After Mass in the hotel room this morning around 6am, Fr. Ryan and I strapped on our packs and began our journey en pied once more, taking us by way of the cathedral of Burgos and straight out of the back of the city. It’s really something to literally walk from one end of the town to the other. The road just ends and the Camino arrows give way to the ubiquitous shell and flechas amarillias, the yellow arrows that become a kind of locator beacon for the pilgrim.
It’s interesting that these arrows and shells, while generally marking the trail without fail, will occasionally become intermittent in larger cities, so much so that it cause a temporary panic and disorientation. Did I make a wrong turn at Calle Albuquerque? Am I lost? Do I have to [heartbeat quickens, gasps] backtrack?
This morning as I was searching for the yellow arrows to pick up on the other side of the cathedral (Fr. Ryan was the eagle-eyed one this chilly morning) it hit me that so much of daily discernment is looking for those arrows that are often right out in the open. I want God to be explicit, to give clear instructions so that my will has little to do but say “okay, this way then.” I emote so that The Lord will “just listen to my side of things for a minute” that I don’t notice the arrow that’s been sitting there on at the bottom of the curb pointing the way the whole time. God rarely gives the whole picture, but He will wait patiently until we see the arrow He’s provided.
This afternoon, after we checked into the municipal albergue which is right next to the church in Hornillos del Camino, there was a priest standing outside. “Hola, Padre,” we said. It must have been a gleam in somebody’s eye, because the priest came right up, asked us where we were from and then promptly invited us to dinner with a family that he’s been traveling with.
When the Holy Spirit shifts one of His priests into motion, it’s best just to imitate Our Lady and say “yes!” And this is what we did. As it turns out, this family has been traveling a bit of the Camino each year together. Two girls, two boys, the mother, father, and today, their priest happily munching pizza, salad, and a gnostic sounding lunch which I couldn’t revisit ordering: The Iberian Secret (which I suspect is a fatty bit of pork, fries, and a roasted red pepper. The secret is out now. Be free.)
It was an indescribable balm to sit with a family who genuinely loved their priest. Padre Pedro spoke of his experience with the Cursillo movement in Madrid, the new movements of men and women religious communities in the Church that gave him hope, and his love of priestly ministry. It’s obvious that the family is attempting to raise their children in the Faith and that the young for their part welcome it (as much as any teen or pre-teen has the capacity to do!).
It was a long lunch, with many discussions (testing the limits of my ability to swap back and forth from the past to the present to the future in Spanish. Golly, there’s more rust in the Spanish sectors of my brain than on the side of a derelict Pullman car!) on the Faith, family life, life in the United States and Spain, and a bit about the situation taking place in The Church presently in the USA. Again, it was a little gift from St. James to see a family that loves their priest and a priest willing to return that love.
After this Providential event, we doubled back a little later to the same cafe where we had lunch and enjoyed a sangria, a glass of wine, a secondary pizza (as a tapas!) and encountered a very (very) long winded German fellow who was making his third Camino. He had some pointers on making the journey, but then we devolved into a long and interesting discourse on the airplane manufacturing industry. Having followed civil aviation since i was a child, and Fr. Ryan being a math and computer programming guru, we were riveted (and a little surprised) as we listened and were able to hold our own in the conversation. It wasn’t religious at all, but it was a genuine and invigorating chat.
I’m now preparing to call it an early evening as I reflect on the little yellow arrows that mark my way from one town to the next, but also the unseen arrows that both pierce the heart and guide it. Several of those arrows appeared in simple ways this afternoon. It was an excellent reminder that God never stops offering ways to reveal His Spirit.
Tomorrow, by the book, the town of Castrojeriz beckons! ¡Ultreya!