LEON – Today the Camino takes us into Leon. This is the town in which Ryosuke, Grace and I were going to start our ill-fated Camino last October. Though it is 25k, it turns out to be surprisingly easy and has a nice entrance into the city. It is large and strikingly beautiful.
My thoughts today are about something my sister Beth told me years ago: “When someone signals to you they are not a good person…believe them; take them at their word.” Since St. Nicolas Hospice a few days back, there has been a project lurking along my path. I really do not want to have anything to do with him. When I met him he said he was not a good person, I believed him, though that would be an unusual exception to the normally good people I have met who stay at the donativos (donation). He signaled his intention to be an unkind, dark soul.
My mom told me about people like this, who joined her book club, or bridge club, or other social organizations just to tear them apart. I recognize this M.O. and so distance myself. “He is not on my Camino,” I tell MaryAnna when she starts being his agent of triangulation. “If you think you have a choice,” she tells me, “you’ve already fallen off The Camino.” At the time she seems to be talking about food, or the places we stay as if they choose us, but later I realize she was talking about me and this evil.
As you walk the Camino, so you walk life after, and I wonder how what is happening, and how I greet it will walk with me after.
In seminary, Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones warned us never to name something as evil, lest we be tempted to sink to its level. Dr. Jack Stotts said “evil has its own ontology,” meaning its own physical presence. “But you are a minister of the Gospel,” the demons say to me. “You have to love everyone.” I hear my Uncle Sid add, “Yes, there is that, but no sense being a damn fool about it.” And that is when I hear Beth: “When someone tells you they are not a good person, believe them.” There have been lots of voices in my head today.
All day long I’ve been singing Nanci Griffith’s Just Once in a Blue Moon, and I wonder why.
No need to tell me you want to be friends
And help me get back on my feet again.
And if you miss me just now and then
Just once in a very blue moon, just once in a very blue moon.
It is such a good tune, and the words so well crafted, but instead of lost love, it is telling me I need to decouple from this walking cohort, that is evolving to be toxic situation; I hope I’m wrong, but at the same time if I’m not, I don’t want to be the cause of it. Evil thrives on conflict, but you can starve it by not engaging, which is my choice.
As a pastor, I’ve seen evil and Jack Stotts was right, it does have its own ontology. There is no reasoning with it, only distancing yourself, and warning those you love. They never listen. “He is not on my Camino,” I remind myself, but then remember, “As you walk The Camino, so will you walk life after.” Has the Camino provided a learning opportunity?
Tonight we stay in a beautiful Benedictine monastery in Leon. It is the oldest Alburgue in the city, and will house 150 pilgrims tonight. It is an impressive operation, one of the best I’ve seen. At nine is the Pilgrims’s Blessing, and it is beautiful. I’ve stayed in Benedictine Alburgues before, but these nuns can really sing. Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the church. It shocks me to discover it was today, but that shows you how disconnecting the Camino can be.
After the service I feel lead to sit in the church and linger. MaryAnna joins me. She is fascinated by the multi-lingual nun who explained what was happening in several languages, including German, her mother tongue. Her German is perfect she says, without accent. MaryAnna asks about Pentecost and I tell how Jesus gathered his disciples one last time and told them to wait in Jerusalem. He would send a comforter, a companion, and advocate to be with them always.
“I have never understood this Father, Son, and Holy Ghost thing…”. We talk for a few minutes about exactly what she doesn’t understand. So this is how I see it, I begin.
“You are married, you have a family.” Several days ago she said, “So tell me about this creator you speak of,” and I told her I never really understood God until I had children. The creator started it all, set everything in motion, but then created us, and loves us in a way that only a parent can understand. Unconditionally. I remember at the time wondering if she didn’t really understand, or just wanted to hear my take on God. Either way, I didn’t feel like I explained it well, and now I was given a second chance.
You are your mother’s children? As their mother you have a special relationship with them?
But you also have a husband, a partner, a person who shares your life and together you make decisions?
And this husband is also your lover, and there is a part of this relationship you do not share with anyone?
That is how I see this idea of the Trinity, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Sometimes your husband wants to speak with the mother of your children, so that he can be a better father, or to better understand the decisions they are making and he comes to you…their mother.
But sometimes, he comes to you as a partner he has shared all these years of life with to make a decision that will impact you both, and he wants to talk about it.
And sometimes, he wants to talk to his lover, his friend.
But you are all the same person, but there are different relationships; different ways of interacting.
That is how I see The Trinity. Sometimes I need a friend, someone to just be with me, and so I pray “Lord Jesus…”, but other times I want to express my gratitude or ask for a very big thing, and so my prayers begin “Father…” but other times, I need special insight or wisdom, or I’ve lost my keys and I really, really need to find them, and so I pray to God’s Holy Spirit. It’s the same God, but different aspects, relationships.
She asks a few more questions and then the nun comes up, wanting us to leave so she can lock up. They talk in German and I smile and listen. She speaks to me in English, and it’s her Spanish-accented English I hear, so I don’t know what to think about where she is from.
I tell her it is nice to see happy nuns, which is true. So many of the clergy and nuns I have seen seemed so profoundly unhappy, and if Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it abundantly some of these nuns seem to have fallen off the Camino.