Walking with the Saints: A Journey of Grace

Through Fr. Antony’s reflections and experiences, we’ll discover the transformative power of grace, the importance of self-care in spiritual growth, and the value of journeying with the saints. Join Fr. Antony to reflect on our own spiritual journey and to cultivate a deeper relationship with God. This blog is a must-read for anyone seeking to deepen their faith and live a more meaningful life.

Introduction - Getting Ready

It's here. I leave for my sabbatical in but a few days. I am flooded with emotion as I think of the excitement of the adventure and the fear of living out of a backpack for three months. Join me on this adventure as I daily blog my pilgrimage. I covet your prayers and ask you to pray for me. 

Day 1 - May 1 - My Pack

Click on the link to see what Fr Antony packed

Day 2 - Basilica of the Sacred Heart - Newark, NJ

Cathedral basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark

I had a 7 hour layover in Newark, NJ on my way to Rome. I went to the Basilica which is the fifth largest Catholic Church in the USA. Gorgeous. The rector saw me and invited me to lunch. One of the many singular graces I am sure to come. Tonight I fly to Rome.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart

click on the link to see the basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark

Day 3 - May 3 - Montepulciano Italy

I arrived in Rome!!! After 20 hours of travel I arrived in Rome and met up with my parents who arrived at the same time on a different airline. We got a rental car and drove to Montepulciano about 2 hours north of Rome. We are staying at a friend's house. Thank you Russ and Lori. My parents experienced an authentic Italian meal made by Anna. She kept feeding us till we couldn't eat anymore then put out the next course :). My parents hope I'll put on a few pounds before I start hiking. After a walk, we visited the church of San biagio - better know as st Blaise - a bishop martyr of the 4th century. The fact that I am on sabbatical is beginning to settle in. God is working on my heart beginning to pray apart the layers so He can do a deep spiritual surgery. I put all of your intentions under the corporal on the altar for Mass. Continue to pray for me as I pray for you. 

Day 4 - May 4 - Assisi

If you are not aware, I am traveling with my parents through Italy for 10 days before I start the Camino. Today we visited Assisi. We saw where St. Francis and St. Clare are buried and the Sam Damino cross through which St. Francis heard the call to Go Rebuild the Chruch. Though I could wax eloquently about all these profoundly moving experiences, the grace that struck me the most today was how the saints are calling out to us from heaven. After visiting the tomb of st Francis, we were walking to the place where Francis was baptized. We did not realize the main plaza of the city was shut down for a medieval festival. It forced us to walk around the city. We ran into a small chapel where blessed Carlo Acutis is buried. An incredible kid who died at 15 in the year 2006 - the same year I join the Franciscans. Look him up if you haven't heard of him. I felt in my spirit he had called out to me letting me know that he was praying for me. The festival also caused us to leave Assisi earlier than anticipated. So, we went to visit the incorrupt body of Margaret of Cortona. It was one of the most peaceful churches I've ever been to. She is a Third Order saint who again I felt called to visit. Just knowing we have a family in heaven that is praying for us is encouraging. Moreover they call out to us letting us know they are our family and love us. I am simply overwhelmed. Thank you Jesus. I will leave you with a link to the most underwhelming part of the trip. https://youtube.com/shorts/JBdyBMCSj3c?feature=share  Why does our modern culture ruin beautiful things? You can check out my daily YouTube shorts for additional updates https://youtube.com/@Fr.AntonyTinkerFHS 

Day 5 - May 5 - Florence

We visited Florence today. The complete opposite of Assisi - busy, crowded, secular. The most palpable difference was felt in the churches themselves. I felt drawn to my knees in Assisi and everywhere I went provided opportunities for prayer. I was trying to find a place to pray in Florence as most of the churches double as museum's during the week. Despite this struggle for a moment of silence, I was struck by a piece of art at the Academy Gallery. This museum house's the famous David by Michaelangelo. In this same room is a painting titled 'Man of Sorrows'. In it Jesus sits on a rock staring at the nails of the crucifixion. The wounds from the cross are visible on his hands and side. It is clearly a post resurrection painting yet Jesus looks totally dejected. His sorrow is visible. As I stared at it, I recalled all the suffering Jesus endured and still not everyone believes. He suffered everything and even his own disciples doubt after His resurrection. The pain He must have experienced in His heart knowing that He has offered everyone a free gift through the cross and yet not everyone believes. Not everyone will believe. In the midst of a day I found it hard to pray, the Lord pierced my heart once again through His suffering and through His love. Take a moment today to be grateful to the Lord for what He's done through the cross. May God give you His peace in the midst of whatever difficulty you may endure. A final reminder to send prayer requests for the Camino to [email protected]. I have every petition I've received written down and with me. I am holding all of them in my heart at every church I visit. 

Man of Sorrows

Day 6 - May 6 - Siena

Today we went to Siena to visit the basilica that houses St. Catherine of Siena's incorrupt head. (I still don't know how I feel about the fact that the people of siena cut off her incorrupt head and stole it from her burial place in Rome). We also saw the cathedral of Siena, which is one of the most beautiful churches I've seen - you can take a look at it on my YouTube shorts. Additionally, we visited the basilica of st Francis at which a eucjaristihlc miracle occurred. Hosts were stolen from the tabernacle in the 1700's. The pastor called for a day of prayer and fasting then the Eucharist was returned. The hosts have remained fresh and in tact since then - 250 years later. But, the place that struck me the most was the home of Saint Catherine. I've felt the presence of God in many places - the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi... I now need to add the home of Catherine of Siena to that list. Pictures were not allowed, so I cannot show you the simple beauty of the place, but I felt a profound peace. It seemed to reside in the walls, which is saying a lot because she died almost 700 years ago. In the midst of all the chaos and noise of the world, it is really nice to find a place of peace. St Catherine is an incredible saint who spent her life serving God and saving the church. Life gets busy, and I get anxious. I need to imitate St. Catherine and stop more often to allow the peace of Christ enfold me. Let's all take a minute today and give Christ some room in our busy lives to show us true and lasting peace.  

Day 7 - May 7 - Naples

The blood has liquified!!! Three times a year the blood of St. Januarius miraculously transforms from a congealed state to a liquid state. This miracle has occurred for the past 300 years. The dozen or so times it has not occurred foretold impending disaster for the city of Naples - earthquakes, famines, plagues... Little did we know that the first Saturday of May each year his blood liquifies and stays liquid for up to 8 day.s. We did not plan to be in Naples for this event. We are here to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, but the Lord who abundantly blessed his children allowed us to be here to witness this incredible miracle. God worked out the timing so that we arrived just in time to see the rector of the cathedral walk through the church with this holy relic and display this miracle - see attached video - https://youtube.com/shorts/GVILaIUVm9w?feature=share. I am simply overwhelmed and at a loss for words. This fourth century martyr has reached out to me on my pilgrimage to grant me such a favor. May he intercede for all the intentions entrusted to me throughout this pilgrimage. I encourage you to look up St. Januarius and this incredible miracle when you have the chance. 

Day 8 - May 8 - Pompeii

Sometimes things don't work out as planned, and that is ok. We had a great day planned going to the cathedral of Pompeii - a shrine to our lady of the rosary built by blessed bartolo longo. We were then to go to a museum in Naples to see a famous statue of the veiled Christ. As it turned out we went to the cathedral of Pompeii on the 147th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone. This of course meant a huge Mass with half a dozen bishops, dozens of priests and thousands of people. We did not have the peaceful, prayerful experience of the church we hoped for. At the same time it was beautiful to see the faith of the people alive and the rosary being emphasized. Then we tried to go to the capella sansevero to see the veiled Christ by Sanmartino, which is one of the most remarkable statues in the world. Of course the museum was sold out. This disappointment allowed us to visit to some other churches and chapels with beautiful art and a lot of silence. It was nice to have some peace and get some extended prayer after all the craziness of the past few days. We also saw a beautiful poor Clare monastery with spectacular gardens. The Holy Spirit led the pilgrimage despite our worldly disappointments. Remind me of that truth the next time I say things are going according to plan. Tomorrow we head to Rome. 

