Written at Fromista, Spain. May 2, 2013.
Before we left the States for the Camino I had embraced an expectation that I would walk each and every kilometer, pack on my back. I have since learned that such an expectation is an endurance hike, and not a Camino. We have seen many Peregrinos take one or more days off from the journey for reasons ranging from health to a wish to better experience a community. Today we watched a group of 20 Peregrinos leave by bus for Leon, “skipping” over 100km of the route and thus avoiding most of the Meseta (think western Kansas). Among the common refrains that are recited is that “One does not plan the Camino”, and, “Everyone’s Camino is their own.”
Being forced off the Camino for a few days because of health concerns, mine and Christine’s, has created a disappointment that has distracted me from the rich experiences we have encountered. I have found myself focused upon one difficult day to the exclusion of a score of extraordinary ones. This is the hazard of developing expectations. There can be no disappointments if one sheds all expectations.
I have wondered how this might have played out in the 11th Century:
Expectations and Disappointment, a Parable.
Somewhere on the Camino in the year of Our Lord 1013, a weary and travel worn Peregrino surrenders the burro which he has ridden into town to a shopkeeper. The Pilgrim slowly hobbles across the village square, entering the imposing cut granite church that is the axis of the community. Confessions are being heard. Our Peregrino, adorned in his tatters, enters the confessional booth and begins to recite the prescribed formula:
Peregrino: Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been one day since my last confession (Note: The sacrament of Confession was more popular in the 11th Century) and these are my sins. I have had impure thoughts, and I have broken my sacred vows to the Blessed Virgin and to St. James.
Priest: The breaking of a vow is a very serious matter! Explain yourself.
Peregrino: Father, I am a Pilgrim walking the Camino. I made my vows to Our Lady and to 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, taking pity upon me, gave me the use of a burro upon which I traveled the rest of this day. I have now surrendered the animal 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 would be. God in his infinite Knowledge and Mercy provided you with a burro to continue your journey. However, your disappointment, fathered by your expectations, has blinded you from appreciating God’s Grace. My son, this is a serious sin indeed.
Peregrino: 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 bathe and clean yourself of all expectations for your Camino.
Peregrino: Excuse me Padre, but is it not more common to just require that I recite 3 “Our Fathers” and 5 “Hail Marys”? Besides Father, I bathed earlier this year.
Priest: So Peregrino, do you now also impose your expectations upon the penances that I give you!?! By the way, I almost forgot, tell me more about those impure thoughts.
Peregrino: Well Father, 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. Then for the impure thoughts you could have had, you get 3 “Our Fathers” and 5 “Hail Marys”. And after you bathe, wash your robes and line your cod-piece with fresh herbs. Your odor is strong enough to delay the Second Coming of Christ!
The Pilgrim was true to his word. He devoutly recited 3 “Our Fathers” and 5 “Hail Marys”. He bathed, and thoroughly washed his robes and cod-piece. Unfortunately, some habits are not easily broken. As the Peregrino was searching for fresh herbs to line his cod-piece, he could be heard to declare, “I swear by the Blessed Mother and by St. James that I WILL complete the rest of my Camino without further interruption!”
Soon thereafter the Pilgrim chose an innocent looking, vine-like, three leafed plant to line his cod-piece.
Love to you all. Have Fun, Do Good, and Be Safe! Buen Camino. Pete