The following is the third 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.
Dear family and friends in Christ,
Today we leave from the city of “Caldas de Reis” and make our way 18.5 kilometers to Padron. We can use the shorter distance given that we are beginning to feel the effects more. Everyone seems to have suffered some issue, though no one is complaining. MariAngeles has her ankle wrapped but doesn’t say a thing. Maria also has had a cold and yet gets up each day to walk the distance. I have been fortunate, though I think I may have strained some tendon on the top of my foot; now I use my sneakers rather than boots and once we get going, with a little Advil along the way, I feel fine and use my walking sticks to the full. Everyone seems determined to walk the entire distance each day. Weather continues to be sunny (mostly 70s and a bit more in the afternoon) but with a gentle and cool breeze. I am sure to stay hydrated along the way, mostly uphill now. We are more aware than ever of God’s grace which gives the strength to go forward.
We are still blessed by shaded paths for the most part. So many homes have their own grape vines – not sure they can be called complete vineyards – that I can’t help thinking that they all must make their own wine! No time to stop and ask… But I do repeat to myself: “I am the vine and you are the branches… remain in me and you will bear much fruit.”
I try to accompany different members of our group when I am not praying and they are close by. I also have tried to be available for confession, usually in the churches we visit, but the opportunities have been too few. Today was a smooth road. The last part was mostly sun and road. We are meeting more pilgrims along the way. A large group from Malaga, a French couple, a younger Spanish couple, Portuguese Boy Scouts… It is interesting that all ages are to be found here. And they come for different reasons, many not even specifically religious. Yet, the Lord seems to be working in each of their lives as he is in ours.
As we get within a few kilometers, 6 or 7, Carlos again runs to the finish, this time along with his daughter Victoria. I am happy to just finish (today’s journey)! We gather little by little and settle in to have a lunch. It is curious that meal times in Spain are quite different from what we are used to… so we end up eating often and not trying to determine what meal is lunch or dinner. And then add to this, it doesn’t get dark until around 10 pm and, well, it is a wholly different rhythm of life.
God is blessing us each day but it seems in a special way when we prepare to celebrate Mass. This time when I go off to look for a place to do Mass I find the main Church full of people just about to start a funeral Mass. The bells of the town have been ringing, clearly someone known to all and the people are quick to gather and practically fill the church. It is curious to find many of the men of the town standing outside the church for the entire Mass (not because there is no room inside) – at least they honor the faithful departed. After Mass everyone processes down the main street out of town to the cemetery located where we entered the town. What a sight!
In the meantime, I have checked out a couple other options, the chapel at the other end of town is closed, serviced by the same priest who did the funeral. So we resort to asking the Religious Sisters who run a school here, “La Incarnación”, in the middle of town and they generously welcome us! I can’t get over the spirit of service and welcome that thrives along the Camino. Hope we can bring some of that spirit back with us… It is another special grace. The chapel is small but beautiful. The vestments are heavy and Sister apologizes, but really, what a small sacrifice for such a privilege. We pray mostly in English today. The first reading: “When Israel was a child I loved him…” Responsorial Psalm: “Let us see you face, Lord, and we shall be saved.” The Sister who received us so graciously, after Mass tells us the history of the place. A local man left all his inheritance to the Sisters for them to build a school for the education of girls. The school, though now coed, is full today and continues to imbue children with the Faith. As we pray in silence after communion the shouts and chatter of children is heard from just beyond our chapel. God speaking again? As we leave we find a group of children playing (what else?) soccer… It’s good to see some things don’t change. We are seeing the Lord in many faces here.
Everyone is tired. Time to get some quality sleep… it never seems to be enough. But we sense that God has more blessings in store for us on our last day of the Camino.
Thank you again for your prayers. We are blessed to be able to “bring you along with us”. God bless you and your families!
Yours in Christ,
Fr Edward Hopkins, LC