One of my very favorite authors, Douglas Adams, wrote: "It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, 'As pretty as an airport...'" Wise. Tomorrow, in the middle of a scalding hot Texas Wednesday, I will get on an airplane with Fr. Chris Decker and hurdle through the sky like a very confused hummingbird for several hours. This may be a good time to mention that I don't like to fly. Actually, let's take that up a notch and say that I really, really hate to fly. I do it because I believe in travel as a humanizing act. Still, I really, really hate to fly. A lot. Anyway, tomorrow, I'll fly out from Houston to begin three months of Sabbatical.
Here is the game-plan as it stands the day before everything gets going:
Phase I: The Camino de Santiago
On Aug 1, we fly from Houston, through Boston, to Reykjavik, Iceland for some hiking and the first of several culture shocks. Iceland is a fascinating place with strong Viking and Danish influences. Its cuisine and its language are entirely foreign.
From Iceland, we fly to Dublin, Ireland. The plan was originally to spend a week with the excellent monks of Silverstream Priory, but they had to bump us because they simply have too many vocations and their buildings can't accommodate as many visitors as they'd like. Que será será. We moved the retreat part to Assisi and, instead, Ireland will serve as culture shock number two. The Irish culture is really quite separate from the Paddy O'Brien caricature that most Americans grow up with or see on television.
From Dublin, we fly to Barcelona, Spain. We'll visit Sagrada Familia and start getting our Spanish language skills warmed up. Barcelona is a unique city and one that I've spent several days in already.
From Barcelona, we'll take the train through Zaragoza to Pamplona where we'll set out on the Camino de Santiago. We're hoping to leave Pamplona on Sunday, August 12. We'll walk every day until the 21st when we'll take a layover day in the city of Burgos. After nine more days we'll take a layover day in León. From there, we'll keep walking every day until we arrive in Santiago de Compostela on or around the 12th of September.
R&R in Assisi
On Aug 15, we're planning to fly from Santiago to Rome and then take the train up to Assisi. We'll rest in Assisi for about a week. That time is set aside for prayer and rest and one or two little side trips to Orvieto and Perugia just as restful little jaunts. This week in Assisi will serve as a mental transition point from the Camino-focused Phase I to the more city-focused Phase II.
Phase II: Great Cities
From Assisi, we set out to tour some of the great cultural cities of Europe with a specific focus on great religious sites in the midst of great cultural centers.
From Assisi, we travel to Rome.
From Rome, we travel to Kraków, Poland with side trips to Auschwitz, the tomb of St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Shrine of Divine Mercy.
From Kraków, we travel to Budapest, Hungary and then to Prague, CR - both of which are places with deeply foreign cuisines, languages and cultures.
From Central Europe, we go on to Vienna, Austria to pray in the Royal Chapels and then to Salzburg, Austria.
We'll continue across the German borderlands into Leuven, Belgium where Bp. Greco studied and where both St. John Berchmans (Fr. Chris' patron) and St. Damien the Leper were born.
From Leuven, we'll make the short trip to Bruges, to visit one of the most remarkable cities in the Western world.
From Bruges, we'll head down to Paris where we plan side trips to Chartres Cathedral and to the fortress of Mont St. Michel.
From Paris, we'll take the Chunnel trail to London where we'll side trip to Oxford and then to Edinburgh to round out our thirteen week journey.
Phase III: Tallulah and Beyond
Of course, the Sabbatical itself only has value if I am able to carry the lessons and the perspective forward into my daily life! SO, I'm calling my return to St. Edward and to the wonderful people of Tallulah Phase III. In Phase III, I'll certainly be recuperating and reincorporating myself into the daily work of being a pastor of souls. I'll also be meditating and processing my experience in written form and with my spiritual director.
I will also be sharing my experience with any and everyone who is interested! I'm planning events around the diocese with photos and anecdotes and travel tips to help all of us be better travelers and better pilgrims through this life!