Saturday, June 21, 2008

Family, a Serpants Head & Relativism

Hello from Ledigos, somewhere in between Burgos & Leon. 'Somewhere' for the simply reason that I spend a good portion of my day not having a single idea of where I am. Two mornings in a row now the sun has inexplicably risen in the 'north'. I have thus concluded that I have no sense of direction out here amongst the wheat-covered hills, I'm just following the signs to Santiago. This past week had a huge suprise install that had me somewhat speechless. I left Santo Domingo just after sunrise & walked out towards the egde of town with 2 Irishmen I'd met the day before. As we approached a quiet intersection in the tiny village I spotted a man & a woman standing on the opposite side of the road with their backpacks on the ground beside them as they sipped their morning coffee. I thought to myself, "Wow, that woman looks like my mum," & continued chatting with Pat & Oisin. As we crossed the road though the man & woman motioned towards me & smiled. I don't know how long it took to register but a state of confusion set in as I finally recognised them. It was indeed, my mum & dad, standing on the corner of the tiny Spanish village, sipping coffee. The last time I saw them was in November of 2006 so it has been a long time, shall we say, between drinks. I was so confused. It's all part of a conspiracy that seems to grow larger everytime I talk to someone. I had received an email 2weeks ago from a good friend, Luke McCormack, informing me that he had a good mate over here in Europe who would be keen to catch me as he passed through Burgos. Luke told me to be at the Cathedral steps at 9am on my rest day but didn't pass on any contact details for 'Stephen & Jenny Russell', his friends. I smelled a rat straight away. Luke is meticulous when it comes to planning so I immediately assumed that I would in fact be meeting Luke himself instead of these suspicious friends of his who have no contact details. What I didn't realise was that Luke was a part of something a little better thought out than I gave him credit for. My parents had flown to Europe for there first holiday since about 1949, taken a cruise to Malta & then followed my itinerary to Santo Domingo... & waited. If they missed me, the Cathedral in Burgos had been set up as the back-up. Between leaving Tasmania & arriving in Santo Domingo I happened to be a good son & phone home. Twice. In relation to mum & dad's where abouts my brother, Chris, & older sister, Sophie, successfully lied to me & so it came as one almighty confusing shock to see them standing there. After a very quick 1hr reunion on the side of the street I was back into the walking as mum & dad headed via bus to the next town to organise some accomodation & food fpr the evening. It has been fantastic to see them. Unfortunately dad has been hit by some form of gastro & so spent the first few days being very sick. I've continued walking & they've continued busing it to the next destination. I'm out of bus territory tonight so we'll meet back up tomorrow again hopefully. Mum & dad did make it 'onto the track' for yesterday's walk though & with a day up my sleeve we were able to take it slow as dad fought out 26km in 32degC heat. Not bad for a guy who has spent most of the past 7days either in bed or locked in the bathroom. Mum had one pace & it wasn't dad's so every so often she had to sit & smell the flowers until we caught back up. Dad nicked my walking poles for the day & loved them. I'm glad he did because I love them too. Guess what your getting for christmas dad? Get your own poles... :-) Mum & dad staying here in Spain until the end of the journey & will duck off everynow & then to be tourists but return in time for the final week. When I was a little tacker I could always rely on mum & dad to cheer me over the finish line no matter what I was doing; and they're still doing it. It's a great way to bring in the end of this particular journey. Haha, I have to comment though on mum's first 2 questions - "So are you going to continue these adventures or have you been cured?" and "So... who are you going to marry when you get home?" Does anyone else have a mum like this?? Dad just sits there & smiles. Now, the 2 Irishmen I mentioned, Pat & Oisin, they've played a huge role this week as well as we walked for 3 or 4 days side by side. They'd met only a day before I met them but the 3 of us had similar backgrounds & enjoyed each others company. Both are family men so spent a good majority of their time talking of their loved ones. I invited them to join me in some time of prayer as we walked & they eagerly accepted, which for Pat was the first time in a very long time. We prayed for around 15minutes that first day & then found ourselves having a discussion about prayer itself. While we were chatting away, Oisin, who is terrified of snakes, stepped right on top of a poisonous adder but thankfully had snapped his foot away before it was able to get it's fangs anywhere near him. The snake was writhing & as Oisin backed further away I