Day 9 - May 9 - Rome Day 1

After a morning drive from Naples we made it to the eternal city. We saw The Basilica of St. Mary Major in which is housed the crib from Bethlehem. We also saw St Peter in Chains which has the chains from St. Peter's imprisonment and Michaelangelo's Moses. We saw the outside of the Coluseum.  Finally, we saw St. Clement Church which is built on top of both a Roman temple of the first century and a church of the 4th century. It is incredible to walk down through history. Thinking of all the Masses said at all these holy places over the past 2000 years I reflected upon all the Masses I've said and all the locations I've said them at over the past 10 years. From the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, to St. Peter's in Rome to small reservation missions in Arizona, God has blessed me with the privilege of celebrating 1000's of Masses over the past 10 years. I am grateful for each and every one of them and for each and every person I've had the privilege of celebrating those Masses for. Thank you Lord for the great grace and blessing of the priesthood and the Mas. May I have the privilege of celebrating 1000's more. 

Day 10 - May 10 - Rome Day 2

Our first full day in Rome and we took advantage by visiting lot of Churches. We went to St. John Lateran - the cathedral of Rome, St Fraces of Rome -where she is buried, the Sistine Chapel - where the pope is elected, St Peter - the largest church in the world, Our Lady of Wisdom - where st Catherine of Siena's body is buried though her head is in siena - the Pantheon, and the Gesu - where st Ignatius of Loyola is buried. I went to confession today at St. John Lateran. I did a general confession last month in preparation for the Camino. A general confession is where you confess every sin from your past life in preparation for some major life. Doing a general confession was a wonderful way to look upon my life and see patterns of sin that I need to lay down on the Camino. I went today to once again beg for the mercy of God before I begin the Camino in a few days. I need mercy. I am walking to beg for mercy upon myself and upon all the intentions entrusted to me. I encourage you all to take some time and do an in depth confession this month. See the patterns of sin that have emerged in your life and ask the Lord to break those habits that you can live in deeper freedom. 

Day 11 - May 11 - Rome Day 3

Today was a day of death. I have a bad feeling I'll be saying that a few times during the Camino. Luckily this time I am simply referring to what we did and not how I feel. We took a leisurely morning of prayer at St. Mary Major before we went to the Capuchin bone church, the catacombs, and St Martin Church. Most people are turned off by the Capuchin bone church because it houses the bones from over 3000 skeletons which have been arranged to represent death. It certainly is jarring to see all those bones stacked up, some are in habits leaning against the wall. They used some to make light fixtures and an hour glass. After getting over the initial shock, I was in awe. A plaque reads: 'where you are I once was, where I am you will one day be.' There is a painting of St Francis holding a skull by Caravaggio. It is a reminder of death. Religious are called to live a white martyrdom. We die to this world and live for the next. In the midst of all the joys of this trip I am reminded that I will one day die. Am I truly living for heaven? Have I given my heart completely over to Christ? May God give me the grace to do so in all the ways I have not. 

Day 12 - May 12 - Lisbon

I thought I was wandering, but Jesus was holding my hand the whole time. I flew into Lisbon today. I am going to Fatima tomorrow to offer the pilgrimage to Our Lady on her feast. (I can't believe I start walking on Monday). I arrived and headed for the cathedral. I knew the general direction I was going but was in no hurry. As I wandered through the streets, I came across three churches - the joys of Catholic Europe. Each one was a great blessing. The first was quiet and offered a great chance to pray. Also, an employee let me use the restroom even though it wasn't open to the public - fyi it's really hard to find a restroom in Europe and you usually have to pay. The second church was dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows - the patroness of our community. The final was the birthplace of Anthony of Padua. They call him Anthony of Lisbon here. He was born in Lisbon and became a priest here. One day he saw the bodies of seven Franciscan martyrs returning from Morocco. He wanted to imitate their example. He is my confirmation saint and we both took our religious names after Antony of the Desert. It was an incredibly blessed experience though I simply turned of the GPS and started wandering.The Lord was leading the whole time, I just needed to let go of control and let him lead. Another important life lesson I hope I put into practice. 

Day 13 - May 13 - Fatima

I cannot explain the great grace I experienced being in Fatima on Our Lady's feast day. At the place of her first apparition to Jacinta, Lucia, and Francisco you can walk on your knees to get closer. I was emotional and overwhelmed by her presence at that moment. I felt her reaching out to FHS and all the intentions I am bringing on this pilgrimage. I also felt great peace at the 'cave' where an angel appeared to the visionaries. No surprise since the call of Fatima is to pray for peace. The final grace was when a man called out to me to ask if I was a CFR - A Franciscan community in the Bronx with a similar habit. We talked about St. Anthony for a while then as I was leaving he said, 'The Immaculate Heart will be your refuge on your Camino.' Mind you he had no idea that I am about to start the Camino. He probably meant the Camino of life, but I took it as an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Mary's Immaculate Heart will triumph. She was reminding me to take refuge in her heart when things get hard over the next five weeks. Looking at all of your intentions - which I read aloud today in the Basilica at Fatima - there is a lot to offer up. I must continue to take refuge in her heart to find peace when the way gets hard. 

Day 14 - May 14 - Pamplona

We make our plans and God laughs. I had a plan today to travel from Lisbon, Portugal to St Jean Pied de Port, France the traditional starting city for the northern route of the Camino. I did not realize I was basing my plans on the weekday bus and train schedule not the weekend schedule. So, after flying to Bilbao, I adjusted and ended up in Pamplona, Spain. I will make the trip to St Jean Pied de Port tomorrow. This delays my start date one day, but am at complete peace. I have this sense that I will have a very important encounter on the Camino and starting a day later allows that to occur. It also gives me a much needed rest day after being on the go for two weeks. Most importantly it offered fruit for a lot of reflection. I'm stuck with the choices I've made. Some have been really good, others pretty bad. Most of the time I make an ok choice, but I could have done better - ie my travel plans today. This leads me to tell myself what I should have done differently. Then I start the repetitive thinking and obsessing over the decisions I've made. Then shame takes over and I live in self doubt and self hatred. God doesn't want that from me. I simply must live with my decisions - repent if they're sinful - and trust in the Lord despite the fact that they are usually not perfect. Most of the time they are not that big of a deal anyway. Big God, small problems. 

Camino Day 0 - May 15 - St. Jean Pied de Port

I arrived in St. Jean Pied de Port, and I am ready to begin my 500 mile trek tomorrow. The tourism office said it is busier than ever and it is hard to get places to stay. They told me to make reservations ahead. Now, instead of walking the typical 16.7 miles over a 3000 ft climb, I will be walking 21 miles because there was no where to stay - prayers needed. That being said, I had some fascinating conversations today. People come from all different place, political backgrounds, and religious backgrounds. They are all walking this pilgrimage for different reasons.  I spoke with a fallen away Catholic who was struggling with an image of God as this Zeus like figure who demanded we beg for love and forgiveness. She was turned off by this conception of God from her childhood so began to think God just wanted her to be good. She was really open to hearing that Jesus became man and died out of love so that we could be forgiven. He freely offers love and mercy, it is we who have to open ourselves up to the love He desires to give. We will never be good enough, but the good news is we don't have to be. We must humble ourselves and seek to follow the Lord and His commands. It was a blessed conversation. I also spoke with a woman who recently lost her husband and wondered how such a young man like me =) could have faith. She struggled with doubts. We talked about having doubts when suffering occurs and trying to persevere through them. I as a priest have doubts. They come to us all. I'm sure those of you who are married have had doubts about your spouse. We seek to love and trust through them holding to the deepest truth we know in our hearts despite the storms we are going through. Finally, a woman told me the Camino is like being in a washing machine, it will whirl you around but you'll be all clean when you get out. As with all things, I'm looking forward to the end result, let's see if I can endure the washing. 

