Saturday, October 23, 2010

Final Post

Hey Everyone!

I finally got around to loading all my pictures from the Camino to a Picasa folder online.  You can feel free to check them out HERE.

Thanks again for following me on this journey.  Please continue to pray for me.  You all will be in mine.

God Bless,


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Good morning folks!

I made it home Wednesday evening at about 8 after a layover in Newark.   Both the flight to Newark from Madrid and the one from Newark to Charlotte were uneventful and pretty smooth. 

It's hard to believe that the Camino is over; it was wonderful, but it is nice to be home.  God worked big time in my life and even since I have been home I have started seeing the fruits of the Camino.  There is a renewed trust that I have in Him and His will for my life, not just in regards to what my vocation is going to be, but in regards to life in general.

I want to thank all of you for following me on my journey, but most importantly I want to say thanks for your prayers.  Everyday required a trust in God and a perseverance that would have been hard to come by if not for your prayers.  Jason and I were amazed to see God working not only in our lives, but also in the lives others on the Camino.  Although we didn't witness any Saint Paul kind of conversions, we saw God working in the lives of many of the people that we met from Amy the Brit to the little trail angels that He sent to guide and encourage us.

The pains from the walking are for the most part gone.  There are some lingering ones if I sit in one position for a while and then get up too quickly, but they are to be expected after the legs were used to walking all day for a month.  My shoes held up better than expected, although they don't really have much if any life left in them after 500 miles.  The guy at the shoe store said they usually advertise them as 400-500 mile shoes, so into the yard-work bin they go.  Also, one of the cool benefits of walking 500 miles is that your body thanks you by shedding some of the unwanted baggage collected over the years--in total, I lost about 15 pounds over the course of the trip, so now comes the task of keeping it all off.

Again, I really can not thank you all enough for your support.  Know that you will all continue to be in my prayers as I move forward from the Camino.  Please continue to pray for me. Much love.


p.s. Also, I am trying to compile all the pics from the trip, so if anyone would like to see some of ones not posted on the blog, please let me know.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fatima to Madrid

Hey everyone.

We are now in Madrid after taking a night train--10.5 aweful hours of cramps and little sleep--and are at the Best Western near the airport.

Fatima was wonderful.  I was priveleged to be able to go twice before, but this was undoubtedly my best visit.  We arrived on Saturday evening and settled into the Domus Pacis, which I recommend to anyone going to Fatima in the future.  The rain, unfortunately, followed us to Fatima so we had to dodge the scattered downpours as we made it around the town.

On Sunday morning I went over to the Irish Dominican Sister´s convent and caught the tail end of their Sunday mass.  Afterwards, I went next door to their convent in order to visit two sisters with whom I had become friends during my previous visits.  I wasn´t sure if they would remember me, but they did, and had been keeping me in prayer since my last visit!  Their names are Sister Lucia and Sister Jacinta--good Fatima names :-)--and they are two very holy and prayerful ladies. 

We talked for about an hour and a half about life, the shape of their order, families, and the rosary.  Their example of prayer and faith was awesome.   They have given their lives totally to our Lord and to praying for the world and are just so incredibly joyful.  You leave the convent kind of on a spiritual high after talking with them.  They gave me a couple bags of rosaries and prayer cards and books and stuff when I left, and only asked for prayers, no donations!

I went the next day with Jason because it turns out that Sister Lucia is from the Alexandria, VA area where Jason is going to be stationed this year on his pastoral year.  What was even cooler was that Sister Lucia´s sisters were in to visit this week and got there on Monday, the day we were visiting, and I think they go to the same parish where Jason is going to be stationed--crazy! No coincidence there.  We spent a couple hours talking again with them and hanging out.  We also met an awesome old Irish priest, probably 85 or older, and talked to him for a little bit as well.  He has as much life in him now as He did at his ordination.  Just a great example of a priest.

We had been planning on heading out kind of early in order to get to Lisbon at a good time so we could get to the shrine of Saint Anthony of Padua--not Italian if you can believe it, but actually born in Lisbon--but we ended up staying in Fatima until about 4pm.  Our Lord and Lady had other plans.

