Thoughts at the Ebbing of the Year
Photo: Daily Life in Congo, Africa
By Fr Roderick Salazar SVD
Ed has walked the road.
JUST ONE STEP AT A TIME, he titles his book about it.
Jun is fresh from his own pilgrimage.
El Camino de Santiago is their experience.
As many know, Santiago de Compostela is the capital of
Spain’s region of Galicia. It is the end point of the pilgrimage
route known as Camino de Santiago, in reference to the
alleged apostolic journey of one of the Twelve Apostles of
Jesus – James or Santiago.
In my younger and healthier years, I, too, visited Compostela
even a couple of times though not as pilgrim taking the road,
but conveniently and comfortably in a bus from various places
to attend meetings on Catholic education.
Reading the stories that Ed and Jun relate stirs excitement and
the wish to experience the same, this time no longer as a
tourist but like them and so many others, as a pilgrim really
walking. But my age and my health now stand in the way.
Sigh. But the dream remains.
Close to the dream is the thrill of reading the experience that
Ed and Jun had, but this time written by Carrie Lock in an
article titled SHARING THE LOAD in the December 2008 Asian
Edition of Reader’s Digest. She is relating her taking the
740-kilometer, five-week long Christian pilgrimage, Le Chemin
de Saint Jacques (The Way of St. James).
Carrie, a veteran hiker, walked with only a light backpack.
Along the way, she met a lovely woman, a little older than
she was, who was making the same pilgrimage but was carrying
an even lighter pack because she had arranged that the
heavier equipment would be sent ahead by courier to the town
she would pass.
Later, in the same journey, the courier service said they could
no longer deliver, and the woman who was making the pilgrimage
because she had a tumor in her breast, did not quite know whether
to proceed with the walk or turn back.
This was when the narrator, Carrie, came in. She offered to carry,
for the next 18 days, not just her own pack, but the pack of the
woman called Marie-Helene.
Though they walked separately, each at her own pace, at the end
of the day in the town where they had agreed to meet,
Carrie would deliver Marie-Helene’s pack to her.
The next day, Carrie would take the load once again.
And on to the next town.
Towards the end of the pilgrimage, and of the article, Carrie
says they shared their thoughts about their coming together.
“You didn’t ask any questions when I offered to carry your pack
for you. You simply said, “Ok”. That was such a lesson to me in
the meaning and power of TRUST. And you showed me the value
of the “little way”. It was NOTHING for me to carry your pack”.
Marie-Helene, tumor-afflicted pilgrim, looked at fellow pilgrim
and now friend Carrie directly and spoke softly,
“Yes, but for me, it was EVERYTHING.”
“Nothing”, for one. “Everything” for the other.
Such is, sometimes, even many times, our situation in our own
journey. Maybe not in a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela,
but in our own pilgrimage of life.
It is now the month of November, just some weeks before the
ending of the present year. I muse about the loads I carry and
the words that I say, and those that others also do.
What have I done, what have I said? How many were out of
love, in anger, in frustration, in despair, in hope, in
understanding, in faith, in prayer?
Here, on earth, we live individual lives, that is true,
but we live them, should live them in community.
And community is not just a matter of physical togetherness
but is as much spiritual communion.
We each journey into eternity alone.
But that journey is made in fear and despair or
in faith and hope – depending on how we live in time,
whether in selfish aloneness or in love that is shared.
“Sometimes”, Carrie Locke says in her article,
“There were tears of pain, exhaustion, and frustration.
But mostly, there was happiness and satisfaction, smiles,
laughter, and friendship.”
With the year 2022 soon to end, I hope I can say
of myself and of my relationships something similar,
or indeed, the same.
We walk life’s road. I pray we share love’s load.