Camino Day 1 - May 16 - Espinal

I made the 21 mile walk over a mountain after 9 hours of hiking. One foot in front of the other. I met some wonderful people and had some great conversations. First, I met three girls in their early 20's as I left St Jean Pied de Port. One had a huge pack that looked really heavy. My first thought was you are going to suffer greatly. I met a woman in Pamplona who had to ship a bunch of stuff back to the USA because she packed too much. I reflected on the things we carry. There are the physical things, but also the emotional, spiritual, and psychological weights that we carry through life. They tend to weigh us down. We walk through life with burdens that we hold on to thinking they will be helpful or we can't live without them. Then we reach a mountain and that burden becomes impossible to carry. We can become stubborn and refuse to let go or humble ourselves and let go of the things we carry that are not of God. I met an Italian woman who did the Camino in 2004. When she went home she threw away half of her things. She said if I can live out of a backpack for a month then I can be free from a lot of this stuff that burdens me. I'm refelcting on what weighs me down and what God is asking me to let go of. 
Sidenote: walking for 21 miles in 9 hours over a 3000 foot incline is really hard. I thought of every workout I'd ever done, every miserable football practice, every workout I did when I didn't want to, every time I chose to eat healthy. I did not regret a single one of those choices on the hike today. Those years of being a gym rat paid off today in a big way. Sometimes we go through a hardship and in the moment it seems terrible and we want to give up. In the longterm the Lord will use all of that preparation to help us make the pilgrimage of life. 
It was raining and cold on the top of the mountain. I couldn't feel my hands for a while. Along the path there are puddles and muddy spots. I tried to avoid them because getting your feet wet is terrible. There are certain areas in which it is impossible not to get wet or muddy. I reflected on life and how there are certain times that you just can't avoid getting wet and muddy. There are no steps which are good. You do your best and get dirty in the process. That dirt does not remain. It is not a part of you. It washes off by the grace of God and you find a new freedom in Jesus despite the difficulty.

Second side note - met an 85 year old woman doing the Camino and crushing it. Very inspirational. I got to the place I'm staying and the host offered me a beer. I teared up as I took the first sip. You really come to appreciate the little things when you are pushing your body. A piece of chocolate. The sun piercing through the clouds. Makes me very grateful to God. 
I had two great walking partners for most of the day at different times. Tom from Australia and Catherine from Maryland. They like most people I've met on the Camino are just getting over a difficulty - Tom a divorce and Catherine a terrible job situation. They've come to the Camino to encounter God and help them through this transition. As Tom said, he's opened a lot of doors from his past woundedness and allowed the Lord to heal them. It's time to open another door and let the Lord in. Amen to that. I pray God I can do the same. 

Camino Day 2 - May 17 - Villava

Arrived in Villava just outside of Pamplona. Hiked another 20 miles today, but it was not over a mountain and it was sunny all day, so it was much easier. My legs are now very sensative to every incline and decline. Inclines are harder on the lungs but declines are harder on the legs. My feet are also sensitive to the path they are walking on. They love soft dirt paths. They hate rocky terrain. This is especially true because I had to wear my sandals for the morning while my shoes dried from yesterday. My feet felt every rock. I contemplated how I am not as sensitive to the movements of the Holy Spirit as I was to the terrain around me. I noticed every incline, every change in the path. This is not something I'm normally aware of when I am walking. Similarly, I don't always pay attention to the movements of the Spirit. It was only in the suffering that I became aware. It made me grateful for the sufferings knowing that they make me aware of what the Lord is doing. 
I met two Italian young men from Milan - Manuel and Andre. We started walking together after lunch and the initial conversation began with the basics - why are you walking the Camino, what do you do for fun, what food do you like... After awhile Manuel told me that in the University many of his friends take pictures of themselves in the nude and post them to make money. He knows this is wrong but doesn't know how to talk to them about it. He asked my advice. I talked about getting to the root of why they are doing what they are doing. Far too often people have been treated like objects. They then portray themselves as an object because they feel that way about themselves or because they long for attention. His friends are more than objects and he can do his part in treating them with dignity and respect and seeking to break the lies that lead them to objectify themselves. 
As you walk toward Pamplona there is a road that leads into the city. You briefly walk next to this road before winding through the woods again. At one point I walked up and then back down a big hill while looking at the road that is flat and a much shorter route. I longed to walk along that easier path. Then the Lord spoke to my heart. He told me the easier way always seems like the better path, but if I walked that road I would put myself in the danger of being hit by a car and I would miss the beautiful views of nature and the view from the top of the hill. In the spiritual life I often want the fast, easy path while the Lord calls me to the more difficult one. I must always realize that this harder way keeps me safe from many spiritual dangers and draws me into a greater experience of His beauty and love. 
At the end of today, I did not want to walk anymore, my feet hurt and I was hungry. I am offering each day for a different person or intention. In this suffering, I thought about who I was offering today's sufferings for and it gave me the will to keep going. I hope to begin offering each days suffering for someone when I get home as to strengthen me to endure suffering. 
Two final sidenote: my parents pledged $500 to FHS. A dollar for each mile I am walking. We will put this towards evangelization. If you'd like to offer 10 cents or a dollar or more for each mile I walk please go to becomefire.faith and click on the donate button and in the notes write 'for the Camino' fund. This will certainly also motivate me on the hard days. It will also go to help fund many of the intentions for which I am offering the Camino. 
Finally, I am still posting YouTube shorts each day. I don't always link them but they can be found at https://youtube.com/@Fr.AntonyTinkerFHS

Camino Day 3 - May 18 - Puente La Reina

Walked to Puente la Reina today which is just under 17 miles from Villava. Started the walk through Pamplona and really appreciated all of the sign posts that point you towards the right path while waking through the big city. I don't know how St. Francis figured out the right path to get to Santiago. I met a couple from Ireland who wandered around for an hour lost in the city until someone helped them get back on the right track. The sign posts in our spiritual life are so important. They help us keep on track. Maybe it's a verse of Scripture or sage advice from a spiritual director. The Lord gives us those signs to keep us going in the right direction, if we will only pay attention. Sometimes we get lost. The Lord will send someone into our life to get us back on track, if we will follow them back to the right path. 

People who've walked the Camino say is takes a week for your feet to adjust. In many ways I'm really blessed. I have no blisters, no problems with my pack, no injuries. But, my feet are sore. Every step is painful. My feet are asking me why I keep walking. They are begging me not to. I know that if I persevere through the pain they will adjust. I also know that the journey involves pain if I want to complete it. The Lord calls me to persevere through my sufferings knowing that they will lead me closer to Him if I don't let them take over.

I had a few wonderful conversations on the walk today and many brief interactions. Everyone walks at their own pace. I tend to walk a little faster than others uphill but slower than others downhill. We all have to walk our own Camino. One brief interaction was with a lady from New Zealand who said the Universe called her to the Camino. I only mention it because I have no idea what she means. How does the Universe call out? She didn't want to admit God had called her to the Camino, so she personified the Universe. It was a brief interaction because she was walking slower than me but it made me really sad. It also made me really grateful for my faith.