On the way back from seeing the Sisters, we ran into a lady from England who had just finished the Camino with her husband and were going to be in Fatima for the 13th.  She has been all around the world doing mission work with her husband, and visiting almost all the major Marian shrines. The kicker: she isn´t Catholic.  She is Anglican, but very much on the edge of conversion.  She believes all the messages of Our Lady, but has a hard time with not being able to find the rosary in scripture.  We explained how the Bible says that in regards to traditions, not everything that our Fathers in faith wanted us to do is written in the Bible.  She also explained that part of her problem with the Rosary was that saying the Hail Mary´s over and over was like--to use her terms--verbal diarrhea, saying the same thing over and over in a mindless trance.  We then explained what the point of the Mysteries was--a meditation on the life of Christ, not a prayer solely exalting the name of Mary.  I then gave her the Scriptural Rosary book that I had brought with me on the Camino, and had almost thrown away because of getting soaked and seemingly ruined during a day of rain--Jason said "no, man, lets dry it out"--part of Our Lady´s plan.  She was incredibly thankful and basically said that she needed something like that book and had never heard of it before.  Needless to say, we were pretty blown away after talking to her.  Her name is Pam.  Please keep her in your prayers.

Alright, well we are resting now in the Best Western and are ready for our flights home tomorrow.  I can´t believe it is time to go, but at the same time I am very much ready to be back.  Unfortunately, we won´t get to check out Madrid because of the National Holiday today.  Everything is either closed or crazy, so we are just going to be recluses today.  I get into Charlotte in the late evening after a layover in Newark.  I look forward to seeing you all very soon.  Much love.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bon Dia!

Hey everyone!

Greetings from Fatima, Portugal!

We made it to Fatima earlier this evening after a 7 hour bus ride from Santiago, and are now at the Blue Army's Domus Pacis Hotel. 

The bus ride was long, but not too uncomfortable.  The legs have been used to moving a little bit more, so there was a little soreness, but nothing major.  It was crazy leaving Santiago--not so much in the sense of business and bustle, but just that even since our arrival on Thursday, time has flown.

It was great this morning though before heading to the bus station.  We woke up early and tried to hit up a cafe for some caffeine and a croissant, but everything was closed.  The Cathedral however was not, so we made it up there for one last time at the tomb of St. James and also for Mass.  We saw a Korean girl at Mass who came up to us afterwards and asked if we remembered her.  We met her on our first day of walking in the rain and wind a month ago.  She told us today that she had remembered our request for prayers that day and she said she had been remembering us in prayer since then.  Still kind of blows my mind!  We didn't even get her name before she walked off with friends, but she will definitely be in my prayers.

We also had a mini reunion this morning with about 10 or so people we had started walking with or had met up with along the Camino.  They were all in line or going to get in line to get their Pilgrim Compostela and then head into the Cathedral for Mass.  Kind of bitter sweet looking back on it.  For the most part, I will not see any of those folks until, hopefully, we are in Heaven together.  Well, there was one last "Buen Camino", the callsign and greeting of all pilgrims, and then we were off to the bus station.

I don't have enough time right now to write about what I learned in the parting ways of all the camino friends and acquaintances, but it along with all the other lessons I learned was very special.  

So, Fatima.  We are going to the international Mass in the morning at 11am, so maybe a little bit of sleeping in is in store, but maybe not.  Some of the more beautiful and intimate Masses usually happen in the Basilica early in the morning in the side chapels at the tombs of the shepherd children, so I may head down to one of those.  Pray for good weather.  It has been raining gatos and perros since we got here and it kind of slows you down a little.  Anywho, I have brought all your prayers and intentions with me to Fatima, so be assured of my prayers while at this holy place.  I look forward to seeing you all soon. Much Love.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Hugging the Saint

Hello everyone,

We received our Compostela (certificate of completion) today from the pilgrims office in Santiago.  We also received our final two stamps of our trip on our pilgrim credentials.  Throughout the journey to Santiago we stopped in many towns, large and small, and at each one we received a stamp that was unique to either the town, bar, church, or albergue where we stopped.  I had just enough room for one final space on my credential, which I will try to upload in a future post, and then a spot next to my name certifying completion of the Camino.  It was pretty cool to get the final stamp and the Compostela, but I think I am still trying to process the fact that we are actually done with the journey.

It is hard to believe that exactly a month ago, today, we began our journey, not quite sure of what it was going to bring us.  I think it will be the type of thing that will hit me once I arrive back home and I can process it there.

