The end was in site, with only 60 miles to go until Santiago. You must walk the last 60 miles from the town of Sarria to Santiago in order to be “official ” and receive the credential of certification. I woke up in Sarria ready and raring to make it to Santiago for the third time and third certificate. The third time isn’t always the charm and it certainly wasn’t in my case, as severe pains in my gut caused me to walk at a snail’s pace, with each step getting worse.
I made it 6 miles until I reached a small roadside cafe where, thank God, Jessica and Anna were at a table sipping something. They took one look at me and knew all wasn’t well. I sat there thinking about the last 60 miles, 6 of which I just walked. Something deep down within me knew the party was over and time to call it quits, which I did. Anna graciously got me a cab and even paid for it. They both were sad for me but I knew that my health is more important than finishing and even receiving that certificate. It just wasn’t meant to be…God had other plans.
The Camino teaches much, even…especially when things don’t work out the way planned or envisioned. The gentleman who gave me my final stamp at the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago saw clearly from my passport that I left the Camino after Sarria. He looked up at me with sad eyes knowing my disappointment but I quickly assured him I was just fine. He was the kindest man to me at a awkward moment. He reminded me that I should return and do the last 4 days and receive the Credential. He made out a special certificate indicating I walked from St. John pied de Porte, France to Sarria. How beautiful!!
I’ve spent the last the few days in Santiago, alone, enjoying the city and people watching with great coffee. Called the doctor and am on antibiotics for whatever it is I have. Things are fine. Looking forward to Chicago and being in familiar surroundings not living out of a backpack. Everyone in the journey returned today, happy and relieved that they made it, and indeed they did. I’m proud of them and their spirit of commitment and perseverance. As I believe, the Camino doesn’t start until the moment you get off that plane and are home.
The experience of the Camino must be let go of so that its Graces may begin to work. We grow as we let go and look back at the experiences that have changed our lives and allow Memory to move us forward. But WHAT we remember will determine HOW we move forward…or don’t move at all. I’m so grateful that these people let me in on their Camino, for our journeys intersected in joy and hope.
I return with so many uncertainties and isn’t that the way of life? Everything about the future is uncertain. Where will God lead me, how will I know God’s Will, who are the people and friends walking the “way” with me, how will I deal with loneliness, illness, change and aging? Don’t these questions all sound so familiar? Life IS uncertain except for one thing: we have our faith which anchors us in hope and love.
And it is Love which always has the last word.
Peace. Fr. Frank