I am passionate about faith, marriage and family. My interests include reading, video editing, travel and Lego. Also I find the older I get the more reflective I become. Whereas once I had answers for everything and everyone, now I have more questions.
Over the years, where ever we have travelled, I have made it my business to pray for the congregations and leaders of the various church buildings we have encountered. Large or small, magnificent or modest they have all had the Pieter prayer treatment. From my window in the albergue I can see 3 church buildings – all many hundreds of years old, and down the path just over the hill is another. This morning I went to visit that last one and pray for the people who come in and the priest that leads it. But there are many more close by that I haven’t been too. The small village of Luquin actually has a Basilica and a church. I haven’t discovered the history of that yet.
Travelling the Camino can be very cheap. The accommodation is inexpensive, restaurants offer cheaper meals and there are no transport costs apart from a little shoe leather. All you need is a ‘credential’ – a camino passport and these benefits are available to the walkers
But not everybody is a walker, some do it on bikes or with donkeys and horses. Perfectly ok. However there are others who do it by car. They get a credential, have it stamped regularly but use the Camino as, essentially, a means for a cheap holiday.
It is a sad reminder that even the simple pleasures and experiences of life can be spoiled by some. The albergue I am in has a policy that if it is ‘Completo’ – full and someone comes along who has been walking all day and also discover someone, who has driven to the albergue, has registered, then the driver will be asked to leave to make space for the walker.
On the Camino you are often impressed with human nature and endurance but then, occasionally, the opposite occurs.
This morning around the breakfast table we had a lively discussion around cultures and how we perceive them. How come, in Spain, the fiestas are the same every year and children’s birthday parties always have the same cake and the same ritual?
What are the rituals we engage in that someone else from another culture would consider weird. I remember once at theological college a discussion about body odour occurred. One group of students had complained about the odour of another group. The other group replied that white people smelled “sour”. Even our olfactory function, it seems, has a cultural dimension!
Our world-views are shaped by so many different factors; culture, religion, experiences, family upbringing(was it ever ok to lick the bowls and plates in your family?) and numerous other factors. The first argument after my wife and I were married was who would put the rubbish out for collection. In my family my mother did it because dad’s business was very time consuming and my brother and I helped dad with it. In my wife’s family even though the mum did it, the myth was active that dad would have done it if he was still alive. And yes, I lost the argument.
So here we are in Spain with enough time to get a sense of how a small community ticks. If I transferred these people to Hamlyn Heights what would they say to each other in the privacy of their homes about these strange people in Geelong. Where is the bar? Where do they meet without a bar 100 metres from home? And no siesta! The climate is the same so why not? And, they eat so early!
Today, on our day off, we travelled to Pamplona known for its bull runs but in fact far richer in history and culture. The highlight was Pamplona Cathedral, not just for its building but especially for its museum. This was a rich collection of religious and archaeological material presented in a professional and exciting manner. Below are a few photos.
Approaching the cathedral from the centre of the old town
In this post modern, post Christendom, society the amazing truth that comes from being placed in an albergue on the Camino is that people are 1. Spiritual and 2. Searching. The spirituality comes in all shapes and sizes: karma, self improvement, a vague search for the meaning of life (and 42 isn’t the answer!) remnants of Christian faith and combination of all of the above. There are some, but not many, who come with a real living conviction of the Christian faith. The searching usually comes in the form of the idea, that by walking and being alone, we can find some meaning -usually a forlorn hope. Apart from blisters and sunburn, there is a certain level of physical fitness and weight loss that may occur, but without an encounter with truth, not much else.
The aim at our albergue is to introduce people to the love of Christ in a practical way (ie foot baths, drinks, meals bed and etc.) but also to be open and gentle to their spiritual needs by listening, guiding and challenging them with the love and truth of Jesus Christ. This is done through casual conversations (often initiated by the pilgrims themselves because we don’t hide our faith) and through a “Jesus meditation” after which people can stay, ask questions and respond.
In a cynical age I have been astounded how willing people have been to ask questions about faith and belief and how open they are to the person of Jesus. The group that gets the most negative reaction from the pilgrims is the institutional church and not any particular brand either. In our brief moment with the pilgrims we focus on Jesus and community and then hope and trust that the Holy Spirit has other people and circumstances to guide them as they continue on their journey of life.
The following photos give you some of the details around the little village of Villamayor de Monjardin.
The comment below comes from a camino website:
The enclave is more popularly known as the village of four lies because its name suggests it to be a great town inhabited by monks and full of gardens: “It is not a town, nor is it great, it has no monks, or indeed a garden.” There is a small grocery shop that opens from March to October. The main site visited is the Romanesque church of San Andrés, from the XII century.
The castle behind Villamayor has a long history. The Romans were here over 2000 years ago and it is believed the castle is built on Roman ruins. Then the Moors came, later the kings of Navarre and also Charles the Great (Charlemagne 742-814) spent time here. There is a story that Charles, unwilling for his men to die in battle asked Santiago (Saint James) which of his men were going to die in a forthcoming battle. Red crosses appeared on the shields of 150 men, so he left these men in the camp. He went into battle and lost no men in battle. When he returned to the camp the 150 men were dead, or so the story goes.
It is clear when you get to the top of the mountain why the castle is here. There are magnificent views in every direction. Anyone who held this point would have a magnificent advantage in battle.
Villamayor is a town with very few people. However, in the summer people come back to their family homes so there are more people around at present than usual. It also seems that some people commute from this village to larger towns for work. The village is made up of very old houses, some empty and falling down and then there are others that are ultra modern with swimming pools and all the mod cons. The old houses still show signs of the barn or stable built up against the house. The building we are in has a 400 year old stable.
I went for a stroll to the cemetery a few hundred metres out of town, Ermita del Calvario (Calvary Hermitage) on the Calle el Calvario (Calvary Street). I noted that the earliest gravestones were from the 1970s. This surprised me as the town has been settled for hundreds of years. Upon further inquiry I learned later that old graves are dug up, the bones collected and the graves reused. The cemetery never needs to get any bigger and has continued to function between the walls.
Apart from the two albergues, the only public facilities are a bar, and shop that is open for only a few hours a day, mainly to support pilgrims.
The church that serves the town is cared for a by a non Spanish priest who has quite a few other parishes to support. Young Spanish men are not interested in the priesthood. During services the men sit on one side of the church and women on the other which is an indication of how traditional it is in this village. There were no children present when my wife went to a Sunday service.
Just as you enter the village there is a large winery, Bodegas Castillo de Monjardin, which I gather has a very good reputation so, clearly, a visit is required before I leave.