I’m not the theologian in the family (we have two, at least) but I can tell you that I side with St. Augustine who said something like, “I don’t believe in large miracles, it’s the small everyday miracles that I believe in.” I wholeheartedly agree with him because on the Camino I’ve experienced it to a degree that has strengthened my faith in God and mankind.
Here are some examples:
On the Eurostar train to Paris I was assigned a seat next to a French businessman. We struck up a conversation and found out we had a lot in common (he comes from a family of teachers, has lived in the states, his wife was in finance, we share some of the same political views, etc). As we neared Paris I asked him if he knew how to get to the Gare Montparnase. It was a small miracle that he was going there also to catch a train to the Loire Valley. While having a coffee together he remarked that how it was extraordinary that we were so much alike and that we happened to sit together on the train even though he purchased his ticket just days ago and I purchased my a month ago. He showed me the way to the staging area in Montparnase and even give me an extra Metro ticket of his!
On the TGV I sat next to Stephanie, a young French Canadien girl in her twenties. It wasn’t my assigned seat and I sat there as a favor to an older French couple who had mis-read the seat number and had too much stuff to move to their assigned seat. They asked me to take their seat and I agreed. Stephanie was definitely a Pilgrim and we started talking about the Camino. We travelled together to St. Jean Pied de Port and there we ran into a young American guy (22 years old) who asked if we wanted to stay at the Gite where he was staying. We went there and when we found out it was thirty euros we decided to go to the Pilgrim office to find cheaper accommodations.
Next to the Pilgrim office was a private home advertising cheaper rates. We decided to check it out and in front of us there was as group of 3 Spaniards (Juan, in his twenties. Sechu and Vicente, both in their 40’s) and we all went out together for dinner and formed a strong bond. It was assumed that we would form a group the next morning tackle the highest (our GPS measured it at 1,577 meters, that’s 5,173 feet and 25.1 kilometers, that’s almost 15.6 miles), longest and most demanding stage of the Camino.
The next morning, understandably, Juan and Stephanie disappeared (c’est la vie) and Sechu, Vicente and myself started the stage together. Sechu and Vicente were definitely much stronger walkers than I was and during the first 7 kilometers I was struggling and was telling them to go ahead and we’d meet in Roncesvalles at the end of the stage. They refused various times but did go ahead, reluctantly, when I was at 800 meters. At the 7 kilometer mark I was nearing the Auberge at Orisson and was so shattered physically that I was seriously thinking of booking a room there and continuing the next day. As I turned the bend who did I see there drinking a beer at an outside table, Sechu and Vicente!! I was moved and touched that they had waited for me and abandoned any thought of staying at Orisson and set off with them again. It give me hope and courage.
Once again I fell behind and 4 TIMES THESE GUYS WAITED FOR ME AND ENCOURAGED ME. We finally arrived at Roncesvalles at 8 p.m. together. They had repeatedly told me that we would arrive together. You see, it’s the Pilgrim way to help those in need. I know for a fact that these guys would have arrived 2 hours before me and appreciated their encouragement and tenacity, especially since we all, to a man, were shattered by the climb.
The next day, today, Vicente came down with back pain and foot trouble. I was able to help with some first aid that I offered without reservation. I was the only one in our group with the necessary medical supplies to treat his foot.
After breakfast it started to pour rain and as I was putting on my poncho I noticed that Vicente had a jacket that would be soaked. I had an extra light-weight jacket that was water resistant. I gave it to him to use to provide extra protection.
As we were I the middle of a 22.1 kilometer descent, in a dangerous shower of rain and hail to Zubiri Vicente’s back pain was getting no better and he miraculously found a high quality walking stick just standing upright I the grass. 15 meters away there was an elderly man getting in a cab and he give Vicente a thumbs up saying in effect I can’t continue, you take my walking stick. The stick helped his back and helped keep him safe in the muddy and rocky descent.
None of these small miracles that Sechu, Vicente and I experienced would have happened had we not stuck together.
My thought for the day:
It’ll take a lot of small miracles to get me and all my fellow Pilgrims to Santiago and I’m confident and have faith that God will provide them.
Tomorrow I will post pictures of us and some of the most beautiful and spectacular mountain scenery you’ll ever see.