Stage 18: Bercianos del Real Camino to Mansilla de Las Mulas Bus Station to León
Official: 26.17 km // iPhone Step Count: 27.9 km
After 18 days of consistent walking, we had enough. Time to bus ahead to save a day’s travel and rest in León.
Walking into town, another festival is brewing. Summer in Spain seems to be one celebration after the next, and we are fortunate enough to walk right into each town just as they begin.
With booths situated around city centers, stages set up across town, and people crowding the streets, music and laughter can be heard well into the sunrise hours. Spanish people know how to have a good time, and they know how to make it last through the next morning. It’s incredible to see how their festivities are sustained through the rising and setting of the moon.
While I do not know the reason, after a few beers my questions are demystified and we dissolve into the crowd. For the Spaniards, the festival could be anything, for us pilgrims reaching León is a pivotal place.
Over half of the Camino is behind us, or legs have moved from tired and beaten to strengthen and calloused. After nearly 20 days of travel, León also marks a departing point along the Camino de Santiago.
Pilgrims that we have traveled with, open our hearts with, and befriended catch trains and planes to their respective homes. Their departure seems incredibly sudden. Taken before the end with hopes to one day return and complete their journey. Tomorrow, our steps will now continue with a muted echo.
The Camino continues to foster lessons about life.
People enter our lives and we are offered the opportunity to walk with them. Sometimes for days and weeks. Others for months and years. Eventually, however, our roads will part and one of us will take a left, while the other will need to take a right. It is not the direction that we turn that matters, it was how we walked that made all the difference.
In the Gospel of Luke, we hear the story of the “Road to Emmaus.” In this story two people are walking to a town named Emmaus with a stranger they meet along the way. While sharing dinner together that night, they realize that the stranger they had been walking with was Christ, and in that instance he vanishes. This story is perhaps the truest story from scripture.
We walk with people daily. Both in life and on the Camino, and rarely realize that we’ve been walking with Christ the entire time until it is far too late.
Friends move away. Cancer claims lives far too soon. Jobs change. School graduations bring a certain closure. Unexpected deaths strike at random.
Roads part daily. It’s not that we will leave that matters, it’s that when we part, had our walking revealed Christ in the passing pilgrim?
Along the Camino, it’s terribly easy to meet someone and entrust them with the depths of your life. Stories flow as simply, and sometimes as painfully, as the steps we are walking. In supporting and accepting one another, each pilgrim shines the light of God through their sharing and broadens hope for one another.
In life, it’s terribly difficult to entrust others. Judgement and fear pipes through our veins and our lights are often shaded from view. We spend more time walking away from others than towards or with them.
On the road to Emmaus, on the road of life, we are called to walk with others and recognize Christ in our midst. In that walking we reveal that it is not Heaven that we are walking towards, but Heaven that we are walking in.
How might we walk with others and entrust them with our stories?
How might we walk with others and see the light of God in one another?
How might we walk without judgement and accept others more fully?
How might we walk without fear and be our authentic self?
How might we walk and make heaven real today?