I had a long conversation with a girl from the Netherlands. She said that she couldn't believe because she couldn't see. I said she couldn't see the vast expanse of the universe yet she believed what scientist told her about the size of the Universe. She couldn't see history yet she believed what scientists told her about the development of the world and the beginning of human existence. Why couldn't she believe in God though she couldn't see Him? She couldn't respond. Hopefully a seed was planted. All that to say I've met very few Catholics. Most people are on the Camino because they are searching. The Church has a lot of work to do. 

Finally, I had a long conversation with Leona - a Catholic girl from Germany who wants to stay Catholic but is questioning if she can. She hopes God provides some answers on the Camino. Her dad left the faith over clergy abuse. Her mom calls herself Catholic but is in to New Age stuff. The church in Germany is really confusing right now. Her priest seems to say the mass without any faith. Her story was really sad. I answered a lot of her questions but more importantly I tried to be an example. She needed someone who really believed in the Church and in the Eucharist. There were few good examples in her life of strong Catholics. At the end of our conversation she wanted me to talk with her dad as well. How many people in our lives simply need someone who is strong in their faith. They want to believe but as they look around they see so few who actually do. You can be that person for someone. It's a call to fall in love with the Church, with the Eucharist, with the Lord and let that manifest in your life. You never know who all that will impact. 

Camino Day 4 - May 19 - Estella

Today, I planned a 'regular day.' I've been walking about 30 kilometers a day. Most people do just over 20. It just worked out that way based upon available places to stay. A lot of people are walking the Camino right now. Today, I was supposed to walk the typical route just over 20 kilometers. Things were going great, when I met two locals with 4 kilometers left to walk. They wanted me to visit their church, which was on the way and I was glad to do. Little did I realize that leaving their church led to two options on the Camino. The usual route or a longer alternative route through the woods. This is the more ancient path that skips the city I was staying in that night. I walked out of the Church and went left seeing a sign for the Camino. When I'd walked for an hour, I hit a crossroads and checked Google Maps Only to realize I still had an hour to go. The worst part was I was an hour closer to tomorrows destination. It sucked the wind right out of my sails. So, I made it an offering. I honestly don't know how people motivate themselves to keep going through such difficulties without having some deeper meaning and purpose to the walk. Our faith gives meaning to our suffering. We can unite it to the cross and offer our suffering for the sake of others. My hour of walking in the wrong direction while tired and in pain was hard but it did not discourage me. It became a gift from the Lord for the sake of the intentions I carry. 
It was also encouraging to meet some faithful Christians who are walking to deepen their relationship with God today. I've had dozens of interactions on the Camino so far. Out of all of these, I have met two guys who are walking for a specific intention - their friend with serious health issues. I have met maybe a dozen more who are practicing Christians who are seeking a deeper faith and a closer relationship with God, most of whom I met when I concelebrated a Mass at the local parish. Most people I meet along they way are not practicing any faith. Some like the outdoors and are using this trip for a holiday. Others want some kind of spiritual experience but in a New Age kind of way. Today, was a breathe of fresh air. I had a lovely conversation with two evangelicals from England - Steven and Mark - and later with a Catholic couple from Florida - Mr. and Mrs. Long - all of whom are seeking to grow closer to God and deepen their faith. I did also speak with Leona, who I met yesterday, and her father Uri. Though he is struggling with his faith, he went to a church yesterday and just started crying. He doesn't usually cry and has no idea why that experience made him cry. The Lord is working. A real boost to my spirit. It's just nice to be journeying with people who are on the same page. We all need people to walk with us on our spiritual journey and to know we all have the same goal. Even if we are not walking right next to us. Simply to know we are on the journey together for the same purpose is encouraging. 
I was asked to share a typical day. I get up about 6am, I celebrate Mass and try to start walking by 7am. I then walk for about 8 hours. I start by praying along with an audio Liturgy of the Hours. Then I pray all the mysteries of the rosary. Early on I walk past some people. Others walk past me. There are some brief interactions but we are not walking at the same pace. At some point, I start walking along with someone and we talk for an hour. Then one of us stops for a break and the other keeps going. This happens a few times a day. I usually take a brief break to stop and pray in churches we pass, which occurs a few times a day. I take about a 15 minute break around noon for lunch. Between 3pm and 4pm, I arrive at my accommodation. I usually stay in a Pension which is a step above a hostel - which is a big room with a bunch of beds. A pension has a private room but a shared bathroom. I take off my bag and go to the store to get supplies for lunch the next day. I then spend a couple of hours doing the blog and planning for the next day. After some prayer, I visit the local church and grab some dinner - usually around 7. Then back to my room to journal and pray before heading to bed around 9 or 10. 

Camino Day 5 - May 20 - Torres del Rio

They say there are three parts to the Camino. The first part is about 190 miles and goes over a lot of hills and mountains. They say this part breaks the body. You're feet are sore and blistered and your muscles ache. If you are able to fight through the physical pain then the next part is around 120 miles through monotonous desert. This breaks your spirit. Your body has adjusted to the pain of walking, but you must ask yourself why am I really walking this path and do I want to keep going. Days are hot and long with little in between villages. The final 190 miles is the resurrection. If you have allowed yourself to be broken physically and spiritually yet still persevered then the Lord can bring you resurrection. I took over 42,000 steps today according to my fitness app. Each one was painful. It felt like Chinese water torture. No step was so painful that I could not go on. Yet, each step was painful enough that I did not want to take another. I am generally a slow walker, but it was still embarrassing to be passed by older ladies who are cruising along while I painfully make another step. In the middle of all of this when I could only think of my pain, I asked God is this what life is? Do I simply have to keep enduring pain and suffering and keep walking along the path you've set before me until I die? He said no. I asked Him to explain because it certainly seemed that way. He told me that there was joy in the midst of pain. He reminded me of a hospital visit I did for a man who attempted suicide after shooting his girlfriend. He hasn't died initially and his family was gathered with him in the hospital. It was one of the most heart wrenching experiences I've ever had. The sorrow I experienced being with the family. The anger from what he'd done. The helplessness I felt being there. Yet, on the way home I felt peace and joy. It was an honor to be present and to anoint this man despite what he's done. He'd been raised by a native I was very close to whose since passed. I felt her thanking me for being with her adopted son as I drove home. God reminded me that there is peace and joy even in the midst of suffering. I can feel that even now as I write this post. I had some wonderful interactions today in the midst of it all. Also, I have no blisters or injuries. I just have sore feet - but I can keep walking. The blessings are endless and the suffering is small in comparison. I loose track of that sometimes. It is something of which I often need to be reminded.

A 30 km day with some great conversation. I should say last night after I posted I met a wonderful English woman who was really spiritually sensative. She's been hurt by an evangelical church and had fallen away from God but was walking in hopes of encountering Him again. Almost as soon as I started walking I spoke with a German man about my age who was really searching for God. He's been lost in the world for a long time and recognizes how empty it is. He had a lot of really good questions about God. Basically we talked about getting out of the head and into the heart without leaving reason behind. Seeds were planted. I walked with an Australian couple who are walking for a holiday. Not religious but they've had positive experiences with priests which was good to hear. It was great to learn their story. Had a brief walk with an Australian woman who was raised by a scrupulous Catholic father and left the church because of her upbringing. There was a lot of hurt there which was really sad. She was not really open to God. Finally, I walked with a Brazilian doctor who was raised Catholic but left the Church. He wants to have an experience with God on the Camino. He heard my story and said this is what he also wants. I offered up some prayers for him while walking. I bring all of these encounters up because I remain shocked by how all over the place people are on this journey. Some are open to encountering by God and some are not. Our openness allows God to work. I have seen God work on those who are open. It is much harder on those who are closed. May my heart remain always open to whatever the Holy Spirit desires to do. 

