Day Twenty. Plant a forest. And nurture it.
My third Sunday here, and I hoped to find a Mass somewhere along the Camino. There was a Mass at 11 in the monastery, but I wanted to get on the road by 7 or 7:30am, so I figured I'd take my chances.
Last night was... trying. In some ways it was cool to be sleeping in an 11th century monastery just like pilgrims did in those days, but it was 1) cold, 2) had terrible showers and bathrooms, 3) didn't feel all that holy, 4) had cramped sleeping rooms, 5) had beds that were really uncomfortable. Plus, like most of the albergues (hostels for pilgrims), you couldn't do anything once you were locked in there at 10pm. We went to watch the monks do their evening prayers, but of course they were all in Spanish, and they didn't really have that Gregorian chant charm (most of the voices were off-key). I was trying to write this blog, but there was no WiFi (they say weefee) and no phone service, so I had to send it in the morning. Finally, I was a little weirded out with the older European men who pretty much did a TOTAL change of clothes in the room with a mix of men and women. No inhibitions I guess on all sides---except me! Do I sound like I'm complaining? Guess so. I never could have done this in the old days!
As soon as I got outside the monastery gates this morning, I sent the blog, but I didn't expect to see the drunken teenagers who were still finishing up their Saturday night partying at 7am. There were a couple of bars in the little town, and they were still open. It brought back fond memories of my years living in college dorms, when I would be getting up as the students were going to bed. Customs appear to be similar in both countries.
There was some beautiful morning sunlight shining down on my walk, and it was chilly so I put on my rain poncho. The Camino took me through more bucolic country scenes, all beautiful. There were more people out this morning than usual, even for a Sunday, and then I realized that it was the day the country was having a re-vote for national leadership. My friend Carlos asked me on one of our walks this week if it was true that in the US people fly the Stars and Stripes a lot. I said, yes, it was fairly common, maybe especially on holidays like the Fourth of July. He said that the Spanish don't have that same sense of national patriotism, and you hardly see their flag flown except on government buildings. That matches my observation, although today I saw a few. The polls are suggesting that the results of the election today won't change much. Spain is politically paralyzed with parties that refuse to compromise. It sounds a lot like our own political situation. I wonder how engaged their young people are. Ours have a terrible record of not voting even though they have the right--and the responsibility.
As I was walking I passed some large tracts of land that have been obviously planted with young trees. The fields looked like they receive a lot of care. In fact I've seen this kind of careful planting going on everywhere I've walked. It made me think of the obligation we have to take care of other seedlings--our children. Sometimes it feels as though our nation doesn't realize how important it is to really devote our resources to educating and caring for all our children, so that they can become the good citizens we need. Plant and nurture a good forest, and it will grow strong, keeping the earth stabilized, the air purified, and it will grow its own strong descendants.
That is true of the Church as well. I did find a Mass today as I was walking into this small village at 11am. The church was tiny, well cared for, and looked ancient. The congregation of about 25 also looked pretty old, but not as ancient as the priest (who looked about 80). I think the Mass lasted about 20 minutes, tops. The priest did all the readings really fast, didn't give a homily, and of course there was no music. As soon as it was over, he was literally out the door and in his car driving away--not even a moment of conversation with anyone lingering outside. I'm guessing he might have had to celebrate Mass in several other churches that morning as well.
Other than a few pilgrims like myself, I don't think there was anyone under 65 or 70 there. No children, no teenagers, no young adults. And it gave me the distinct impression that the Church in Spain is clearly in its death-throes. Without nurturing and speaking to the reality of life for young people--and God's presence in it even after a night of Saturday night partying--there will be no Church in the future, not even in our nation. I believe that Pope Francis understands that, but I don't think that a lot of bishops and priests do.
I made it to my destination of Arzua around 2pm today. It's a small town about 30 miles from Santiago. I plan to walk tomorrow another 15 miles, and then the final 15 into Santiago on Tuesday. I'll stay there until Friday, when I will fly back to my starting point of Bilbao. My flight to the states will get me to Newark Saturday afternoon.
Tonight's bed and home is the exact opposite of yesterday's cold monastery. It's actually a little ridiculous. I'm staying in an entire apartment with living room, kitchen, bathroom, laundry room (yay, no sink wash tonight!) and THREE bedrooms. I'm all alone here, for $35. Crazy, right?
Stop by--I've got plenty of room!