Monthly Archives: July 2023

On St. James (2023), Pilgrimage, and “Maudlin’s Journey…”

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Last Saturday, July 22, was the Feast Day for “Mary of Magdala.” Three days later, Tuesday July 25, we remembered James, son of Zebedee. He’s one of several “Jameses” in the New Testament, but “St. James the Greater.” And this James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims

Each year at this time I keep referring to St. James as Patron Saint of Pilgrims, mostly because I usually have a pilgrimage planned for the following September. This year is no different. For 15 days next September I’ll be hiking the GR 70 in France, also known as Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. I wrote of that Trail in the September 2016 post, On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.  

The “sluts” in question were mentioned by Stevenson in his ground-breaking 1879 work Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes… [C]onsidered a “pioneering classic of outdoor literature,” [it inspired] John Steinbeck‘s 1962 nonfiction work, Travels with Charley.)

That post ended with a note on Stevenson‘s trailblazing 1879 pilgrimage – with a donkey – in the Cévennes. But I’d written about it earlier, in February 2015’s On donkey travel – and sluts.” And just so you know, his word “sluts” didn’t mean what it does now. (Explained in the notes, the word was grammatically correct in 1879, but raises some eyebrows today.)

For the trip Stevenson invented one of the first-ever modern sleeping bags, and on the hike –  from Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille to Saint-Jean-du-Gard – he often had to use it, camping out in the open. And quite often found himself lost and having to rely on strangers for help.

One night he’d run across some village people – not the Y.M.C.A. kind – who fled at the sight of him. He may have been just a wandering camper, but nobody “camped” back then. Wanderers like him were considered bums, vagrants or worse. So, when Stevenson entered a small village and tried to ask directions, he was not received warmly. One “old devil simply retired into his house, and barricaded the door.” He then tried asking two 12-year-old girls for directions – the “impudent sluts” – but they had “not a thought but mischief.” One stuck out her tongue, “the other bade me follow the cows; and they both giggled and jogged each other’s elbows.”

We probably won’t be treated so rudely in September, or have to ask directions. The trail is well marked, lots of pilgrims hike it each year, and there’s no need to either camp as he did, or hope for lodging in a private home. We have our rooms all booked up, so – like all “Camino hikes” – at the end of each day we can look forward to a warm bed, hot shower and a cold beer.

Getting back to St. James and his “Way,” I first hiked the Camino de Santiago – the “Way of St. James” – in 2017. From Pamplona to Santiago, 450 miles in 30 days. In 2019 I hiked the Portuguese Camino, from Porto – home of port wine – back up to Santiago. In 2021 I hiked the Pyrenees part, from France, over the mountains, back to Pamplona and ending in Burgos. And next year we plan to hike the Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury, in England, from Winchester.

And why? The chance to take a break from everyday life, to take time out, “time to think, time to get away from life as it is.” Also the challenge, the chance for spiritual development and to get away from “civilization,” to re-connect with nature. Or as we kept saying on the Way of St Francis last September, “It sure beats playing bingo at the Senior Center!”

But we’re getting “off the trail,” so to speak. Here’s what Satucket noted about St. James:

Tradition has it that [James] made a missionary journey to Spain, and that after his death his body was taken to Spain and buried [at] Compostela… His supposed burial place there was a major site of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and the Spaniards fighting to drive their Moorish conquerors out of Spain took “Santiago de Compostela!” as one of their chief war-cries.

Which is another way of saying that the very name itself has had magical powers in the past. But that doesn’t answer the question, “Why go on such a long hike today?” You could find some other answers by Googling Why do People Walk [the] Camino de Santiago? Then too, Stevenson himself provided some good answers in his book.

Early on in his groundbreaking hike – his Travels – Stevenson found himself  groping in the dark for a campsite. (A site described as “black as a pit.”) He ate a crude dinner – a tin of bologna and some cake, washed down with brandy – then settled in for the night. “The wind among the trees was my lullaby.” He woke up in the morning “surprised to find how easy and pleasant it had been,” sleeping out in the open, “even in this tempestuous weather.” He then waxed poetic:

I had been after an adventure all my life, a pure dispassionate adventure, such as befell early and heroic voyagers; and thus to be found by morning in a random nook in Gevaudan – not knowing north from south, as strange to my surroundings as the first man upon the earth…

As it turns out, that’s the nature of a pilgrimage. A break from “real life,” from the rat race that consumes so many. I noted that in St. James the Greater, and elsewhere described it as “ritual on the move.” As in religious ritual, a “patterned behavior” tied to a religious institution, belief, or custom, often with the intent of “talking to” – or hearing from – God.

Through the raw experience of hunger, cold and lack of sleep, “we can quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings, especially when compared with ‘the majesty and permanence of God.’” In short, such a pilgrimage can be “‘one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating’ of personal experiences.”

