The following is the second blog in the series from Fr. Edward Hopkins LC, who is walking “The Camino de Santiago” the pilgrimage through France and Spain to the tomb of St. James in Compostela in northwest Spain. You can follow his blogs on the Regnum Christi New York Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RegnumChristiNY.
Day 2 installment:
Dear friends in Christ,
Sorry, I have gotten behind with a couple really long days. But here is a long summary of our Camino:
We begin our day (2) by a gathering at the local parish church. We prayed together and began our meditation, each one of us walking in silence for at least 15 minutes, usually much more. We didn’t come across too many other pilgrims initially except for a young man from Portugal – Andres — and a younger girl – Elena, in her mid-20s from Italy. They had met in Porto, Portugal, at the start of their journey and agreed to accompany each other. Both of them walked with us most of the day.
Elena recently had to leave her job for health reasons and so decided to do the Camino getting ready to start a new chapter in her life; clearly she was searching. She, like many others, came alone to do the Camino, clearly an independent spirit…After a visiting with her for a while (with my rusty Italian) she admitted that she no longer had a relationship with God. She then shared with me what she had never been able to tell anyone, some difficult experiences she’d suffered a few years earlier. The illnesses and death of relatives seemed responsible for drawing her away from the faith she’d lived through her school years. I tried to encourage her. It was huge that she finally shared this with someone. Elena seemed relieved and appreciative, but God would have to help her heal and re-establish her relationship with Him. I wanted to pray with her but it wasn’t the right moment. She needed that quiet time walking alone.
I later was able to walk and talk with Andres (his English was decent and we both spoke Spanish). He was about 40, divorced, father of two. He was carrying the burden of a divided family. His 18-year-old son lived with him and his younger daughter lived with his wife. What most impressed me was when he told me that he was doing the Camino for someone else. I guessed that he was referring to his estranged wife. He seemed at peace and had a very gentle disposition.
The walk was a beautiful one, amazing views of inlets of sea, bays and rivers… still a few more hills than we expected. This became a running joke since our organizers had assured us that it was basically a “flat” camino. I’m sure there are bigger hills out there. But we really managed well… Still no blisters or sprained ankles yet. It was close to a 20-kilometer day. We were a bit more spread out as we neared the end.
We’d regroup every so often when we stopped for a rest. But by the time we reached our destination, Pontevedra, we were ready to just sit down and enjoy a good lunch. We parted company with our two young friends who went off to settle in at the local “Albergue”, the simplest lodging available. They agreed to join up with us for Mass in the afternoon.
The highlight of our day came after lunch. The good Lord keeps reminding us that He is in charge and has only good plans for us. After lunch at a simple restaurant, I went with (my companion) Carlos to find a church where we could have Mass. We found St Mary Major, the largest church in town. There the pastor welcomed my saying Mass there, but recommended I consider doing it at the Sanctuary, a small chapel just a street away. Turns out Sister Lucia of Fatima has lived there for several years. She had been quietly moved around from convent to convent after the 1917 apparitions of Fatima. This I guess was so that she not to be bothered or questioned. She later settled in the Carmelite convent back in Portugal.
We had Mass in what was at one time Sr. Lucia’s room. Even more impressive was that she had experienced apparitions of the Blessed Mother holding a heart covered with thorns alongside the Christ Child. The Child Jesus (seeming 9 or 10 years old) had first appeared to her within the convent as she was taking out the garbage. She didn’t recognize him as Jesus so after scolding him for being there, she sent him to pray an Our Father and Hail Mary in front of the Blessed Mother’s statue. The next day she was surprised to see him: “You again!” When she asked him if he had prayed to the Blessed Mother, he asked her if she had done what the Blessed Mother had asked her! This was the start of a new effort on Sr. Lucia’s part to communicate the message of Fatima.
We were awed by the whole experience, discovering the place, the explanations that the women in charge kindly gave us, and of course the prayerful Mass. I thought it so fitting that shortly after we started Mass, some children peeked into the room. I motioned that they come in. So we were joined by two Mexican families (one living close by) with 4 beautiful children who assisted as well as anyone at Mass. The Lord seems to hinting at this theme of children!
We basically floated back home that night, tired but inspired!
We prayed for you in Pontevedra! Thank you for your prayers… they are being felt!
Yours in Christ,
Fr Edward Hopkins, LC