Wednesday, July 19, 2017

After the Camino - Recovery

Here we are after two days recovery. We have met, yet a new set of friends. Two priests and a group of young men (15) who have used the Camino as a retreat to further discern their vocation. They arrived on Sunday, just prior to the Noon, Pilgrims' Mass.

Fathers Nicholas and Joel invited us to join them for Mass on Monday morning. It turns out that they were staying in the same hotel as we, so it made arranging meeting times and places easy. We were given the beautiful chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows for the Mass and our men sang and led the parts. Afterwards we joined for a group photo and headed out for some breakfast. Father Nicholas commented on God's providence in bringing us together as it made the conversation about seminary with his group just come up naturally. Our men chatted with theirs about the program over chocolate pastries and café con leche. We parted company with the plan to meet again later for dinner. 

In the meantime, there was one thing on our mind...

The Barber Shop!

We first stopped by a silver shop as Camilo and Matthew were on a mission for Father Winslow, then with a few small purchases at other shops we headed to the Barber. I had mentioned looking forward to a straight razor shave a few days before arrival and it became our goal, after venerating The good Saint, to get all cleaned up.

The rest of the day was spent praying and relaxing, with a little bit of souvenir shopping...

...until we met our friends from Down Under for dinner. When we met, we realized that almost everyone had a similar idea about the Barber. I guess it's one of the little known Camino rituals. We had a very nice time and then said our goodbyes as our friends were heading to Fatima the next morning and then home.

Tuesday will also be our final morning in Santiago as we will be boarding a train to Lisbon that afternoon for an overnight ride. Our time together as 5 pilgrims is quickly coming to an end.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

We have arrived!!

Saturday, 15 July 2017, one day ahead of plans we set foot in Santiago!

Yes, that's the cathedral behind us. Still being cleaned after at least a year. This is us about 10:30 Saturday morning. We began around 6:00am with great excitement that we were so close to our goal. We were still about 24k away, but that seemed like nothing. So, we started out in silence as we had most days. However, the number of pilgrims began to swell, and as so many joined the flow, it felt more like a parade rather than a hike. Then around 5k from the goal our group broke into song. Well, more like music practice. Matthew W. Dimock, Jr. and Camilo X. Salas-Bowen had arranged to bring the words and music to "Qué Alegría Cuando Me Dijeron." So for almost an hour there was practice. Once we were close, the practice subsided as the excitement grew and distance shrank. Then we reached the outskirts of the city.

I took this photo...

...and Camilo said, "Father, you need to have a picture as well!"

There's always a photo-bomber!

From here we made our way to the Cathedral and as we entered, singing, others occasionally joined in. What a great joy to have arrived. We went to get our certificates and then to Mass. At the end of the Mass was the Botafumeiro, lunch with Camino friends and then to the hotel. We checked in and had a nice siesta.

Afterwards we went for a walk around the city and found the local singing group across from the Cathedral where there was music and dancing, laughter and "one ton tomatoes" (if you have to ask . . .)
Then, finally, a well-earned long night of sleeping.

More to come.

God bless,
Fr. Roux

Santiago Square

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Casual Camino

We rose this morning expecting everything to continue as usual. So, after watching the Running of the Bulls from Pamplona on the morning news, we headed off. Boy were we in for a surprise! 

Pilgrims were coming out from everywhere. Families with mother, father, grandparents and children; older folk, younger folk. Boys with girlfriends, and youth groups. The casual Camino has begun. At the 100 kilometer mark so many people join the Way to make their journey.

Gone are the long stretches without seeing anyone for hours. Now laughing and chatting from those who have just entered are becoming the new norm. It makes our quiet time more difficult, but we will keep trying. We still will begin each day with a prayer and blessing when we mention, by name our particular intention for the day, then we impose our silence and begin.

At dinner tonight, one of our fellow pilgrims, from Germany, that we met a few days ago, lamented the t had begun. We had been calling it the Casual Camino, but tsunami had such a good ring to it. Well, we realized today, if we hadn't before, that this mountain top experience couldn't last. As we begin our final 60 miles we will need to begin to integrate the lessons learned into everyday life. We will need to find the silence even when things around us are growing louder. Hopefully we will also remember the beauty of the world we passed through.

And the confusions we encountered...

And the new friends we met...

Of course this isn't the final post and there will be much more to experience, but this change in the dynamic of the hike does bring to mind that we are almost at the end. It's almost hard to believe that it's almost a year since I began to plan this journey. I had no idea what God had in mind for me and I am still looking forward to surprises from Him.