Camino Day 6 - May 21 - Navarrete

"Buen Camino" is a phrase you often hear on the Camino. Usually from fellow pilgrims as you walk along the path. All of us encouraging each other on the journey. I was struck today as I walked through the city of Logrono at how many locals wished me a buen Camino. I heard the phrase close to 100 times. The locals recognize the blessing of the journey and desire the pilgrims persevere to the end. They were connected to the journey and the blessing it is to their country. It makes me think of all of you. You are connected to my journey. Though I am walking it, you all are joining me in thr blessings of every step I take. My perseverance affects all those I carry with me. The people encouraging me today gave me a new found strength. This was important because it got hot this afternoon. It is a much different walk moving from the the cold, wet, windy mountains to the hot plains. It is a great blessing to encourage someone along the way. Be like Barnabas and be someone who encourages others on their spiritual journey. 
I spent the morning walking with Ronya from Berlin. She is an atheist and we spent a long time telling our stories, what we believe and why we believe it. It was not apologetics, simply telling our stories and listening to each other. As we were going our separate ways, I told her I wished she believed as I did. Jesus has meant a lot to me, but I cannot convince her of that. In fact, I don't even think it's my job. I am called to love her where she is and listen to her. I can tell her about what God has done in my life and pray that she come to experience His love as I have. Only the Lord can bring her to faith. We don't often take time to truly listen and be present to others. We come with an agenda and loose track of the person of front of us. I saw this ring true in my next conversation, but before that I must say that Ronya and I are both Lord of the Rings fans, which led to a great conversation. I feel that my journey is much like Frodo's. There are many things I am carrying that God is asking me to let go of. Some of them have power over me. I must lay this burden down and allow those things in my life to be destroyed so I can truly be free. Also, the Lord is putting people along my path to help me let go of these 'rings' I need to let go of. I have a Fellowship walking with me. 
Back to my day. A man from Spain wanted to talk to me. He was also an atheist and had a lot of issues with God and the Church. Just to give you a taste, he does not believe in free will. I listened to his arguments then responded by nicely telling him how wrong all of his arguments were. He didn't really want to listen to that, so he told me he wasn't explaining it well and tried to bring up some other points. I really tried to listen to him, but it was simply a frustrating conversation. I did not feel heard in what I was saying. As I said yesterday, some people are just closed off. I hope I am not one of them. 
The Lord took care of timing today. I showed up in Logrono just in time to concelebrate the 11am Sunday Mass. I did not plan this. I just showed up at 10:50 and asked when Mass was. It was actually perfect because there is no evening mass in the city I am staying in. God took care of things once again. It was certainly His timing because he woke me up and had me walking with Ronya most of the morning who was a bit quicker of a pace than I am. 
Finally, walked into Navarette with a lady who was afraid she would get heat exhaustion. We didn't stay together the whole time but I kept an eye on her to make sure we were safe. The Camino is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter how much money you have. It doesn't matter where you are from or what you believe. We all just help each other get to the end of the journey. It is really beautiful to be a part of. 

Camino Day 7 - May 22 - Ciruena

‘Tienes alcohol?’ ‘Do you have alcohol?’ I walked past a group of Spaniards this morning and one of the men asked me this question. They only spoke Spanish, and I was wondering if he thought all priests were drunks and carried liquor with us wherever we went. Maybe this was just a prelude question and he was going to offer me a drink. In any event I was confused. Then he showed me his friend who cut his foot and was bleeding. He was asking for rubbing alcohol. I told him I had an antibiotic while I pulled it out. They were very grateful. The guy who cut himself was in a good mood jokingly telling his friend he needed an amputation. We all long for community. No man is an island. I continue to be amazed how everyone just helps each other get through to the next stage. His friends might have adjusted their plans to take care of him. He may have taken a taxi. It doesn’t matter. It isn’t a competition. Life isn’t a competition. It’s not a dog eat dog world, at least it shouldn’t be. We are all on the journey together and are called to help each other each and every step of the way.

Almost every day I’ve encountered this Asian girl from South Korea. She is suffering. Her feet are blistered. You can tell she is in pain when she walks. Yet, she gets up early every day and starts walking. She walks slowly and takes a lot of breaks. It takes her a lot of time but she has walked every stage. I get emotional even thinking about her. She is one of the most inspirational people I have met thus far. If I was in that much pain, walking that slow, I might have given up or taken a taxi. Her English is not great so I have not gathered why she is so motivated to keep going but I hope I can endure such pain and persevere. One bad day is one thing. Stacking up bad days often becomes too much. May I have the grace to persevere in the Lord's will when life starts stacking up bad days against me. 

Also, I have great sympathy for her because when you are in that much pain, you can’t think of anything but the pain. It’s hard to have conversations with others, it’s hard to pray, it’s hard even to pay attention to directions. Your mind is just focused on the pain and the next step. Luckily, my body is adjusting so I’m not in that place all day like I was but I have this newfound sympathy for those who are in pain. Not just physically but emotionally or otherwise. It’s hard to do anything but focus on the pain. It’s hard to keep going. This Asian girl inspires me because the pain did not rule her life. She had to adjust because of the pain but is making the same journey I am. I don’t want to pain to rule my life anymore. 

I learned the Camino technique is to zig-zag downhill so that your knees don’t have to deal with the steep descents. It is more steps but an easier journey. I reflected upon this in my spiritual life. The straight path is not always the best path. I am goal oriented. I tend to put my mind on the goal and focus on accomplishing it. But, how I get to the goal matters. I am responsible for the path I take to accomplish my goal. I must especially think of others and how my decisions affect them as I head towards my goal. Have I put the goal ahead of the path and the people along the way. 

Camino Day 8 - May 23 - Castildelgado

My feet were in open rebellion when I woke up this morning. I had a feeling they would be. I pushed them pretty hard yesterday. I knew I needed to take a shorter day today, so I planned an 18km hike - short compared to the 25-30km hikes I've normally done. I went to bed early and slept in. When I got up, my feet did not want to cooperate. It felt like all of the muscles on the bottom of my feet were cramped. They were not happy with me when I first started walking, but when they started going, the pain lessened. Often in life we have these times when we just don't want to. We don't want to pray, we don't want to go to work or go to church or cook dinner. We don't want to do the thing we know we must do. The first step can be the hardest but when we start to pray the rosary we find ourselves entering in. When we get to church we are glad we made the effort. The Camino reminds me to always take that hard first step. It is worth it. 
This painful first step also makes each break seem like a blessing from God. Sometimes they are short breaks while I stop to take off my jacket. Sometimes they are longer breaks while I sit and eat lunch. Each one is a blessing and my feet are grateful each time I give them a rest. I have to take time to rest in the Lord especially when life gets busy. My soul is grateful every time I do. 
There are not of highs or lows on the Camino. I have had some nice conversations, enjoyed a good meal, felt my body ache. There are blessings and trials but none so high that I will never forget it or so low that I can't keep going. No profound spiritual experience. No dark night of the soul. I'm just on the pilgrimage itself. I am in the Father's will, and He asks me to keep going. In this I feel great peace. 
I mostly walked alone today. Just on a different hiking schedule from most people. I ended the walk with two women from Israel. One was a lawyer and the other a psychologist. The three of us walking together is the start of a good joke. Maybe one will come to me by the time I reach Santiago. They are culturally Jewish but not practicing. Yet, they understood how much i felt the presence of God in Jerusalem. The truth of God was so deeply ingrained by their family and their culture that even though they were not religious there was still a faith their. It made me think the importance building a culture centered on truth. I see it in Spain. Catholicism is a part of the culture. There is a deep love for our lady of sorrows here. She is represented in every church. What am I passing down to my spiritual children that is now ingrained within them? Can I help create a culture that transforms people through the love of Christ?

