¡Buen Camino!

Dear Friends,
It has taken three tries and nine years, but as of July 2012, I have finally walked the entire Way of Compostela from my former home in Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, to Santiago de Composela!
My first pilgrimage experience from the French frontier with Spain to Santiago itself took place in 2003. You can read the details of this first walk along the famous Camino across Spain in my book, To The Field of Stars: A Pilgrim's Journey to Santiago de Compostela, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (2008). (You can order it from the publisher, from Amazon.com, or from your local bookseller).
In the summer and early fall of 2007, I walked from Belgium most of the way across France, with the hope of at least making it to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port near the Spanish border, where I began the first pilgrimage. I didn't quite make it. A bad case of plantar fasciitis took me down in the Bordeaux village of Sainte-Ferme. I continued on to Santiago by train and bus, but the "defeat of my feet" and those last 175 miles or so that were left undone, gnawed at me over the ensuing five years. Happily, I was finally able to wrap up this grand pilgrimage with a third walk from Sainte-Ferme to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port this past summer (2012). It was a joy to have completed all 2,370 kilometers between Leuven and Santiago.
My adventures and misadventures, my thoughts and prayers of both the 2007 and 2012 pilgrimages have been shared in this blog. I will leave the blog and its archives open for some time to come; if you want to read bits and pieces of it, feel free, but remember that the beginning is at the bottom and the end is at the top.
My contact e-mail remains the same: kacodd@gmail.com; I am always happy to receive mail!
As the pilgrims in Spain greet one another, so I greet you, my reader: "Buen Camino!"
And as the people of France greet their pilgrims along the "Chemin", I also wish to you: "Courage!"

Grace and peace to you all!

Friday, July 20, 2007

A very special blessing

Verzy. Heart of Champagne country, after a three-hour walk (twelve-plus kilometers). Got a late start due to farewell breakfast with the Foleys and a bad thunderstorm. Tomorrow will be long, I expect. My day in Reims with the Foleys was grand!

Today an extra report from Caroline and Gene Foley, who met Fr. Kevin yesterday in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dames de Reims, having arrived late the night before. Kevin had walked for a couple of hours that morning on his way from Vitry-la-Reims, where he had spent the night with a very friendly curé (who even drove him into Reims the night before, so he would know the way the next day!).
We all had a second breakfast together and then got Kevin checked into the Maison Saint Sixte, a former seminary run by the Diocese of Reims that is now used as a foyer d’etudiants. We agreed to meet again an hour later, so Kevin could take a shower, do the usual laundry, etc., before we would head off together.
First to visit was the St. Remi Basilique, a beautiful old church with a long history (it was here that Bishop Remi baptized King Clovis in 496 A.D.). We spent so much time there that we were hungry again, but the brasserie across the street served the most cheesy croque monsieurs we have ever seen!
After that we headed for the Cathedral, where there turned out to be an official Accueil for pilgrims. Kevin was greeted with a warm embrace, had to tell all about his walk, write something in the Livre d’Or de Pelerins, received his pilgrim’s stamp, and, most importantly, got some useful info on possible lodgings further along the chemin/camino. Leafing through the golden book, we were amazed by the number of pilgrims who do the “whole” camino, starting at home in Holland, Germany, or Belgium—an average of one or two a day had passed by since April. A brief visit to the cathedral, especially to see the beautiful Chagall windows again, and then it was time for some relaxation. So we went to the Piper Heidsieck champagne caves; of course, the visit included some sampling!
We felt we couldn’t leave Reims without visiting St. Jacques, the oldest parish church; sadly though, it was all locked up. However, Gene even managed to get someone to open the otherwise closed St. Jacques church, for a brief visit and another stamp in the pilgrim’s passport! We then had dinner together on top of a Holiday Inn hotel, with a beautiful view of the cathedral.
Friday morning we were all up early and again had croissants and coffee together in a brasserie close to the Hotel de Ville. By then it was raining pretty hard, so we all sat together in our car alongside the canal waiting for the rain to stop before bidding Kevin “adieu.” It never did stop, so he bravely put on his rain jacket and covered up his backpack, and we watched him tramp off along the canal, in the rain... Buen Camino!
It was another short walking day, like yesterday—but he arrived, “wet but sound,” at Verzy at 1:20 pm. “Three hours of walking in the rain is enough!” All in all, Kevin has walked already more than 300 kilometers. He looks great, the leg is not giving any major trouble (a small miracle!), and his French is getting better by the day. But most of all, he’s overwhelmed by the kindness of the many people he’s meeting in the small villages, the young couples, the overworked parish priests, the grandmas and grandpas, who take him in, treat him as an honored guest, and won’t hear of any remuneration. It is a very special blessing.