!!

Burn camimo. Fr. Frank





What Holds Us Together. October 21, 2014

I am gazing at the Cathedral in Leon, a magnificent building , built of brick and mortar centuries and centuries ago. Why is it still standing when most of our own buildings are lucky to make it to a century? Yes, the workmanship was meticulous and slow, but it had a purpose : to give praise to the the Living God , Who Jesus embodied and made known in his Incarnation and life. This “edifice” stands and is held together by faith.
In the first reading in today’s Liturgy from the Ephesians , Paul speaks of the LIVING edifice of the church being held together ….. standing…. secure in Christ, the cornerstone. We as a church are held together in Christ. We stand in praise of the Risen Lord and remain standing in praise….in His Spirit.
As individuals of the Household if God, as individual citizens of the city of God, we stand in and with Christ.
Without Christ, our lives slowly lose that which keeps us together and standing : His Spirit. Once we accept Christ, our lives fall apart without Him as our center of stability.

Sitting in the quiet and beauty of the cathedral , I was awakened by the God who entered our lives in unexpected ways. In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us to stay vigilant and awake for the Lord will enter life and He wants us expectant. I was caught a bit off guard as I sat in the cathedral and became overwhelmed when I thought of the voices of people raised in prayer for 800 years!!! In a sense, Jesus entered my life in the “third watch,” the darkest hour, as I was being bathed in the light of the sun (SON) beamed through the countless windows of color , telling the story of the People of God. It is Christ’s Light that shines through each one of us and our story in 2014 is very much a part of the same story told through these windows. Our lives can only have meaning and depth and purpose if we see our very selves as a part of the whole story. This larger story is incomplete without You!!!!!!!
Please….Please, awaken to your beauty and the part you play in the story, and history , of God’s pilgrim people, the Church.
Buen camino. Fr. Frank.