Camino Day 9 - May 24 - Cardenuela Riopico

I had my best day on the Camino thus far. I hope I keep saying that throughout the trip. In one sense, I am shocked that I am saying it. I should be saying it was my worst day. I walked for too long today both in terms of distance and time. I walked for 11 hours and almost 30 miles (about 47.5km). I was also attacked by dogs this morning - I guess it doesn’t just happen on the rez. One tried to bite me - saved by the habit for the second time from a dog bite. Also it rained all morning. But, it was an awesome day.
Last night I set up a date and place to meet my brother James and my sister in law Isabel. I then booked rooms going backward to ensure I got to where I needed to be on Sunday. Nothing was available for tonight so I decided to start walking and figure it out when I was done walking. I was well rested after my short day yesterday and ended up waking up just before 5am. I had Mass and got going by 5:30am Glad I brought my headlamp. I spent the first two hours praying and reflecting. One of the ladies I met from Israel yesterday lived in the USA for a time. She loved it. Yet, she moved to Israel because she thought it was a better place to raise her children. She found Americans too independent. She had friends but not really community. I reflected a lot about that statement. I am very independent. There are values to this but also problems. I reflected a lot about my independence in community life. There are ways it is good but there are ways it hinders me from living fully the life God has called me to. I hope to let go of aspects of my self-will and independence from which I need to be free when I return. 

I then spent a couple of hours walking with ulrich. He and I met when I slept in an albergue. He was in the top bunk. He walked in with a Budweiser and we hit it off immediately. We’ve talked each day since as we’ve seen each other here and there. This was our first extended conversation. His parents divorced and he went with his father. He then had a distanced relationship with his mother. He got married and 10 years into the marriage he was also divorced. He described it as being in a black hole. He didn’t want to eat, or drink, or work. He felt he had no reason to live. He reconnected to his mother and she saved his life. She gave him hope again. He said she was like a light who helped bring him out of the darkness. I thought of our blessed mother as he spoke. The souls in purgatory call her the star of the sea. She is a light that draws them to heaven. She has been my guiding light for a long time especially when I am overcome by darkness. I ask that she continue to enlighten my path that I may follow the Lord more closely. 

Ulrich left his walking poles at his albergue. We’d been walking and talking for about half an hour when he realized it. He didn’t go back for them. They were 30 euro and for him it was not worth the walk back. I spent a long time reflecting on what I would or would not ‘go back for.’ After a brief reflection on things in my bag, I thought about people. Am I willing to turn around and go back to get someone and help them on the path. What lengths would I go to in order to get a parishioner back on the path towards God? I guess I realized I would go through great lengths if it meant someone would get back on the path. The problem is that is really hard to determine. I also reflected that I will leave someone behind if they don’t want to walk along the path towards God anymore. I need a lot of grace to help figure out when to ‘go back’ in order to help save a soul. I also need grace to stay in a relationship when paths diverge to help people get back on the path. 


I spoke with a man from California who is walking for his son who is an alcoholic. I am always inspired by those who walk for others. There are only a few of us it seems but I feel a deep connection with those who are able to reach beyond themselves and walk on behalf of another. Hopefully the Camino can become once again what it once was. 


I walked with a 19 year old from Denmark who truly blessed me. He is managing a movie theater and was just offered a promotion. Something inside of him told him not to take it and he had no idea why. He asked for a month to make a decision. He is walking the Camino to figure out his life. He is walking alone to think and pray. The first few days were really hard for him but now he loves it. He is Lutheran and just started going to church every other Sunday. He said he feels peace at church and wanted to talk about God and my vocation. He was truly searching. I don’t see that often with kids his age. We talked about that too. There is hope for our young people but we do need to invest in them. 


I walked with an Englishman who I'd met on my first day. We’d interacted a few times, but never really talked. He is a Baptist strong in his faith. We talked about God for a long time, which was another blessing because I have not met a lot of strong Christians along the way. We opened up to each other and experienced that bond that can only be felt between members of the body of Christ. Again very refreshing. 


I’d been walking for a long time when I felt the Lord tell me to keep walking until 4pm before figuring out where to stay. This was a hard word because i knew I’d be between villages at 4pm. But I obeyed. About 3:45 I started walking up this hill which was exactly like the apparition hill in medjugorie. After 15 minutes I got to the top and a cross had been planted there. No one was around so I got a beautiful reflective moment of peace. It was a moment designed by God I would have missed if I'd not been sensitive to the Spirit. 


I reached the next town an hour later. There were multiple options for albergues but I knew exactly where to go. I got a room and dinner in a beautiful place where I met some wonderful people. The Lord took over the day and I pray he takes over every day for the rest of my sabbatical. 


One final reflection. They say your feet adjust in a week. I know what they mean now. It’s been a week and my feet still really hurt, but they don’t bother me anymore. They’ve learned how to live with the pain. It was a beautiful offering because I know a lot of people who’ve had to learn how to live in pain. I was able to connect with them in a deep way today and make some beautiful prayers on their behalf. Sometimes we just have to live with pain. It is comforting to know that we are not alone and that the Lord gives us the grace to sustain us. 

Camino Day 10 - May 25 - Burgos

The Camino is interesting because you travel through different landscapes and stay in vastly different places. I prefer the small towns because almost everyone there is a pilgrim. You have dinner and meet with people on the journey and find out why they are walking. In the city there is more to do but the pilgrims are a small stream in the river of people going about their day to day lives. The city also means walking on sidewalks along busy thoroughfares. Not the scenic dirt paths through beautiful forests. It takes away from the contemplative aspect of the walk. Yet this too can open the heart. Here is modern man with all of his technological advances. We get so busy we lose track of those places of encounter with God. Yet along the busy road I walked along there was a church. I walked in at the end of Mass. A surprising number of people were in attendance. Once the crowd cleared there was peace and quiet in God’s presence. Though I knew the business of the city surrounded. In that place there was quiet and peace. It did not surround me as it did in the mountains, but it was there if I was willing to step away from the busyness and search out the Lord in the midst of it all. 

After I did a holy hour, a French couple asked if I’d celebrated mass yet. I had not. I celebrated one with them in the church then heard their confessions. It was nice to be in a church for mass. It’s not always easy in the small towns. Masses tend to be in the evenings, if they have one. And I am ready for bed by the time mass starts. In the morning, the churches normally are not open. Also nice to do some pastoral ministry.

I ended up walking along this gravel path next to a highway and got some really small pebbles in my shoe. It was a busy road, so I decided to walk with the discomfort until I got to a safer place to sit down and remove them. I walked with the discomfort for about an hour. It is shocking how some small pebbles can cause such discomfort. I hesitate to even call them pebbles. It was just some rocky dirt in my shoe. Yet it was terrible. Even the smallest sins affect the soul. They can begin to rub against my soul and draw me away from God. Distracting me from the journey ahead and putting my focus on all the wrong things. 

You can pretty much eat whatever you want, as much as you want when you put in 40,000-50,000 steps a day. I am trying to eat a lot of calories but my body told me I did not eat enough yesterday. You have to feed the body to keep it going along the journey. Sometimes you don't notice it immediately. But, the body will let you know. Prayer is food for the soul. You have to feed the soul with enough prayer to keep it strong for the journey. You may not notice it immediately but your soul will let you know it's starving if you're not praying.

