TOSANTOS – One of the morning towns out of Santa Domingo is Villamayor del Rio, or the Large City next to a River, which is locally known as the town of three lies. It’s on a busy highway we will walk nearly all day.
I figure the first lie of Villamayor del Rio is its size: it’s not big, the second – no river, and the third is all mine: pilgrims are welcome, which clearly they are not.
This gets me thinking about the large cathedral I did not visit, the Santo Domingo de la Calzada. It is famous for the rooster that crowed again. Legend has it that a wrongly accused son was hung for his crime, but as his parents were leaving town, the LORD whispered to them that he was still alive, his feet being held up by St. Domingo. When they went back to ask for their son’s release, the judge said he was no more alive than the chicken on his plate, which suddenly grew feathers, crowed, and flew away, proving both their son’s innocence and how he was still alive.
I had planned to go see the cathedral just to see a live rooster and hen in the sanctuary where tradition suggested a feather plucked from the rooster was good luck (for you) but huge groups of bus pilgrims kept me away. Bus pilgrims go from place to place along the Camino, stay in nice hotels (not filled with snoring people) and neither walk nor carry their stuff between. I’m filled with judgment, which I ought to be above…but clearly I’m not. “Their way is not my way, it is just different,” I think in my better moments.
I saw Tzika one more time in the first town I stopped in for a café Americano. She looked happy and better than I had seen her look in days. Leaving, I think about that other burden (her first was a 33 year old daughter that has died last year). This one is a husband of 51 years who left her for a younger woman and then spent her inheritance. Right before she left to Camino, he asked to return.
“I can’t forgive him,” Tzika says (via MaryAnna). “I just can’t.” it is the other bag she carries, I think, naming the two bags that could fit in her new backpack, but won’t. Today, as I’m walking I notice issues coming up in my own life from conversations I have showing me I too have issues in realizing the “as I forgive others” part of the Lord’s Prayer.
During the previous night’s mass as I prayed the “and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” part of the Lord’s Prayer, I noticed it felt more like I was saying those words about forgiveness than actually praying them. So after I added, “Holy Spirit, if there is someone I need to forgive (or have not forgiven), please show me, and I will.” Let me tell you, God answered that prayer.
All morning I kept noticing long buried issues (or situations) showing up in conversation, illustrating my deep need to forgive. Ick, I don’t like seeing this. I think about that moment after the Resurrection, when Jesus first appeared to the Disciples, saying “Peace I give to you,” and the first thing he says out of the box is
“if you forgive the sins of another, they are forgiven. But if your retain the sins of others, they are retained.”
I think about that word, retained, and see in my case that retained is one of the bags that Tzike is carrying, and apparently, so am I.
When I left Tzika, I saw she had connected with a young Bulgarian woman, and they were happily talking away in Bulgarian. She was happier than I had seen her before; almost a different woman. The Camino will provide.
That night I stay in a parish hostel in Tosantos. It’s a communal place, where everyone helps prepare dinner, and wash dishes after.
Between those, is evening prayers. It is why I came (despite having to also sleep on floor mats).
The liturgy is passed out to the different language groups: Spanish, Danish, French and English, and after each has spoken (and we followed along in our own language), we read aloud a letter left by a previous pilgrim on why they are on their Camino.
It is an emotional exercise, even with the grief work I had done previously with Tzika. It feels holy, sacred, and very vulnerable and the content of the prayer letters shows there are many on this journey. I’m ready for bed, but first I want to call my dad, who does not pick, so I leave a message on his answering machine.
I walked my longest day yet 28km (18mi; over 40,000 steps). I’m feeling stronger, and be it from a short day before, an adjustment to my backpack, or my new walking stick; I’m happy to have had a good day.