Monasterio Santa Maria de la Real, Najera, La Rioja
I met Dan McCarthy last Autumn – or Fall as Dan from Rhode Island would call it, when I was walking the Camino Francais. On May 6 2013 Dan left home to walk El Camino de Santiago for the tenth time. Having tried but failed to set up a blog for this landmark Camino he decided to share his journey by email. I have loved Dan’s insights and am honoured that he agreed to allow me to guest edit his entries and share them here on my Crossing Frontiers blog. Dan started on the Camino El Norte but after 7 arduous days switched back to the Camino Francais.
Two days in to his walk on the Camino Francais he has walked 31 miles and on Pentacost Sunday 19 May at Mass in a 700yr old Cathedral he contemplates the Pentecost experience of the Camino. He talks about sharing meals with Linda, a German, Troy from Florida, Sung a Korean woman, Alfred and Juan are Spanairds, Kathleen is from Australia, Fatima a Brazilian and Michele from Quebec. 8 people, 6 languages.
In his own words: “Each understood in their language.” Ironically, the instrument of the Spirit in this case is English. I wanted to point out that one of sources of the extraordinary sense of community that develops on the Camino is the shared experience of the difficulty of the day’s walk. This realization came to me as I was approaching the town of Santo Domingo at the end of a 15 mile walk. I was approaching one of those “heartbreak hills”. A long, steep hill that you can see a long way ahead. I was watching pilgrims way ahead of me, appearing like little ants slowly moving up the climb. I was particularly wanting to determine whether they were walking in the center or along the sides. If along the side there was sure to be mud, the bain of walking pilgrims. To avoid the mud you walk in the vegetation along the side. As I was thus observing those I realized in about 20 minutes I would be one of those ants and others way back on the trail would be observing me to attempt to determine their own fate. And when I got on the hill I imagined others back there observing me and it struck what an intensely shared experience this is. When later that evening at Mass I heard that description of those who listened to Peter and the others I was back at that climb and felt indeed the spirit is at work here. And then at dinner, as at many Camino dinners, I sensed the special communion of the Camino again. “Each experienced what the others had”
You can contact Dan directly on email@example.com