In the afternoon, I did something which was hard on the body but good for the heart and the soul. That kind of sums up the Camino doesn’t it. I walked three kilometers to see the cathedral which added six kilometers to my day and kept me on my feet for a few hours. It was also a three kilometer walk I will have to make in the morning which will be discouraging. The feet are very sensitive to such decisions. But the cathedral was absolutely beautiful. The architecture was amazing and the interior was filled with chapels each one of which was masterpiece. I was overwhelmed thinking of all the people and all the hours it took to build that place and make each piece of art. All of it done for the glory of God. All of it still glorifying Him hundreds of years later. May our lives and the things we build do the same. 

Camino Day 11 - May 26 - Honatas

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference" -Robert Frost. Yesterday I had the opportunity to travel the more popular river route inside of walking through the city of Burgos. It is more peaceful and more beautiful. Yet, I felt in my heart I should take the city route, so I did. Today someone asked me why I did this, and I had no answer other than I felt led to do so. As I brought this to the Lord, He reminded me that I had a peaceful holy hour and mass for a French couple. This never would have happened if I took the other root. He had a plan all along. I sensed the Lord say once again that I must always follow His still small voice when He speaks to my heart. I must listen and follow. Easier said than done, but I hope that I can always do so. 
I speak Spanish too well. I live in a place of ideals where I think in another country you should always speak a greeting in the native tongue. This repects the locals. That ideal is great except on the Camino very few speak Spanish. When I first meet people they all think I am a native speaker and so they don't engage me. English is the language everyone speaks. I've adjusted how I greet people so they know I speak English. This has opened the door for many conversations. I bring this up because I had a great conversation today with a man from Australia. I passed him and greeted him and though I said hello after my Spanish greeting he didn't realize I spoke English. Only later when I got off the path did I we engage each other and learned we were both English speakers. We then had a great conversation. This is his seventh Camino. He loves all the friendships he forms and people he meets. The Camino is addicting and I see that more and more. It is perfectly balanced. Each day I have wonderful conversations meeting people from all over the world who are willing to be incredibly vulnerable, and I get lots of alone time to pray. Sometimes you have to let go of your ideals even if they are objectively better because they stand in the way of what the Lord wants to do.

I did get off the path a bit. Praise God a Spanish man saw me and put me back on track. Costi from Australia - the man who thought I only spoke Spanish, was following me so I was leading him astray as well. Watch your step because when you go astray you don't know who all you will take with you. Also, if you see someone astray do something about it. Often they want to get back on track but need someone to guide them. 

I spent the day with Oscar, my 19 year old friend from Denmark who I met two days ago and with DJ from South Korea. There was a television show about the Camino in South Korea which is why is it is so popular there. They both have big decisions to make and hope that the Camino can help them find peace in the right decision. Someone who is not very religious told me he feels God stirring in his soul on the Camino which is so true. DJ said that one day here is like a year because of the insight you gain. Another beautiful metaphor. God is working. I have a profound peace. I miss people, but I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be so I am not yet ready to return. God is not done working on me yet. 
Final note: there is another friar on the trail from the UK. I have heard about him from others but haven't met him yet. I hope I get the chance. Very few priests and religious here, so it will be nice to see what inspired him to walk. 

Camino Day 12 - May 27 - Castrojeriz

Yesterday, I was asked to celebrate a morning mass at the local church. So, this morning I was privileged to offer mass for at a small village church. The people were grateful though slightly annoyed because it takes me a while to navigate the missl in Spanish. They didn't mention it but I don't think they are used to a 45 minute daily mass - even without a homily. It was a very relaxed day. I got up, prayed, celebrated Mass, and walked to the next village. Just over 10km today. I met some Americans who are walking what I call the highlights tour. They are here for two weeks. Each day a bus drops them off and they walk about 14km. They are doing the most beautiful parts of the Camino. At first, I wondered is that really the spirit of the Camino. Upon reflection, yes I think it is. They will walk over 100km and each one brings his or her own burdens to the Camino. Only the Lord can heal them, and if they open themselves up they can receive just as much grace as I do walking further. Reminder the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. Even those who work the last hour get the same reward. I find this encouraging. I can’t always walk the whole path, but I receive the reward. In religious life we say the office keeps going. We may not all be there to pray it because of pastoral duties but the discipline of praying the office continues in the friary. This gives me comfort on the Camino. Our way of life continues on despite the fact that I am away from it. I still receive the benefits of the brothers praying on behalf of the church and the world. 

I visited a Catholic Church this morning which is in the midst of restoration. They’ve spent over six million euro and are raising more to restore their church. A volunteer gave me a tour and explained all the restorations they were doing. As good as my Spanish felt yesterday, I was humbled today as my guide spoke way to fast for me to keep up with. Sad to see these beautiful paintings in such a sad state but encouraging to see the efforts to restore the church.  I pray the Lord restores me on the Camino. I often feel like a rundown church. Formerly beautiful but now in disrepair. The Lord can use even this to draw people to Himself.

I think I have the Camino bug. I’m already thinking about how each of the brothers in my community should walk it and how we could send some of our natives to walk it. As I’ve said it is perfectly balanced between quiet contemplation, engagement of people throughout the world, physical offering, beautiful churches…. I’m in love with the journey and what the Lord has done thus far. I am excited to see what else He has planned. 

Camino Day 13 - May 28 - Fromista

Never listen to a 19 year old. That is generally good advice but especially good advice on the Camino. A couple of nights ago I was having a glass of wine with Oscar, my 19 year old friend from Denmark, and Costi from Australia. Drinking age is 18 in most of Europe fyi. We were talking about going downhill and Oscar said people go too slow downhill. It puts more pressure on muscles to hold back than to naturally let the path propel you. I knew this to be sound advice so I heeded it as I conquered 'the pyramid' today. The pyramid is a hill on the Camino which is a steep 100m incline followed by a steep 100m decline. I felt really good going up so I opened up my gait and went quick down the hill. My ankles did not like this decision. Some muscle in my ankle was mad at me the rest of the day, which is never fun but especially not on the Camino. I'm not 19 anymore. My body often reminds me of that reality. They say athletes get better in their late 20's not because they are physically better but because they are mentally better. When I was younger I could fast more and do harder penances, but now I understand the right time and place for spiritual discipline in a way I did not when I was younger. I can't walk the Camino like a kid. I shouldn't do the spiritual life like a kid either. I need to know when to push myself and when to hold back.

I am in the part of the Camino that breaks the will. It consists of deceptively long roads. You see a town in the distance and think it is not that far away. An hour later you are still walking towards it wondering if you will ever get there. A lot of people skip this part of the Camino. I am enjoying it thoroughly. It is peaceful, quiet and filled with wheat fields and wildflowers. I am not having as many conversations with people because less people walk this part and their are fewer towns in which to meet people along the way. That has been tough. Yet, I'm encouraged because I am about halfway through. Barring an injury or sickness, I can do it. It did not physically conquer me. I am motivated to continue for personal reasons, the intentions I carry and to meet my brothers along the way, so I don't think it will mentally conquer me. I feel like I'm over the hump. There is something really peaceful about that. Once our mind gets over that hump that says I can do this and I want to do this then we can keep going no matter what comes. I pray the Lord always keep my mind right to keep going along the path He set before me. 

the Lord set up perfect timing once again. I wanted to go to a church for Mass for Pentecost. I saw online there was one in Fromista at 1pm. I knew if I left at 7am and kept walking at a good pace I'd be there in time. This is what happened. I had a few brief conversations, but was mostly reflective. Pentecost is such a beautiful feast. I marvel at the mystery of it. Too few people at Mass. a European I met marveled at how many people go to mass in the USA. They are often smaller, older crowds here. It is a stark reminder of what can happen to the church if we don't pass on the faith. May the Spirit stir up a new Pentecost.