As for now, we still have 5 days or so left in Europe and we aren´t going to let them go to waste.  We just got back from a trip to the bus and train stations in Santiago where we purchased our tickets to and from Fatima, Portugal.  We are leaving Santiago tomorrow morning by bus and arriving in the early evening in Fatima.  We booked a room at the Domus Pacis, the hotel of choice for the Fatima Peace Pilgrimage coordinated by The Te Deum Foundation every summer.  We leave Fatima on Monday evening for Madrid via Lisbon.  We bought night train tickets to Madrid but unfortunately didn´t get a bed, so I am going to have to pop an ambien :-)

We are off to grab a little bit to eat before meeting up with a Slovenian couple who we met on the Camino.  They are a great couple and a lot of fun to hang out with, so we are going to go get some dinner with them.  The wife is particularly funny with her frequent use of "I keel you" when speaking to her husband.  Pray for them.  They, like many people we met, are fallen away Catholics who because of ridiculous stuff have been pushed away.  Their priests have preached some pretty terrible things from the pulpit in regards to charity towards one´s neighbors.  It has to do with the wars and strife that have been a problem in the region for the past 20 years and the hatred between the countries.  Anywho, because of this being preached, and some other things, they haven´t been to Church on a regular basis in a long time.  Pray for them.

Alrighty, thanks for continuing to check out the blog.  One more week or so before I sign off.  Looking forward to being back home.  Much love.


Thursday, October 7, 2010


Hey Everyone!!

I am writing from an internet cafe a couple of blocks from the end of our journey, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  We arrived at about 11am after a good 4.5 hours or so of walking from Arco doPino, and made it just in time for the 12pm Pilgrim Mass.

The walk in was pretty pleasant.  We started at about 6:45 with our flashlights leading the way.  We weren´t missing much in regards to scenery since the nearby hills and mountains were covered in a morning mist which turned out to be an all day mist/rain.  We made it to the Alto de Gozo which sits about 5km just outside of the city and overlooks the town of Santiago.  Unfortunately, because of the incoming clouds there was not a lot to see at the time.

We then started the hike down the mountain and into Santiago proper and were met with our first real rain since the Hurrican on Sunday.  This did not keep us from walking.  We pushed forward and began to see bigger groups of pilgrims crosswalks and knew that we were getting close.  Less than around 45 minutes after starting down the mountain, navigating our way through crowds of locals and pilgrims, we finally arrived at the Cathedral. 

We have not, however, completed the pilgrim portion of the journey.  What we have to do--once the lines and craziness die down--is the go to the pilgrims office, show them our credentials that are now full of stamps, state our purpose for going on the Camino, and receive our Compostela--our certificate of completion.  Hopefully we don´t run into trouble there.  Apparently, people have been driving the Camino by car, getting stamps in their credentials, and then getting their Compostela in Santiago.  What´s the point?! Anywho, because of those people we had to make sure to get enough stamps so that we don´t get extra questions from the "port authority of Santiago" :-)

Alrighty,  I am at a computer that allows me to upload pics, so I will post some at the end of the entry.

Much love,


Getting into Galicia



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

To Santiago!

Hey everyone!

Tomorrow is the big day!  We are right now in Arco do Pino, about 20km outside of Santiago and are anxiously awaiting the trip into the city. 

The trip should take a couple of hours tomorrow morning and get us into the city in time for the pilgrims Mass.  We are not quite sure what the proper protocol is for pilgrims in regards to what we need to do once in the city.  Some have said to go straight to the Cathedral, but if we do that then we can´t bring in our bags.  Some have said go and secure lodging because of how packed the city is going to be. So, we are going to kind of play it by ear and see what tomorrow brings.

I will find a good computer in Santiago in order to upload pics and stuff, especially the ones from tomorrow.  We are expecting good weather and are very pleased with that after the dead hurricane or whatever the heck came through a couple days ago.  Really, it has been a big story on the news and did some pretty significant damage.  We decided to go ahead and do a 30+km day today in order to put us in good position for tomorrow.  We didn´t want to have to walk on Friday because the weather is supposed to be pretty nasty, so hopefully we will have some sunny skies.

Alrighty, well I am off for now.  Tomorrow to Santiago!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

50km update

That´s right everyone, only 50km left to Santiago!!!

We are getting excited and are now trying to plan our post arrival intinerary.  It is good that we are getting into Santiago early because we have some more time to possibly get to Fatima or Avila, but that also means we are probably going to spend more money. . .

Anywho, as to my whereabouts for the last couple days, we have been in a couple of remote towns so no access to internet.  

