¡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!

Monday, July 16, 2012


Well, my friends it is Monday morning here in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, my "day after" completing, in three efforts, my grand pilgrimage from my former home in Leuven, Belgium, to Santiago Compostela. It has taken nine years, but with my arrival here yesterday afternoon about 3:45 pm, I had walked the last steps of that pilgrimage, some 2,500 or more kilometers all tolled. I ended where I began, at the "Porte de Espagne", the beginning of the extraordinary pass through the Pyrenees, and where my little book, "To The Field of Stars" begins.
It feels good, very good, to be finished, done, complete.
A great thank you to all who have supported me and pushed and pulled me along during this adventure, especially my great friends in Leuven, Gene and Caroline Foley. And to all the folks I have met along the Way, the fellow pilgrims and hospitaliers, I am so grateful to have passed through your hearts and your homes; your kindness and care for this pilgrim has made me a much better human being, Christian, priest, and pastor, (I hope! If it hasn't it will have been my own fault!).
Yesterday, I left our gite with the fellow pilgrims I had spent the evening before with (what fun we had singing Basque and French folk songs together after dinner!), and in the next little town arrived in time for Mass in the local church. I was welcomed to concelebrate by the pastor, but it was mostly prayed in Basque with a smattering of French. All the men sat in the loft while the women sat in the pees below. Their hymns and chanted prayers of the Mass were nevertheless beautiful with all kinds of harmonies happening between the two groups in spite of their separation in the church.
The walk from there on was fine; it was a cool morning with both clouds and sunshine throughout the day, and, of course, lovely green countryside to walk through.
When I got to Saint-Jean-la-Vieux, about 4 kms from the end, I stepped into the church there for a quiet and cool prayer. I got a little bit emotional and felt so grateful for having been given this gift of life, this opportunity to walk as a pilgrim, my family and friends and all whom I have met along the Way.
I returned to that way after a snack and, once more, before reaching the end, found another medieval church along the Way, Sainte-Madeleine. I stopped there as well for a few final prayers from the Way, and continued on to SJPP.
Finally, after a bit of a climb,I walked through the "Porte-de-Saint-Jacques", then into town, to the church for a final prayer of thanksgiving, then up to the Porte-de-Espagne, to end exactly where I had begun, (I took a picture of my feet standing in the spot!).
Then back to the pilgrim refuge where I had a reservation for the night, L'Esprit du Chemin", "The Spirit of the Way". I was warmly welcomed, ("Kevin! We've been waiting for you!").
The place is a real home for pilgrims, run by Dutch hospitaliers, all volunteers. They put into practice the virtue of hospitality simply but fully. Home-cooked dinner was served at 7 pm, and the 17 of us pilgrims, (from France, Ireland, Hungary, Denmark, among other places), were in bed by 10:30.
It felt strange this morning to be the only one in the group at breakfast not getting ready to walk (and conquer the Pyrenees!). But it also feels good to rest and take the morning as casually as I want.
At 1 pm, I will catch the train to Bayonne, then another to Bordeaux; tomorrow I fly back to Brussels, then to Spokane on the 20th.
So finally, this old pilgrim wishes you all a heartfelt "Bon Chemin, Buen Camino, Happy Trails…"
(And as the French add: "Courage!")