Until next time, God bless, pray for us and know of our prayers for you.
Fr. Roux

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Out of the Wheat Fields and into the Mountains

Thoughts and Reflections
from Matthew P. Harrison
We're here in Triacastela, and I must say that it's nice to be more than halfway done. We have been hiking for over two weeks now and everyday I'm shown yet another way I can make improvements in my life as a seminarian and really as a Catholic in general. I must admit that I have been constantly wanting to keep pushing, not take breaks, and power through the Camino. Although that is a possible way to hike, every time that we are forced to stay back a day or decide to hang out longer I have witnessed God use us to change the lives of other or has used others to make a big impact on us! 

One of the first instances of this was the need to stay in Leon a second day. I was pretty bummed to hear that Father's bag didn't arrive and we would need to stay longer off the trail, but God made sure to make our experience in Leon far better than anything we would find on the trail. We were able to attend Mass in the Leon gothic cathedral, and then sing for the high Mass there with full organ and some of our favorite songs including singing solemn tone Salve Regina with drones, O Magnum Mysterium on organ and Missa de Angelis Mass parts. It was amazing and a very rare opportunity which we are so thankful for. Our singing of little chants has opened up many people to having great conversations and I hope that they all remember the things they experienced on this trip. 

These conversations are something that I did not expect at all. There have been so many people that we briefly meet at a restaurant or albergue that I typically would never think to try and approach and greet. But the times that we have met a random hiker, we may see them a week later in a different town, and any conversation we had can be built on and may eventually change their life or their view of the church. It's is just so beautiful to watch people slowly take interest and turn toward only thing that matters in their life; God.

This has given me a new perspective on how important it is to make greeting and talking to each person we come across of utmost importance and just have a good human interaction with every person we come across; cashiers, construction worker, doctor, or just a person walking by, which can eventually turn into something great. 

We also began to ascend into the mountains a few days ago and it has been amazing. The climb is very tough but the views and towns are so pretty. It often makes me think I'm in the blue ridge mountains where I hike often and trained for the Camino.

Today has been a very cloudy day so the entire hike of this segment was just walking through clouds, which was pretty cool. We are about out of the mountains now which is unfortunate but with every change in terrain there has been a new chapter of experience for our Camino, so I am so excited to see what God leads us to do in the hearts of others and what he does in ours! 

Here's one last picture of us reaching today's summit and be prepared to hear from us again.

God bless...

Monday, July 3, 2017

Rest Your Weary Heads!

For those who have been worried, my long, lost bag has shown.  I am now re-packing and preparing to leave tomorrow. The other members of the fellowship are out wandering the streets of Leon. They don't even know yet. How happy they will be to know that this episode is over. What new penances await!?! 


Til next post,
God bless,
Fr. Roux

It's just the beginning...

Thoughts and Reflections
from Camillo X. Salas-Bowen
The group is not even half way to finish the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, and our Lord has already bestowed on us many blessings. (The following lines are written with the purpose of providing a very brief review of some of our experiences in certain places.) 

After having met a great priest named Padre Enrique, who celebrated mass for the pilgrims in Spanish in the Iglesias of Santa Maria del Manzano, and drove us to the enormous church of St. John in Castrojeriz (during the feast of St. John the Apostle), we headed to Boadilla del Camino where finally we encountered Fr. Roux in a great Albergue. 

El Camino de Santiago
Even though it took us forever to get in touch with someone to open the church, the sacristan eventually facilitated us with everything to celebrate Mass in thanksgiving. As in the other towns, we had lunch and dinner with other pilgrims that wanted to spend time with us either to know more about the church, or to have a good conversation or a good laugh. From there, our squad walked 25 km (15.2mi) to Carrion de Los Condes that had unending fields of wheat accompanied by an improvised musical. 

Despite all the obstacles, we arrived safe a sound to the albergue run by a small community of sisters (and seminarians from Madrid, as well) that gathered all the pilgrims, invited us to share our story, and sing songs. In addition, Fr. Roux delighted our ears with the Spanish song, he famously calls, One-Ton-Tomatoes (Guantanamera). 

The sisters welcoming us with songs
Then, Fr. Julio, the pastor of the church, allowed us to serve at Mass with Bishop Antonio. The bishop blessed us and the rest of the pilgrims during Mass, and Fr. Julio asked Matthew Harrison, Aaron, and Matthew Dimock to close with a piece of Gregorian Chant in honor of Our Lady. The celebration of the liturgy, the blessings of the pilgrims and the Gregorian made it a wonderful and memorable experience.

Camilo X. Salas-Bowen; Matthew W. Dimock, Jr.; Bishop Antonio;
Matthew P. Harrison; Father Roux; Aaron Z. Huber;
Deacon Luis (newly ordained); and Seminarian Cesar (Diocese of Madrid) 
The door behind us represent the miracle of a group of Spanish virgins in the twelfth century. After praying for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, they were protected by two bulls who attacked the Moores who wanted to kidnap the virgins .