I tell you, though, I learned one of the greatest lessons of this trip on our walk yesterday.  Two days ago on Sunday, we started walking in what I described as a Tropical Storm.  The rain was coming from all directions and the wind almost stopped you in your tracks at times.  Shoes and socks were soaked, and spirits were really dampened.  It was very difficult to pray during the walk and I found myself getting mad at God, kind of like "come on, man, we have had amazing weather for the past 20 days, and not even an easing us into this, but 20-30mph winds and rain?"  

Yesterday, however, was almost the complete opposite.  We had heard that there was supposed to be rain, and so we were prepared for the worst.  We got a little bit, just sprinkles and nothing really worth wearing a poncho for.  I found my spirits lifted up and actually enjoying the walk and its occasional glimpses of sunshine.  It was then that God opened my eyes.  I was able to lift up prayers and praise on the beautiful day, but when it came to a day when the sky was falling, I could barely pray and thank Him for another day of life.  Another parallel to the spiritual life, huh?  I saw myself as a "fair weather Catholic" at that point, only able to praise and thank God when things were going well.  But, God also put a little something on my mind basically the whole time after I realized what I was doing, and it is a song from the Christian music group "Casting Crowns" titled I Will Praise You In This Storm.  The chorus is as follows:

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

This really helped me see what I needed to do for the rest of the trip, especially since there is another swath of rain coming in tomorrow, but it also showed me what I need to do in my life whenever troubles and spiritual "storms" come my way--thank Him for them, and see that they are bringing me closer to Him. 

Alrighty, well if I can´t post tomorrow, then the next post may be from Santiago.  I can´t believe the journey is almost over. Thank you all for your prayers during this time.  You all continue to be in mine.  Much love.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tropical Storm Santiago

Hey folks.

We are now in Sarria and are officially at the 100km mark to Santiago.  Sarria is where many people join the Camino in order to do the last 100km, so from here on, unfortunately, we expect the numbers to go up on the trail.

As for the title of this post, there is not an actual tropical storm, as far as I can tell, but it seems very much like one outside.  This morning was the most miserable I have been on the trip so far.  We looked out the window and saw rain and wind coming down and we weren´t sure what we were in for.  After a few steps outside of the albergue door, I turned to Jason and said "you know, it isn´t too late to turn back"--in jest at first, but later in the walk, not so much.

To add insult to injury, there was a wardrobe malfunction a couple minutes into the trip.  I had my poncho on over me and my bag, with my windbreaker on underneath.  I got excited for a second because I remembered that my poncho had a short zipper in the front just below the neck to allow one to limit the amount of water getting past the poncho.  Well, apparently, my poncho is made out of recycled Glad-Bags, because when I grabbed the assistance tab underneath the zipper to stabilize the zipping process, a 12-16inch tear formed exposing my shoulder straps and windbreaker to the elements.  This quickly changed the mood.  Coupled with SOAKED feet, the morning soon became miserable.  

The rain was coming from all directions at times with 20+mph winds and 30+gusts.  Twas aweful.  We made it to Samos by accident since we had not originally planned on taking that route, and we made it to 12pm Mass at the Benedictine monastery there.  I feel kind of bad about the next part--a Taxi.  Both Jason and I did not come prepared with adequate rain gear and felt that continuing in the weather would have only made things worse--getting sick so close to Santiago or other problems.  We passed other pilgrims while in the Taxi, but most, if not all of them had adequate rain gear.  

We are dried out now and staying at a kind of shady pension place.  Nicer than some hostals, but . . .shady.

If the weather cooperates we should be in Santiago by this Friday.  I can´t believe it.  We have gone about 700km so far and only have about 100 left.  Please pray that this last stretch goes without incident and that we keep our spirits up.  Much love.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Road Less Travelled 2.0--Slaying the Dragon. . .

Hey everyone.

Sorry for the delay, but we were in a pretty remote town last night, so no internet.

The past two days have been pretty interesting.  We started yesterday in Cacabelos, just outside of Villafranca, at the foot of the mountains that lead into Galicia.  We had decided that the route we were going to take was the Dragonte route--the most strenuous, but also most rewarding of the possible routes.  Dragonte is the name of the first town that we came to on the route, which in Spanish is translated something having to do with a dragon. . .That should have been our first clue.

The first 5km into Dragonte followed a mountain road that was almost exclusively switchbacks--one direction and then the opposite as it climbed the mountain.  We passed some people harvesting the local vineyard on the mountain, which was pretty cool to see, but even they stopped and were like "what the heck are those guys doing?"--Heck, even before we made it out of Villafranca, two people on separate occasions stopped us and pointed us in the other direction.  When we told them what we were doing, they chuckled, said ok, and left us to our demise.

