Castrojeriz or “Which Way to The Way?”

I can’t put one past you, can I? You rightly intuited that there was more to yesterday’s chat with the retired German aircraft engineer than meets the eye. Before he strolled over and sat down, Fr. Ryan and I were in solemn conclave about the what would be “next” for him and me. Here’s the rest of that story:

Upon arriving in Hornillos del Camino yesterday, as is kind of a custom, pilgrims often peel off their socks and see if any (more) damage was inflicted during the morning’s walk, which is usually between 12 – 15 miles with a few foot-rests along the way. Even with Father’s new boots (the brand is “Bestard;” I kid you not!), new socks, and new accoutrements from la farmacia, new blisters had formed – one of which (I’ll spare you the picture) completely separated the hair from his big toe. Now, aside from free electrolysis, or “forced toe alopecia” if you prefer,  he has a few other trouble spots that I can only imagine made walking the last leg akin to slowly chopping off his foot (which I think he’s honestly considered).

A few blog posts ago, I felt that it was the right move to skip ahead a few towns and accompany him to Burgos. Yesterday afternoon, after walking with the conundrum of which (larger) arrow to follow, Fr. Ryan felt that he couldn’t continue The Camino at this time. As much as I want to throw in the towel, because it’s an incredibly easy thing for me to do – bail out and find a nice hotel and start the vacation phase, the Lord in prayer simply uttered, “No.”

So, we were met with an imperative “Stop” in Fr. Ryan’s continued journey and an equally imperative “Go” in mine. We had a good chat about it (until German aerospace guy landed at our table) and decided that Fr. Ryan would take a train to somewhere in Spain and concentrate on getting his feet and new blisters healed. I would continue on and we’re planning on meeting up again in about 5 days at our next long layover point in León, as the Camino passes into that larger town.

That’s the plan. And from there, since it’s just inside of a week away, we’ll reassess the feet of the father and figure out how best to make the Camino together. Some options include advancing by bus or taxi to the final four stages of the Camino, the minimum amount to receive the Compostela, the certificate stating that the pilgrim has made the journey with all spiritual benefits attached to the Camino. If he’s better and has been able to work out his shoe situation, he may be able to join me after León. Or, we can simply make our way to Santiago and consider the portion of the penitent’s way we were able to walk as the exact number that The Lord wanted. It’s up in the air (about 800 meters here in Castrojeriz) at this point, but I’m quite alright with whatever transpires.

As I’ve said and truly experienced before and will likely experience again, The Camino humbles all and it truly is a penitential walk, for the soul and for the body. It’s worth saying that not all pilgrims who undertook this journey in the first millennium ever made it off the trail alive. While there aren’t any armed bandoleros roaming around to steal valuables and toss unsuspecting travelers in the gutter as there were in the 1000s and doesn’t regularly claim lives, I mention it to say that there’s no guarantee that the Camino will be “finished” in the start-to-finish sense. An essential part of this pilgrimage is the discernment of spirits that accompanies the walking.  It’s mysterious, for sure, but that’s just how it is! There’s no right way to do it and there’s no way to “fail” it.

For now, Fr. Ryan and I find the flechas amarrilas diverging for a brief period, but through the nearly ubiquitous presence of WiFi along the route, we’re very much in communication.

As far as my safety goes, when I say that the overarching spirit of my fellow pilgrims is one of support and camaraderie, it’s nearly a gross understatement. So many, themselves several Caminos under their belt along with the neophytes like myself, know all too well that The Way isn’t just a nice little stroll throughout the northern Spanish countryside. As such, there’s water offered when it’s needed, ibuprofen fished out of a first aid kit when one’s supply runs low, and an ear or two to listen (even if English isn’t the primary language spoken).

Tonight I am in Castrojeriz and onward I go. Tomorrow the next stage is the very cheese sounding Frómista and the beautiful church of St. Martin. I’ll keep walking towards León until the Lord says “Stop” or “Bus”!

We’re grateful for your prayers and believe me, our aches and pains, setbacks and small joys are being offered for your intentions!  And this is Christian life, is it not? Even though we are individuals separated at present by time zones and an ocean (if you’re reading from the USA) we go together towards the true Field of Stars in heaven.

And now, it seems appropriate to teach you some Latin! Oremus pro invicem! (Or-AY-moose PRO in-VEE-chem) or “Let us pray for each other.”

A Frómista!