Before we left the States for Spain to walk the Camino in 2013, I had declared my expectation that I would walk each and every one of the 815 kilometers, my pack on my back. I have since come to learn that such expectations are an endurance hike, and not a pilgrimage. In my case, being forced off for a few days because of illness created both a disappointment and an opportunity for reflection. I have learned from the experience that there can be no disappoint if one sheds all expectations.
I have wondered how this might have played out 1,000 years ago in the early days of the Camino de Santiago Compostela:
Expectations and Disappointment, a Parable.
Somewhere on the Camino, the year 1013, a weary and travel worn Perigrino surrenders the burro which he has ridden into town to a shopkeeper. The Pilgrim then slowly hobbles across the village square, entering the imposing granite church that is the axis of the community. Confessions are being heard. Our Perigrino, adorned in his tatters, enters the confessional booth, and begins to recite the prescribed formula:
Perigrino: Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been one day since my last confession (Confession was a lot more popular in the 11th Century) and these are my sins. I have had impure thoughts, and I have broken my vow to the Blessed Virgin and St. James.
Priest: The breaking of a vow is a serious matter; can you tell me more?
Perigrino: Father, I am a Pilgrim walking the Camino. I made a vow to Our Lady and St. James that I would walk the entire Journey assisted only by my own two feet. Earlier today I stumbled upon a rock and found that I was unable to continue. A farmer took pity upon me and gave me the use of a burro upon which I traveled this day. I have just surrendered it to the farmer’s brother, a shopkeeper on the square.
Priest: My son, your sin is not the breaking of a vow, but in possessing such arrogance as to presume to tell our Lord what your Camino should be. God in his infinite Knowledge and Mercy provided you with a burro to continue your journey, but your disappointment, fathered by your expectations, has no appreciation for God’s Grace…. A serious sin indeed.
Perigrino: For my sin I am heartily sorry Padre, and I willingly embrace your penance.
Priest: My son, for your penance you shall go to the river, and divesting yourself of your robes. You will bath and clean yourself of all expectations for your pilgrimage on the Camino.
Perigrino: Excuse me Padre, but is it not more common to just require that I recite 3 “Our Fathers” and 5 “Hail Marys”? Besides I have already bathed this year.
Priest: So my Perigrino! Do you now also impose your expectations upon the penances that I give?!? By the way, I almost forgot, what were the impure thoughts?
Perigrino: Uhm, well, I don’t really know. I have always given 2 sins, and since my parents are both dead I can no longer use “disobedience”.
Priest: I see. Well, for the impure thoughts you could have had you get your 3 “Our Fathers” and 5 “Hail Marys”… and after you bathe, wash your clothes and line your cod-piece with fresh herbs. I
think that your odor is delaying the Second Coming of Christ.
The Pilgrim was true to his word. He recited the prescribed prayers, bathed, and washed his clothes. Unfortunately, some habits die hard. As the Perigrino was searching for fresh herbs to line his cod-piece, he could be heard to declare, “I swear by the Blessed Mother and St. James that I will complete the rest of my pilgrimage without further interruption!” Soon thereafter the Pilgrim chose a three-leafed vine-like plant to line his cod-piece.
Peace Everyone, and a Buen Camino! Pete