We made it up and down the first of the three mountains and then things started getting tricky.  Not only is this the most strenuous route, but it is also the most ill-waymarked of the three options.  The towns we were going through were awesome.  We were travelling on legit cattle trails where we even saw a man coming back from getting hay, being pulled by two oxen and guarded by two of his dogs--very cool stuff.

Anywho, at the bottom of the first mountain was a stream that needing fording.  Little did we know that the stream was actually part of our path.  we made it across the stream relatively dry and then continued on our way. Again, I can´t stress the awesome character of these little towns that we passed through.  We started heading up the second of the two mountains and only to get stuck at a four way crossing of mountain roads, none of which looked highly travelled.  After some trial and error we finally found the right one leading up to the next town where we decided to stop for lunch.  But, before we could stop for lunch we had to deal with a white lion and a barking squirrel that was next to him--really just a huge dog that was similar to a lion in size and growl, and his little sidekick who was there for moral support.  The lion thing followed us for another 100m or so and then lost sight of us.

We continued in this little town for a little bit longer and came upon a man outside of his barn/house with his very old mother.  We chatted briefly with them and when we asked how many other pilgrims were on this route they answered "solo vosotros"--"only you (y'all)"---Nice. . .are we the only ones crazy enough to try this route? So after his kind directions, he pointed us over a nearby mountain.  We started up the path, ate our packed lunch, and pondered whether we had made a mistake.  We continued up the path and when we looked back at the town, now a couple of hundred meters away, we could see the man watching us to see if we were going the right way.  We found out quickly that we weren't when, in a very "RIIIIIIIICOLAAAA" manner, corrected us.  We went over the mountain, all this time without waymarks, and continued down the path with the least amount of bulls. . .yes, large cows with horns.  The path I chose lead us through a thicket down to a small radio beacon and then ended.  We then decided to go back up to the bulls, pondering how painful the "outtakes" of the running of the bulls really were. 

We breathed a great sigh of relief when we saw that they were securely confined to their grazing by a small piece of rope, acting, I guess, as some type of method of retention.  We passed the cows, being eyed warily by all of them, and continued down the mountain on what we were hoping was the right road.

Well, out guidebook had mentioned something about a rock-quarry at the bottom of the mountain and something about a blasting zone as well. . .both of these we soon entered after continuing to zig-zag down the mountain.  We found that pulverized rock is very interesting to walk through, but can make it through shoes and two layers of socks--to which my beige feet could attest later that evening.

So, we then made it through the active quarry and up the next mountain to a small town called San Fiz--patron Saint of champagne making and soda. . .not really, but I liked to think so.  We then came across an old man sitting by himself in a make-shift soccer field and, very much like Antonio in the last post, invited us for a descanso.  Another little trail angel.

His name was Nicanor, and he had lived in the area his whole life.  We asked him how much farther to the town we were hoping to walk to on the Dragonte route and he said about another 15km.  At this point we had already climbed two mountains, gone at least 20km in the process, and were basically spent.  He recommended taking the road to the A-6, one of Spain's big highways, and picking up the middle route there.  After some debate and rational thinking, we felt it best to forego the rest of the Dragonte route and make it alive and in daylight to Herrerias.

We stayed at an Albergue in Herrerias last night and had a nice pilgrim dinner consisting of some hearty lentel soup, two fried eggs with french fries--heart attack anyone?--and some postre or dessert.  We slept pretty well after having our tails handed to us on a silver plato by the Dragonte route.

I slept in a little bit this morning, which the body was craving after a couple days of being beaten up, and then we started the hike up to O'Cebreiro.  This was probably the roughest start to the day since the first day in St. Jean, with a 1000m climb to O'Cebreiro.  It was pretty cool getting up there though, because it was during the climb that we entered into Galicia.  Most importantly, however, was a Church in the town that had a Eucharistic miracle happen in the middle ages.  We spent some time in prayer there and then started our hike to Trescastillas.  This was a pretty long hike down the mountain, but it was made easier with some conversation with a very nice Slovenian couple that we have been travelling at the same pace as, and a young couple from Washington state.

Alrighty, well I am off to bed.  We are in a nice albergue in Trescastilla, and the bunks look pretty comfy, so I'm out.  Much love to all.