Monday, March 29, 2010

A Difficult But In Retrospect a Wonderful Experience

A priest from Inchon wrote up his experience on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James of Compostella in Spain. A tradition that goes back to the 10th century, the walking trip usually starts from one of the several towns in France and lasts for a month or more, covering a distance of  about 800 kilometers.

The priest was moved to make the trip by reading a book on the subject and, liking mountain climbing and walking, decided on doing the pilgrimage before getting any older.

He chose to begin his walk within Spain; it was 400 kilometers long and took him 18 days to complete. When he arrived at the starting place of the pilgrimage, he was nervous and uncomfortable, not being able to communicate in either English or Spanish. Before leaving Korea, he was warned about  pickpockets who liked to work among the Koreans. This fear added to his uncomfortableness.

In Korea his every need was filled but here he was all by himself with a whole new experience to contend with. In the places that were set aside for sleeping, there were men and woman together, which was something that he didn't have to deal with in the past, so he went to an inn, where he stayed for the first ten days. However,this made him feel even lonelier. He finally decided,for the last part of the trip, to join the others in the common sleeping quarters and found this much more to his liking. He could hear about the trip and what was ahead. He met many from Europe, the Germans being the largest group; in some years, he learned,there would be as many as 20 to 30 thousand Germans making the pilgrimage.

Toward the end of his stay, he could   drop his concerns for his bodily comfort and safety and found the peace of mind he was looking for. Though there were not many moments of joy during the trip, in retrospect he was able to view the pilgrimage as a wonderful experience and even was thinking of doing it again; next time, he promised himself,he would be better prepared.

St. Paul helped him to see what had been demanded of him. "I do not say this," said Paul, "because I am in want,for whatever the situation I find myself in, I have learned to be self-sufficient. I am experienced in being brought low, yet  I know what it is to have an abundance. I have learned how to cope with every circumstance--how to eat well or go hungry, to be well provided for or do without"(Phil. 4:11-12).

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