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The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of De Feet

Sorry for the pun, but it does fit the topic that I am writing about. Feet. We had our share of foot problems during the Camino – mostly blisters, although I’m sure there were plenty of plain old sore feet at the end of each day of hiking. This was despite careful planning, including multiple long “practice” hikes in our shoes/boots. 

Tending to blisters

A couple of scriptures also come to mind when I think about feet.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
(Is 52:7)

The head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty. (1 Cor 12:21-23)

Treating our feet with special honor

I’ve experienced a fair amount of foot problems related to my running. Besides blisters, I’ve lost numerous toenails and battled plantar fasciitis more than once. In fact, when I think about my feet, it is mostly because they hurt or have recently been hurting. 

I think there a lot of things in our lives that we mostly ignore, except when they are causing us pain. There is a reflection in Magnificat (Aug 27) by Father Dajczer, discussing the parable of the talents. He states that “A talent is not only receiving something, it is also lacking something.” He goes on to say that “bad health is also a talent.” 
May we learn to recognize things good and “bad” as blessings.

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Burden Stones

One tradition associated with the Camino is for pilgrims to bring a stone from home to leave at an iron cross, Cruz de Ferro, located near Foncebadón, Spain. The stone represents a burden that the pilgrim wants to leave behind as part of the pilgrimage.

(credit: Jan Vallone, Patheos Blog)

I was disappointed that we would not be passing this spot (it would have added 2 more days to our hike). After we arrived in Spain, I learned that the iron cross not the only place where pilgrims left these stones. In fact, stones could be seen on top of many of the mileage markers, as well as at the bottom of other crosses we passed by.

Stones left atop a mileage marker


Stones at the bottom of a wood cross

 

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Cruceiro from the 17th century

A number of people who start beyond Foncebadón inquire “where should I leave my stone?” And the most common answers are “you’ll know” and “it’s your Camino.” Marylynn brought a stone from home and left it in Santiago, near the Cathedral. I picked up a stone along the way and never found a place to leave it. So I brought it home and I painted a yellow arrow on it. For me, rather than being the symbol of a burden, it is a reminder of God’s grace as I continue on my journey.

The jouney continues

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Down, Creek, Up

We crossed quite a few bridges on the Camino and many of them were very picturesque. 

Usually, we saw the creek well before we saw the bridge. 

Eventually, a pattern became clear – a long slow descent, the creek sighting, crossing a bridge, then a long slow ascent. As much as we enjoying seeing these scenic creeks and bridges, we did not look forward the ensuing climbs. 

I’m struck by irony of this pattern. As a metaphor, we often talk about the “view from the top,” usually associated with a struggle to get to the top. When we were in Israel, we climbed to the top of Mount Tabor, thought to be where the transfiguration occurred. We talked about “coming down from the mountain” and how the disciples might have felt. 

I think the lesson is that in our lives, as often as “special” moments follow a difficult period,  maybe even more often they preceed the difficult periods. 

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