So, this update is late - by four days. I had planned to write a little post before actually starting the Camino and then to provide updates as Fr. Chris has done so very well. That didn’t play out for a number of reasons.
To be honest and perhaps ridiculous, the biggest reason is that I have spent the last decade composing on a big screen with a full keyboard. My brain and my typing speed are synced up nicely. Typing on the iPhone is a real brain-twister, especially after a long hard walk and in a noisy room without a desk or a hard surface to type on...
I don’t say this as an excuse, but rather I say it because it is one of a dozen or so totally unexpected parts of the Camino so far. The biggest challenges I expected have been no big deal. My pack weight has been fine. Dealing with Spanish has been fine. Even the bunk-bed experience has been fine. I expected those to be where my challenges would lie.
But - as I should have foreseen - those things which I expected to challenge me and fort which I invested myself in preparation have been a piece of cake. Instead, the shoes that I spent the last nine months wearing as I walked for hours around the Military Park in Vicksburg are suddenly too small... Writing a blog post on my phone is incredibly hard to do... Where did these things come from?
Even the Camino itself is not what I expected. Nearly every account of the trail that I’ve read paints the picture of gently rolling hills and picturesque landscape with low humidity and average temperatures in the low-70s. Except that Europe is in the midst of an historic heat wave. Daily average temperatures are in the mid-80s with humidity peaking above 75%. The trail is far from gentle - the first day we all but summited a mountain and then walked down a rain sleuce with a grade frequently over 15%... Nothing about that was gentle, be assured. Of course, it is beautiful and the trail has its natural romance, but it’s one of the unexpected aspects of the trip that, well, I didn’t expect.
The big news is that after four days and shoes which magically no longer fit my feet, I had to make a side trip to el medico to evaluate my foot situation. Fr. Chris and I jumped ahead to the city of Burgos in order to give the medicine time to fix my feet and to find some new footwear.
On the train, I felt like I was somehow cheating the Camino. Fr. Chris wisely reminded me that we were still on the Camino - still on the way. What the Lord wants to do in me is not limited to standing on a dusty road or lying on a bunk bed... After all, what we expect from the Lord and what we need from the Lord are often far seperated. So here I am in a nice hotel in Burgos waiting on my feet to heal up and hoping to get started on the trail on Sunday or Monday.
With this unexpected free time, I’ve been digging into the horrifying news coming out of PA and the truly anemic responses coming from -Wuerl, the USCCB and the Papal household. What a disgrace. That said, I am truly humbled and consoled by the powerful pastoral words that our own Bp. David Talley has been speaking to the priests our diocese - he’s such a good pastor. I’m consoled, too, by the powerful pastoral words of other excellent shepherds like Bp. Sample and Cdl. Burke - both of whom spoke with genuine compassion and real understanding.
I’m sickened by the details of the abuse to be sure. I’m saddened by the ongoing delusion that this whole modern project of “dialogue with the world” can lead to anything other than the smoke of Satan in the Church. I’m disgusted that we’re still trying to pretend that the problem is procedural rather than spiritual.
I’m dumbfounded how few people are calling for public penance. It’s time for black vestments, all night vigils, fasting and spiritual bouquets of pentinential spiritual exercises. And I’m not talking penance as a PR stunt - I’m talking penance because we believe the words of Jesus that some demons can only be cast out with prayer and fasting.
I honestly don’t think this is the time for solution-mongering. Greg Burke’s God-awful statement from the Pope should be evidence enough that patting ourselves on the back about solutions and listening and “dialogue” (vomit) and “being on the side” of victims shows a degree of dillusion that terminal drug addicts would envy. Now is not the time for solutions, now is the time for penance. Lots of it. Penance kills sin. Penance kills devils. Penance kills fake faith and fake hope and fake charity. How do we love our enemy? We fast all day for him, that’s how. How are we really humble? It’s not about the car we drive or praying in front of a bank of cameras. Real humility is about penance.
St. Francis wasn’t humble because he bumbled around like a hippy talking to buterflies. He was humble because he prayed all night and deprived himself of food and sleep and the respect of others. He embraced the leper and he threw himself in the thorns when he was tempted. Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa and Mother Cabrini and Bp. Greco didn’t just wake up humble and holy, they fasted and they denied themselves and that’s what the Church needs.
I promise that real penance will drive out those priests who are secretting something. It will drive out Bishops who have shephered themselves on their flock. Only the genuine Spirit of God is willing to suffer as an act of love. As they say in the Eastern Catholic Church - “without fasting, there are demons.”
The solutions are all about holiness, but holiness is not procedural - it’s spiritual.
Undoubtedly, this is going to be an important part of my thoughts and prayers during this Sabatical. More to come in the next few days.
Until then, the Camino continues...