In the Joy of Christ,
Camilo X. Salas-Bowen

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Cold and Rainy! Who knew?

Good afternoon, well, it is here anyway.

We have had a few internet issues, but hopefully we are on track to keep blogging for a while. The post from Matthew was actually written a couple of days ago, but only was sent out today. It's been a good couple of days since then. When we began yesterday morning, the sky let loose with a driving cold rain. Camilo was generous in giving up his poncho and gators so that I could try to stay dry and somewhat warm. I think I will appear in the next issue of CQ (Camino Quarterly).

The nice thing about hiking in the rain is that it forces one to remain quiet and pray. So, even though we have agreed to keeping the first few hours as a grand silence, the rain made it a bit longer. With hours on end to pray and just be open to the movement of the Spirit, I have turned to offering many rosaries. I have found the offering each decade for a person (or intention) takes on a whole different reality. Many of us often remember someone or another at the beginning of a mystery as we offer our daily rosary, but here, with 4 or 5 complete rosaries being prayed each day, I am remembering people or situations that I have not thought of for years. Yesterday afternoon, I was remembering my first grade teacher! How beautiful and joyful to bring so many people to prayer that otherwise I might not have ever thought of again. I recommend the practice anyway, but now, it is with gusto.

I have to tell you about the day I caught up the the men. I began in the darkness of 5am, with only the moon and light from a few other hikers to follow. I was hoping to catch them before they had begun their hike, I found out that I arrived to the town where they stayed only about a half hour behind them. Of course, they are faster and I had an unexpected struggle ahead.

The road you see rising from right to left was cut into the hillside with about a 12 degree grade. But with some planning and patience...

...I made it to the top!

This is looking back to the town.
Of course, what goes up, must come down and the other side of this height descended with a 13% grade.

Long story short, however, I actually arrived at the town ahead of the rest of the fellowship as they met a gentleman who told them his life story and introduced to his family and basically kept the off of the trail for two hours. So, when I arrived, I spent some time in the church, one of the few we find open, then found the others had arrived and settled into the albergue across the street.

Finally back together, we set off the following morning. The men had met several along the way who were curious about the Faith and seminarians, but I'll let them tell those stories. However, on the road this day, we stopped in a town to see if the church was open and not only was it, but there was Adoration this day. What a gift!! We made a Holy Hour and the continued on our way.

The rest of the day's events, I'll let one of the others write about. However, the beautiful takeaway is the God has gifts everywhere. One has to be ready to see and embrace them. Til next blog,

God bless,
Fr. Roux

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Role of the Catholic on the Camino Today (and a brief update)

Seminarians in Eucharistic Adoration
in a small town in Spain
Our efforts have been quite successful in this territory. People see the beauty in our fraternity, and are immediately attracted to us. They see that these men sing, pray, have pushup contests, and are still fun to share a drink with at the end of the day. People ask us questions and we happily answer them. People see us praying the breviary, and want to pray too, despite never having laid eyes on the book. One particular man, is a Reformed Lutheran, who despite his views, always feels inclined to find us if we are in the same town.

El Camino opens the Pilgrim to new and beautiful things, and for those we have encountered, it is the Roman Catholic Church and her seminarians. It is easy to see why this is, if we go back to my main purpose for hiking this trail: detachment. We all have our cellphones in airplane mode. The media cannot tell these people that religion is superstitious nonsense 24/7, as of right now. They cannot be told it is just a bunch dead garbage from ages past when four men, under the age of 25, stand by with a fire in their bellies, and a zeal for the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

Pray for these people that they may find God, and pray for the pastoral formation of all the seminarians throughout the world!

Thoughts and Reflections
from Matthew W. Dimock, Jr.
In the seminary, we have a rule that we are not allowed to maintain social media accounts, so this will be my first public Internet post in over a year. Hello world!!

With that said, I would like to personally update you on our adventures from the seminarian point of view. After our departing from Fr. Roux, we made haste to our next stop, Hornillos del Camino, a small town in the middle of nowhere, Spain. From there we went to Castrojeriz. From there, last night, we met up with our clerical superior, who moved like a roadrunner to meet up with us. Tonight, we are in Itero de la Vega, a town formerly the home of the Knight's Templar (Deus Vult). That, in an extremely abbreviated fashion, is our big travel update.

Saint Joseph, pray for us!
When I first heard of the Camino, I knew that I should have a spirit of detachment in mind (see the introductions page to the right of the blog), but as I continued doing my research on the pilgrimage, especially in regards to preparation, I gained a whole new goal of evangelization along the route to Santiago.

