Map from Pilgrimage to Eternity by Timothy Egan. There’s England, France, Switzerland and Italy.
(photo P Volker)
Hola Felipe et al!
For 40 odd years, my daily routine involved the care and feeding of cattle. Bovines of nearly every size, shape and description, from new baby calves all the way up to their huge Bovine sires weighing a ton or more. Winters were a test for all of us, caretakers and animals alike. And during those short-of-sun days, I had calculated that the temperature of 22 degrees Fahrenheit as about the “perfect” winter temperature. It wasn’t deadly, miserably cold, like those days where the thermometer didn’t get on the uphill side of zero, and the cattle water tanks would freeze over nearly as quickly as I would get them thawed out. And it wasn’t in those mid to upper 30s, where the mud and the manure would go from solid to liquid-y state and quickly soak up all the dry cornstalk bedding that I had so laboriously spread out in the pens for the animals to lay on and stay dry. No, 22 degrees was, as the baby bear said to his mommy and daddy bear at Goldy Lock’s porridge table, “Just Right”. But now, these days, with the cattle enterprise all referred to in the past tense, 22 degrees seems more than a little on the “cold” side. I’m reluctant to admit that this is a “weakening” of my physical condition, but in fact, that may be at least partially true.
I discuss this at length mainly to compare our Midwest view with that of our beloved Felipe in his Island Home, where he, as rural folks are wont to do, keeps us appraised of the daily weather conditions there. And that is my lead-in to my “message of the day” offered as one of the Bureau Chiefs “Friday Sub Blog Post”. It happens to fit with some of the incredibly wonderful “take-aways” from the book Phil has alerted us to; Timothy Egan’s “A Pilgrimage to Eternity”. Such fabulous reading! On a subject near and dear to all of our Pilgrim hearts and minds, no less!
Timothy’s Pilgrimage takes place on the Via Francigena, the ancient route from Canterbury, England to Rome, (map hopefully visible to all here). The book could be an entire course, all by itself, but I’m limiting today’s Blog to just some early nuggets that seem to be so apropos to all of us today. His discussion of “why we Pilgrim” is so spot on! Egan has this as a description of one of his fellow Pilgrims: “Laurenzi is sixty-three, and in this new beginning he thinks his trip may be nothing more than a break from “the sad reality of modern life”. But he’s also trying to resolve a spiritual quandary, he is unable to explain a couple of events in his life–occasions when he should have been killed in freak accidents. It made him think he was spared for a reason,that perhaps a greater power had intervened. He won’t call it a miracle, just something he’s unable to square with his current state of atheism. Deep walking, a term modern pilgrims throw around, is a way to resolve his inner conflicts. “I just cannot slot in these anecdotes and experiences into my intellectual framework”, he wrote of his motive for committing to the Via Francigena.” My dearest faithful friend from my now seven year’s past Camino, Angela from Australia, is set to do this entire Way starting in April. Her home as a younger person was England, so she’ll be starting on her home turf. I try very hard NOT to be envious of her upcoming Pilgrimage. Suffice to say, I would love to be along.
Something our author Timothy has to look forward to that we veterans of the Camino de Santiago didn’t, is the possibility of actually seeing and visiting with the Holy Father on his eventual arrival in Rome. It is part of his goal, and feels as real to him as our visions of the Cathedral of Santiago did to us as we took our first steps west on the Way. Timothy’s words again: “It’s hard not to like a Pope who is honest about his imperfections, a long way from infallible, a pope who withdraws his hand when people try to kiss his ring. As Pope, he washes the feet of prisoners and the poor, shares meals with the homeless and refugees. His response of “Who am I to judge?” on many questions of social morality leaves many in wonderment.
I don’t want to take too much of the story away from those who may choose to read this wonderful Pilgrim’s book, but I want to “set the hook” to get you to look at it.
Via Francigena Pilgrim pining,
Pilgrim Farmer John
Midwest Bureau Chief