Welcome to the third edition of Dispatches from the Camino. Fr. Iriberri and IVC member Christine Eberle share their reflections from further along the Camino trail. Below are some highlights! And don’t miss the updates on our Instagram and Facebook pages!
Fr. Iriberri: Today we started having breakfast at 6:15 AM and the day seemed bound to be wet: it was dark and rainy. Bad feelings but by 10 AM an amazing blue sky followed the intense grey of the clouds, and the sun was again with us. That’s a metaphor of our life: if we are patient and we endure the situation trying to keep walking even though can be difficult, finally things get oriented, and the light comes back. The day is wet but still warm and a gentle breeze keeps our bodies at the right temperature: it is a very pleasant walk. Our meditation today is about Jesús healing people, and our group of pilgrims is in great need of that: today only 10 pilgrims are walking. We have six pilgrims with different health issues, like big blisters, sciatica, back pain, stomach pain… so we are crossing our fingers hoping that some of the pilgrims could reach Manresa! In order to shorten the step, we took one train from Tudela to Gallur and from Alagón to Zaragoza. Again, we need to adapt our pilgrimage to the reality of our agendas! The walk was very comfortable: four towns were in our itinerary, which helps to cut the step in small portions, and it makes the whole step much easier. We were stopping at every town to have a coffee or a beer. Two were the highlights of today: one the place on it is said the encounter of Ignatius with the Moor took place (look at the Autobiography, numbers 15&16, and find the place in the town of Luceni), the other one is about Sancho Panza, the servant of El Quijote, Cervantes and the Insula of Barataria (which it is located in front of Alcalá de Ebro town). Two statues mark the places: the one that shows Ignatius and the Moor taking two different directions, and another one showing Sancho thinking about how to be a good governor. In both cases, discernment is the clue. The pilgrims stopped in both places and helped Sancho to think about his decision thoroughly. It seems that to point our forehead with our finger is the clue for the discernment… or to buy a mule and let her to take the decision. The step is easy with alternating roads in asphalt and dirt. The Ebro River is coming with us from one town to another. The waters run deep and flow quietly.s the clue. The pilgrims stopped in both places and helped Sancho to think about his decision thoroughly. It seems that to point our forehead with our finger is the clue for the discernment… or to buy a mule and let her to take the decision. The step is easy with alternating roads in asphalt and dirt. The Ebro River is coming with us from one town to another. The waters run deep and flow quietly.
Finally, we reach Alagón and its mudejar style Saint Peter’s church: beautiful work in bricks. In the old Jesuit School, we can contemplate the paint of the exaltation of Jesus’ name, made by a young Goya at the age of 19. A short, guided visit helps us to understand the presence of the Jesuits in Alagón (before the 1767 expulsion). We end our happy and plentiful day having dinner together and enjoying some ice creams.
Christine Eberle: Tudela to Zaragoza: The dividing line in our group at this point is not about age or gender or national origin. It’s all a matter of whose body is giving out and whose is going strong. Today’s merry band was comprised of a mere nine pilgrims, down from the original fifteen. I’m not naming names, but ailments have included pulmonary and digestive issues—sometimes with accompanying fevers—as well as sciatica flare-ups. The members of today’s faithful remnant (“The Fellowship of the Camino”?) remain energetically cheerful and dogged in their commitment to walk thirteen miles of rocky terrain under what may be a rainy or cloudy or hot sunny sky. They are awesome!
For Porter and me, however, today is a “mercy day,” as we’ve been felled by blisters. Fr. Jose himself tended to our feet last night, doctoring Porter’s one giant blister (right on the ball of his foot, ouch), and my multiple small ones (toes and heels). Still, there was no way we could hoof it today. So while the other “patients” rested up then took a taxi, we caught the train straight from Tudela to Zaragoza, where we are presently ensconced in a cafe, watching the world go by and waiting to check in at our next hotel. “Prefer neither health nor sickness,” Ignatius said. Would it not be better to be well right now? Would we not rather be keeping company with the Fellowship? Well, sure. But we did not really have a choice about our feet today, so we have to draw our inspiration from another bit of the First Principle and Foundation: “I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me.” That choice lies before us at every moment, especially if we can approach this wide-open day with wide-open spirits. Or, to quote a passage from Abraham Joshua Heschel that appeared in my in-box yesterday:
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
Fr. Iriberri:Rest Day in Zaragoza! After so many days of walking and accumulating experiences after experiences, one pilgrim said: “Today, full day journaling!” And this was the day! We went to El Pilar square to visit the Cathedral (a magnificent expression of Romanesque-Gothic-Mozarabic mixture), the Basilica of El Pilar and go around the city. The feast of El Pilar is still alive in the main square, with the floral offering to Our Lady. Laundry and to buy something for tomorrow lunch were the major activities. In the afternoon, the visit to Saint Joseph of Pignatelli Spiritual Center helped the pilgrims to go deep in the life of this hero of the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1767 and 1773. The celebration of the mass brought the opportunity to share the lessons learned so far along the Ignatian Way. The global feeling is gratitude and readiness to keep walking to Manresa, following the insights of Ignatius. So much still to learn.
Christine Eberle: At last, a rest day! Here in Zaragoza we visited the Basilica de Nuestra Senora (Kevin, that needs a tilda over the “n”) del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar). Tradition says that when Saint James was here in Spain (bringing the Gospel “to the ends of the earth”), he had a vision in which the Blessed Mother appeared to him, standing on top of a marble pillar. She encouraged him in his missionary efforts and instructed him to build a chapel on the spot where the pillar was. Today that chapel is a grand basilica, which has a tiny image of Our Lady atop the aforementioned pillar. The Feast of El Pilar was October 12, so we got to see the remnants of their grand celebration. Fun fact: Fr. Jose’s mother, Pilar, celebrated her 87th birthday on the Feast of El Pilar; he video chatted with her and we all sang Happy Birthday!