You see, many people (maybe even a majority of people) walk the way of St. James for non-pilgrimage reasons. For some, it has to do with sight-seeing, others just want exercise. Some are on the Camino because they have reached some sort of crossroads in their lives, and have to make an important decision, or come to peace with some baggage of their past. Some do it for "spiritual peace of mind" or to "find themselves, which are as arbitrary of reasons as they sound. Many, we have found are trying to grow closer to God, but know nothing about Him.

This gives us, as seminarians a very unique ability to evangelize to these people, just as the apostle did 2000 years ago. People here are searching for something, though they do not realize that He is searching for them. The answer is right in front of their faces in the beautiful Spanish churches, that pop up with every town.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Finally on the Camino de Santiago

The Road Behind
You already know the difficulties with the bag. I will not bore you further, except to say that I went out last evening and 'resupplied' as best I could and started out at 6:00 this morning. I have met many nice people along the way and after 32k (about 24 miles) I arrived in Hontanas and have discovered that I am only 9K behind the boys. Maybe we will catch up tomorrow.

The Road Ahead

It's still amazing how the good Lord always finds ways to strip up us everything so that we know what's important. The silence of today's walk brought that home clearly today.

Once I finally arrived, I met a nice man, Andres, who was very accommodating at the Alberge and introduced me to the Sacristan so that I might offer Mass. I also met Fr. Francisco, a very welcoming priest. He was very kind and thoughtful. Please keep him, and Andres in your prayers along with so many who have been helpful along the way.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception

See you again, hopefully with my companions,

Fr. Roux

Friday, June 23, 2017

Parting of the Ways

Today, Friday, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart, we have come to a decision. There is little chance that my backpack will arrive soon, and the longer we delay, the more difficult it will be to achieve our goal. Therefore, I have sent the men on to the next stop along the way. We will keep in touch as best we can, and since alone, I will travel faster than the four of them, I hope that if my things arrive quickly, I will be able to overtake them in a day or two. Meanwhile, I will have an imposed silence, which is probably one of the reasons our Lord brought me to the Camino in the first place.  Even though it is a joy to see them experiencing things as we began, I hope for a greater closeness to Our Lord and Our Lady in the quiet.

I'm sure that they will have great stories when next I meet them.

Ben Camino!
Of course, Our Lord always gives beautiful graces in the midst of difficulty. After the above picture, I walked back to the Cathedral to write this post and make a Holy Hour. I was sitting just outside of the entrance to the cathedral when a priest happened by. So I approached and I the best of my poor Spanish explained my situation and asked if it would be possible to offer a Mass. He was most gracious and led me to the Sacristan who was happy to assist me. It was in the same beautiful chapel as yesterday. Then they informed me I had twenty minutes as they had a Mass in thirty. I was grateful for the kindness and was obedient. One only has to look to find graces.

Well, pray that I might find a solution and for Fr. Cesar as well.

God bless.

Well, at least the seminarians are having fun...

We are all here in Burgos after an overnight train from Lisbon. The city is nice and the Cathedral beautiful. 

The Cathedral at Burgos
However, penance continues. We had great hope for my backpack to arrive tomorrow morning so that we might begin the hike. I am tempted to send them ahead and catch up once we sort it all out. But enough about me, let's hear from Aaron.

Thoughts and Reflections
from Aaron Z. Huber
We have been so blessed here in Spain. We were able to have a private mass in the side chapel of the cathedral here at Burgos. (The "side chapel" was bigger than most churches in the western part of our diocese.) While waiting for Father's bag that didn't show up today, we were able to spend the afternoon in the beautiful town of Burgos. We saw a crow land on top of a woman's head while we were talking to her. While in our hostel, we were able to meet some of the pilgrims with whom we will be walking; all of them lovely people. Please continue to pray for us and be assured of our prayers for you all. 
The "side chapel"

God bless, 
Aaron Huber

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ah, Sweet Penance!

Apparently, many graces are awaiting our little crew. Not one of us will arrive on time or, at least, not without some effort. And the luggage? Who knows?

I am in Lisbon without any luggage. I had to pull an “O.J. Simpson” (think 1977 Hertz commercial) through the Newark airport to make my connection, but my bags weren’t as fast.
Hertz Rent-A-Car
Advertisement Campaign
featuring O.J. Simpson
© 1977

Camilo and Matthew D. were routed throughout Europe. They will arrive later this afternoon as does Matthew H. (who at least was treated to first class). It appears that Aaron will arrive in Lisbon tomorrow which, along with my delayed bags, means an unexpected hotel expense!

Our non-refundable train tickets were in a carry-on bag I was forced to check. The carry-on-turned-steerage was lost and the tickets right along with it.

It just seems best to get a good night sleep here. We will begin the fellowship tomorrow with new train tickets but without the carry-on. We will make the best of it!

Keep watch, more to come.