The church bells are ringing at Santa Maria down the street. I’m in the Hostal with my foot up listening through the window to their chimes. It is not a sound you hear in the States. There are two sets of bells. The first set intones a solemn bong-bong and sounds like ones you’d here at any church but the second are playing a counter melody to one another as they ka-bing-ka-bong, pealing merrily in joyful phrases.
They are calling the people to pray the Rosary together. Afterwards, there will be a Mass. I just don’t have the energy tonight to sit in a cold dark church listening to a Spanish homily. I can’t stop myself from trying to translate. It makes me exhausted. So does the shivering.
The best Mass that I’ve gone to, so far, has been at the tiny restored medieval church in St Jean. It was in French. The priest prayed the Mass at the side altar. Even though the church was dark, I felt the light inside and it warmed me through. At the end of Mass, the priest called up all the pilgrims and made us stand in a semi circle for our blessing.
I don’t need another blessing after that. All the rest of these Masses have all fallen flat by comparison, even the grandiose one with 5 priests at the Cathedral in Pamplona. That older priest in St Jean may not have done the “exact” blessing that the RUBRICS prescribe but he did it from memory and with his whole heart. I did not see ennui in his eyes or a separateness that haunts old priests that want to retire. It seems to me that when day after day you bless pilgrims about to embark on a life changing experience, you have a choice to find joy or find something else to do.
The past few days have been tough treks. They weren’t particularly long (18-22km) but they have been very challenging to our souls. We have had to find our separate ways to find joy in the steps, even when our feet are screaming.
The bells are ringing again. It’s been 12 minutes now since I started this post. It’s 7:42pm.
Thom is going to the Pilgrim Mass tonight. For him, it’s right. For me? I find peace and God in the fields that we walk through. In the wild thyme that I rub on my hands, the honeybee that lit upon my coat as I sat in the sunshine in the plaza. That is my Camino.
Yesterday, as we walked to Los Arcos was long, even though it was only about 22km. It was filled with silence. Thom is unpacking some hard stuff after the archdiocese rejected his application to the diaconate. As he admitted this to me, I reminded him that the Camino provides. And I no sooner said it when a friar, dressed in his brown robes, crested the hill in front of us and began walking towards us. It was Brother David of the Order of Pilgrim Friars*.
The bells are ringing again. They sound round and ripe and ready to provide us with more spiritual food for our journey.
One last time, each set of bells rings in the hour separately, 4 chimes each to total 8. And now it is quiet.
*I think they are Unitarian and not sure how that works. http://pilgrimfriars.org