checked the snake out to find that Oisin had split the adder's side wide open. It was a fatal wound so I told the guys I'd put it out of it's misery. I lowered my boot carefully & pushed down hard, crushing its head. Then Pat piped up, "Hey guys! This is really significant! Here we are, having just prayed together & then talking about prayer & you've crushed the serpants head!" Pat's eyes were wide open (Oisin was keen to still move further away), "I have to tred on it too!" The poor snake was pretty much dead but Pat was as keen as mustard to be a part of what was a very symbolic moment. Whereas I lowered my boot cautiously onto the snake, Pat practically jump on it & vigorously twisted his foot from side to side to make sure the job was done. As he lifted his foot triumphantly though it was with a certain amount of confusion that we were left with nothing but the gravel road. "Umm, Pat, I think it's stuck to the bottom of your boot, mate." I've never seen a guy shake his leg so quickly & yes, it dig eventually peel off & flop to the ground. As 'co-incidental' as it may have been, it did stand as a very symbolic moment for us, particularly for Pat who was rediscovering prayer. Over the next few days we continued to walk, talk & pray for christian unity & in particular, their families. Pat only had a week here in Spain so has had to end his time here & return to Limerick but Oisin is still striding out & getting faster & faster. I met Oisin on a hill top over-looking a vast expanse of wheat & barley fields & he was struggling badly with a siezed knee. He's a physical education teacher & not too keen on the whole giving up notion & has actually now ploughed through the pain into some more painless days. He's a pretty tough nut. There are many people out here walking to Santiago de Compostela & so the conversations obviously vary greatly. In the last 4days I've had a conversation with an atheist who believed that praying for christian unity was intolerant of other people's beliefs, a christian who believed that praying for unity & being Catholic was hypocritcal & an agnostic who wanted to know why on earth I'd put so much effort into anything associated with the Church. The first conversation was difficult because the fellow was a very philosophical & 'spiritual' man who, I thought, didn't actually believe in anything. He believed that Jesus was a wise man but that his message had been twisted by Christians. "The most important thing," he told me, "is that we do good in the world." I told him I thought that his view was very relativistic & by whose standards was he going to do good?" He actually conceeded that point but that was the only one. It was a very long discussion that finally ended with him saying, "Let us breathe deeply & be at one," and me saying, "God bless." He thought I was being intolerant of other belief systems & I thought he was ignoring them & was looking for spirituality without the need for faith or responsibility. We swaped reading material & addresses so the conversation may not be over yet. It's always difficult to enter a conversation that begins with an accusation but the third conversation began with a question so it was already on a differnt footing. With my mum & dad snug in their hotel for the night, I took up my spot on the pilgrim house (Albergue) floor on one of the mattreses. The young lady setting up next to me knew who I was & after I'd commented about the long night ahead due to the already resounding snors echoing through the room, she began to ask a few questions about what I was doing & why. That was at about 10pm. By 2:30am we were still whispering back & forth about God, the Church, prayer & theology but the old eye lids were starting to get heavy. I'd organised to meet mum & dad at 7am so I was carrying a thumping headache that morning as another day on the road wavered precariously on only 4hours sleep. That happened to be the day mum and dad joined me though so I was happy to be walking at dad's pace. I've noticed that the number of people signed up to pray at 4:01 has jumped by over 50 this week (compared to the normal 5 ot 6 a week) so for whatever reason this is, thankyou to whoever may have had a hand in spreading the invitation! It's 10:40pm right now & time for me to be in bed so I'll post some photos & jump to it. Goodnight & God bless! Sam
"I have given you authority to trample on snakes & scorpions & to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." Luke 10:19


Rachie said...

news of your journey recently spread to Malta.. probably the reason for the sudden jump in prayers :)
God bless you in your final few weeks!

MC said...

Good luck for your final weeks. i promise my prayers.
God bless you

Debbie said...

I really admire all you're doing and all you've done... it takes alot of guts and faith to do that.

We are praying for you!

Good luck for the last final weeks of your journey!! Don't loose hope!

Prayers from Malta
(which is an island under sicily which is under italy) :D

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