Stage 23: Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo
Official: 24.67km // iPhone Step Count: 26.8km
Why a pilgrim decides to begin the Camino de Santiago is something deeply unique and personal for each pilgrim.
Why a pilgrim wakes up every morning and continues the Camino de Santiago seems to change each day.
The hot summer sun has finally found Spain. By 10am, the heat index climbs to uncomfortable degrees, and the sweat drips down to uncomfortable locations. With little breeze we march onward. Each step begging, “Why?”
As we inch closer towards Santiago, nearing the minimum 100km requirement to receive the Compostela, the number of pilgrims steadily increases. Their positive, naive energy reminds those pilgrims of where they came from some 600+ kilometers ago.
“Fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”
In life it is rare and often difficult to gain such perspective, to see who you were, and where you’ve come. On the Camino, I am humbled by this graced opportunity.
The first 10 or so kilometers of the walk is made quick as we continually pass through simple towns. Charging along a steep highway, the Camino veers right through acres upon acres of vineyards.
Arranged in orderly rows, these perfectly positioned pristine vines methodically weave through the Spanish hillsides. Oblivious of the ancient path that cuts through this nature.
Gazing upon these perfect plants it is a miracle to see them eventually transferred to bottles. A magical process I know not of.
The mystery of Spanish wine, which pilgrims drink daily, and the mysterious reason for their walking, flows as naturally as it pours. The joy of this shared drink and shared journey enriches the spiritual lives of us pilgrims.
Young and old, we pour our stories out to one another. Rich and poor, we drink from the same ancient experience. First day walkers or day 100 walkers, we consume in the same Way that millions of others have followed.
In this Eucharistic walk, the “Why” of our reasoning expands to new horizons. What we’ve learned and what we’ve gained surprises us from our initial expectations.
It are these unanswered questions, that lead to new and endless journeys. For if we found the answer, we never would have begun the walk.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