My brother James and his wife Isabel will join me tonight. It will be nice to walk the rest of the journey with them. I'm realizing how much I love shared experiences. It's why I keep doing the blog. I want to share this experience with others. We are called to share life together. 

Camino Day 14 - May 29 - Carrion de los condes

'Slow down.' 'It's not worth the pain.' These were thoughts going through my head as I watched a younger couple limp past me on the hike today. They were clearly in pain and struggling through it. I know once sense, I find this admirable. The body hurts on the Camino and you have to fight through that pain to make it to the end. The issue was they were going too fast. When you're in pain you just have to slow down. Listen to your body. They will get to the destination quicker but at the cost of being in much more pain. Sometimes we push through a difficult situation thinking it will all be better when it is over. At what cost? We can get so focused on getting through the pain that we stop listening to the Lord who is trying to work in our hearts in the midst of the difficult situation we are going through. Sometimes you just have to slow down to give the Lord the room to work. 

I saw Alice once again. I met her on day 0 in St Jean. I haven't seen her since. Her Camino has not been what she anticipated. In one sense it was busier than she anticipated which was hard for her. I think especially trying to find places to stay. At the same time all of the silence along the path was hard for her. She decided to bike through the flat part of the trail and actually switch routes to avoid all the busyness. Hopefully she does not avoid the silence, though we can easily distract ourselves if we want. Sometimes the journey is not what we anticipate. When reality does not meet our expectations what do we do? We must ask: Why was I on the trail in the first place? If it was a call from God then persevere and ask for the grace to endure even though the reality is not what you anticipated. If you were on the journey for the wrong reasons then what does God want. He may be calling you to switch paths to get in line with what He wants. That decision can be hard, but it is always worth following the Lord's lead.

My brother James and his wife Isabel have joined me on the trial. It is great to have them. We are each walking our own Camino though we do the path together. It is interesting to reflect upon being on the same path and yet a different journey. What the Lord is doing with each of us is unique because we are unique. Loved as we are and called to respond where we are. Millions have walked the Camino yet each journey is different. Each of us is called to union with God yet each in our own unique way. In fact, we met a Hungarian girl who had such a profound spiritual experience last year that she is walking the Camino again this year. It is different this time because she is different. I don't have to be anyone else or walk anyone else's journey. I must walk the journey the Lord has called me to.

I had a terrible stomach bug last night. I guess pride comes before the fall based on my post yesterday. As I lay there in cold sweats I wondered if I would have to taxi today. Luckily, I felt good enough by morning to walk. How quickly we can be humbled. It was a nice walk today. We were beside a river for most of the day under the shade of the trees listening to the frogs croak. Peaceful. I continue to put one step in front of the other and God continues to work. Thanks once again for the prayers. 

Camino Day 15 - May 30 - Ledigos

I’ve been away from the friary for almost a month now. I have intentionally limited my communication with them. We have not talked any business. Just updates from me on the trip and greetings from them. Today was a long, boring day. In that sense it was the hardest thus far. A long straight gravel road with little shade and wheat fields on both sides and no villages. So, it led to a lot of reflection. Life goes on without me. That is not something people like to admit. It’s not something I like to admit. I have no idea how the friars are doing but based upon their Pentecost message to me, they are doing just fine. I know I have a role to play, and the friars and people love having me there but life goes on without me. I’m not that big of a deal. It’s both humbling and freeing to realize this. As I walked the long road of the Camino today, which this part of the Camino the Romans built thousands of years ago, I realized I’m really small and insignificant in the midst of it all. At the same time, I am loved infinitely by God. Despite my insignificance, I am incredibly loved. I don’t mind that I am not that big of a deal. It brings true freedom and peace. 


This part of the Camino is deceptive because you sometimes see a city and think ‘good, a place to grab a bite to eat and use the restroom.’ An hour later you are still walking towards the city. It is so long and flat that it becomes hard to judge distances. This can be discouraging especially on a hot day. Why am I walking? Who am I walking for? When you see the goal yet it seems to take forever to arrive there, you must dig deep down inside. What am I truly looking for? Only the Lord can help you persevere to the end. When the journey seems to keep going without end ask the Lord for the grace to persevere. When I finally arrived at a resting place, my brother was waiting for me with a cold beer. There are blessings of we persevere. 


We walked by a lot of wheat fields today. In some of them there were also wildflowers growing with the wheat. This made for beautiful pictures. I thought of the weeds and the wheat. It brought a whole new perspective. Since the weeds were wildflowers they seemed so beautiful. The farmers hate them all the same I am sure. We can think the weeds of sin are a good thing for one reason or the other. At the end of the day they are still weeds and interfere with the wheat harvest. The bread of the Eucharist can only be consecrated if it is pure bread with nothing else. We must allow the Lord to purify us from anything that is not wheat in our souls that we can be truly free. 

Nothing much else to say about today. Long flat straight and a lot of wheat fields the most boring day by far. If you want to see some pictures of the trip you can take a look at my sister in laws instagram https://instagram.com/mariaisabel.betancurr?igshid=MmIzYWVlNDQ5Yg==

Camino Day 16 - May 31 - Sahagun

Happy Feast of The Visitation. I am officially 15 years a vowed religious today, which is crazy to think about. A short but blessed day on the Camino. I am officially halfway done with the Camino. I spoke with a man from Germany he said one of his eyes was sad and the other was happy. He was happy because he'd completed half of the journey. The pain and suffering of the journey was halfway over. The end is in sight. He is sad because he is enjoying the journey so much. He does not want it to be over. I understand how he feels. I am grateful for the journey thus far. Excited the end is in sight. Sad because it has gone so quickly. Time seems to work differently here. Days go quickly and slowly at the same time. I feel similarly about my vows. I can't believe it has been fifteen years. This makes me happy and sad. Happy for the many blessings that God has granted me this far. Sad because time seems to go too quickly. I will soon be an old man. Maybe I already am one. How has my journey been this far? What is left to come? Will it pass too quickly? I am sure it will. I just have to enter into the journey each day recognizing I can learn from the past but I can't change it. I can plan for the future, but I can't control it. The Lord simply gives me today and I must enter into it as best as I can. 

I spent most of the day speaking with a women from the Netherlands. She recently broke up with a man after a long relationship. She opened up about her troubles from childhood until today. Because of her life she felt that it was always her fault. She was to blame for every bad thing that happened in her life. This last relationship added to this lie. She is walking to be free from this lie and live in this truth. We discussed how important it is to let go of the shame of the past and live in the truth. I've made mistakes but I can't live in the lie that I am the sum of my mistakes. I must live in the freedom that only Christ can give.

I need to mention that we went to the pilgrim mass in Carrion a couple of nights ago. It was full of pilgrims from all over the world. Some sisters whose charism is to take care of pilgrims helped with the pilgrim blessing at the end of Mass. I was also asked to pray over pilgrims. It was a blessing to gather with all of these people seeking Gods blessing and traveling together on the journey. 

Finally, I read a story today at the pilgrims museum in sahagun. An old man was walking the Camino in the Middle Ages. One night he wanted to give up. A young girl showed up to encourage him and walk him to the next village. When he arrived, he walked around the village trying to find out who the girl was. He never found out. He met this same girl a few times along the journey. Finally, he attended mass in Sahagun and recognized the girl when he saw a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She had been guiding him along the whole way and encouraging him to continue the journey. May she do the same for us each and every day of our lives. 

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