26 June 2008

Tom - Reflections

Olympics Connections: By the second week of our Camino pilgrimage I started to realize that the Camino offered amazing similarities to what I experienced over 30 years ago with my Olympic and world bobsled competition experiences.
1. In both settings we were a distinct group of people set apart to accomplish a goal that we had been planning, working and striving for.
2. There was a distinct feeling of oneness and camaraderie. On the Camino interactions throughout the day were friendly and encouraging. Even though the weather was terrible at times we were all going through it together and everyone was quite positive.
3. In the evenings, at dinner, you may be eating and interacting with individuals from several different countries. It was a great atmosphere.
4. Most of us felt privileged and humbled to be undertaking the Camino as we did to participate on the Olympic and world teams.
5. In the evening, at the albergue, we were again interacting with people of many different nationalities. I made a list of the countries we met people from while on the Camino. I counted 28, which is similar to the interaction in the Olympic Village in the evenings after competition. This part of the Camino experience was a pleasant surprise and a nice reliving of a very positive experience of over 30 years ago.

Perspectives: I think that the pilgrimage put the realities of life into clearer perspective. Our everyday life pilgrimage is often confusing, distorted and often hard to see clearly. Frequently we can’t see the forest from the trees so to speak. The pilgrimage, simplified our life, while being a microcosm of life. We knew specifically the direction and distance we were going every day because we planned our destinations. It seemed very simple but that didn’t mean it was easy and we did have some apprehension about what was to come, like life. We had to deal mentally, physically and spiritually with life on the trail including even the monotony and drudgery of walking at times. We had our highs and lows but the directional arrows were always pointing us to our joyous destination (Santiago). I pray that my pilgrimage to Santiago helps me focus more clearly on the final destination of my life, the eternal joy and happiness of heaven with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and with all the angels, saints and other people, the real pilgrimage destination of my life.

Pray Unceasingly: For me prayer came easy and often on our Camino pilgrimage. Colleen did an awesome job with leading us in prayer including praying all four mysteries of the Rosary, the Angelus, Morning and Evening Prayer, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Examination of Conscience as well as St Louis DeMonfort’s Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the evenings. The Chaplet, however, was rarely done because by the 3 o’clock hour, when we like to pray it, we were busy getting an albergue, showering, doing laundry or some other activity. I often said extra rosaries especially before I lost all three rosaries that I had brought with me. I had planned on giving the extra rosaries away but instead I ending up loosing all three. I figured it was divine providence and the people that needed them got them. I was actually able to do a lot more mental prayer then verbal prayer while walking and the mental prayer was primarily centered around the Universal Prayer of St. Clement the XI (1700-1721). This prayer has 23 verses with each one being a meditation on its own. I thought of this as my pilgrim’s prayer because right smack in the middle of the prayer a verse reads, “Let me love you my Lord and my God, and see myself as I really am, a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to respect and love all those lives I touch, those in authority over me, those under my authority, my friends and my enemies”. By the 29th day, because of such frequent repetition, I had the blessing of having this prayer memorized. When the weather was bad and uncomfortable it was very comforting to meditate on the many verses of this prayer. The admonition to pray unceasingly is a vary challenging one, but one that I came much closer to on the Camino than any other time in my life which was and is a great blessing to me even now. I can also say that I felt the graces from the prayers from all the resident pilgrims, family and friends over all the long miles walking especially on those difficult days with all the rain, wind and cold.

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