Difficult and Dangerous

   This is a map of the route we are taking. 

This is a map of the route we are taking. 

My intention when I began this journey was to post text and photos every day that would be representative of traveling "the Camino."

That I have been, for a variety of reasons, unable to do so, may, in fact, be far more representative than I had intended. Ever since leaving Lyon, my hopes regarding these postings have been beset with difficulties. I give thanks to Wayne Herbert who has been able to put together the texts, e-mails and separate photos and put them together in one piece. If the final result doesn't make sense, the fault is with me and not with Wayne.

I must add that before we left Le Puy we heard, late at night for me and up those very difficult steps for me, the wonderful Ely choir in concert. I think that if you were looking for a Christmas gift this coming season, their Carol album would be greatly appreciated. 

We left Le Puy and travelled along this route called the Via Podiensis. This is one of the principal routes to Santiago de Compostella. Though the country side is beautiful, it is also very difficult terraine to cover. It is mountainous and the roads are, at points, treacherous. The weather turned cold and rainy.

There is one of our group who has actually walked every step along this route. She did about twelve miles a day. Not easy going. All along the way we see numerous people walking "the way." They are in the rain and cold. My personal difficulties seem minor in comparison with what they are enduring. I think back to the 9th or 10th century and wonder how those people managed. 

 This is the Eglise de Perse where pilgrims have stopped for centuries.

This is the Eglise de Perse where pilgrims have stopped for centuries.

 This sculpture over the church's doorway is unusual as it depicts, not the final judgment scene, as is typical, but the day of Pentecost.

This sculpture over the church's doorway is unusual as it depicts, not the final judgment scene, as is typical, but the day of Pentecost.

I appreciate the fact that every place we stop Peter Sills has insured that we stay reminded of why we are making this pilgrimage - at least the possibilities that are open to us. This, I am becoming increasingly aware, is a hard journey. Not because I don't have internet service. That has become laughable. It is because spiritual work is difficult. A teaching I was offered decades ago takes on new flesh: this work is simple; it is not easy.

 This is a photo of those of us who celebrated the service.

This is a photo of those of us who celebrated the service.

We ventured on to Conques. This place is a major pilgrimage destination and way-stop on the way to Santiago. The church is served by a small Augustinian community. I was privileged to be invited to serve as one of the officiants at the Eucharist service held in this ancient Abbey.  

I find that I have drifted away from the point I was wanting to make. 

The "difficulties" I have experienced on this trip have reminded me of not only the difficulties those who first made pilgrimages encountered but also of how "easy" we have it in our day-to-day lives. This ease seduces us, I think, into the false belief that all of life - perhaps especially our religious and spiritual lives - should be easy. 

 This is one view of this 10th century church.

This is one view of this 10th century church.

As for the dangerous part, there is this to comtemplate. Undoubtedly there were dangers abundant for those who first set out from le Puy (as well, eventually, from other places.) Dangers we in the "modern world" cannot imagine: illness, physical perils from weather, animals and humans intend on doing evil. 

The real danger of serious spiritual pilgrimage, however, is at the level I frequently speak of in my teaching: that of transformation. To be truly transformed could cost one a lot. Even one's "life." I think this is something Jesus was fairly clear about. "If you want to follow me," he said. "it could cost you." 

So, here is my point: spiritual work, religious discipline, psychological growth are difficult undertakings. No doubt about it. However, well done, there is no real danger. No matter what it costs. 

More next time. 

Much love, 

Bill Kerley

(This posting was made from Cahors, an important stoping place for pilgrims.)