Which brings us to “Maudlin’s journey.” Maudlin is just a corruption of Magdalene, as in Mary of Magdala, the ancient Jewish city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. She had her own series of transforming pilgrimages. But one important one – for us today – happened long after she died. That posthumous journey – in its way – led “to a personal transformation,” a transforming of how we see Mary today. For example, Mary of Magdala | FutureChurch noted that for centuries she was “perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity:”

Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

But if you think about it – and read the Gospel accounts – Magdalene showed way more courage than the 11 male disciples, when push came to shove. While those 11 disciples cowered in their room, hiding out lest the Romans punish them as well, Mary went alone to the empty tomb.  John 20:1: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” Thus the one indisputable fact about Mary is that she was both the first person to visit the empty tomb, and the first person to see the risen Jesus. (John 20:11-16.)

That’s why St. Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles.” And that may have accounted for stories of her “sordid past.” Jealous men – both at the time and later – trying to cover up their own cowardice, or their own bias, by sullying her reputation. So one possible lesson from all this? Keep on “pilgrimaging.” Good results keep coming even after you die!

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Mary of Magdala, arguably a “pilgrim” even after she died…

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The upper image is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Image Results, which led me to Why the Oldest Form of Travel Could Be the Most Popular in a Post=COVID World: “Pilgrimages are the oldest form of travel,” from the start to go to shrines or temples and leave offerings, and/or connect to God or ancestors. Also defined as a “hyper-meaningful journey” or “sacred endeaver,” making it different from regular forms of travel or leisure; “it is the meaning or transformation that occurs.”

One pilgrimage that has exploded is the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Europe. There are many pathways, but one of the main pathways is the Camino Frances, which is a trail that goes from France to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Santiago, Spain. 

In my experience the Camino Frances was already pretty well “exploded” in 2017. So much so that my brother Tom took to taking detours away from the main route, and all those fellow pilgrims repeating over and over, “Hola, Buen Camino!” See the October 2017 “Hola! Buen Camino!”

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

For this post I also borrowed from 2014’s “St. James the Greater,” 2017’s Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints, and Mary of Magdala and James the Pilgrim – 2022.

On “sluts.” The term had a different meaning from 1375 to 1425 – and apparently up to 1879. From the “late Middle English slutte; compare dial. slut mud, Norwegian (dial.) slutr,” which translated to “sleet” or “impure liquid.” See Slut at

Slut first appeared in the written language in 1402, according to the Oxford English Dictionary…   At that time, slut meant roughly what one sense of slattern means today: a slovenly, untidy woman or girl.  It also apparently meant “kitchen maid” (”She is a cheerful slut who keeps the pots scrubbed and the fires hot.”).

On sleeping bags, see Sleeping bag – Wikipedia, or A short history of sleeping bags – Wilderness Magazine. Versions of the “new-fangled invention” were first offered for sale in the late 19th century.

On “Compostela” and translating the name “James.” The name of the city is “commonly thought to be derived from the word ‘apostle,’ although a Spanish-speaking list member reports having heard it derived from ‘field of stars,'” which in Latin would be “campus stellarum.” The name James in Spanish is “Diego” or “Iago” – thus “Saint Iago” – and in most languages, “James” and “Jacob” are identical.

For the last part about Stevenson – and why geezers like me keep searching for adventure in their old age – I borrowed from Canoeing 12 miles offshore, a May 2015 post on my companion blog. It addressed the musical question, “Why would two old geezers – 63 and 69 respectively – paddle so far out, into the realm of sharks and drownings?” (Over eight years ago.)

On Maudlin, see Definition in American English | Collins Online Dictionary. The word has come to mean foolishly, tearfully and/or weakly sentimental, or “sad and sentimental in a foolish way.” The site noted that Mary Magdalene “was often represented with eyes red from weeping.”

Also on “Apostle to the Apostles,” see Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles,” Given Equal Dignity in Feast, by order of Pope Francis in 2016.

The lower image is courtesy of,_1565):

The Penitent Magdalene is a 1565 oil painting by Titian of saint Mary Magdalene, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.  Unlike his 1533 version of the same subject, Titian has covered Mary’s nudity and introduced a vase, an open book and a skull as a memento mori.  Its coloring is more mature than the earlier work, using colors harmoni[z]ing with character.  In the background the sky is bathed in the rays of the setting sun, with a dark rock contrasting with the brightly lit figure of Mary.

Also, Titian did a “racier” version in 1533. See Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia. For more on this Mary see also MARY MAGDALENE, Bible Woman: first witness to Resurrection, and What Did Mary Magdalene look like?

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On today’s Pharisees – and “Freedom ’23”

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Pharisees have gotten a bad rep since the time of Jesus.

It wasn’t always so. Some Pharisees followed Jesus. They included Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and a man named Saul, who later became Paul. You may have heard of him. He later became second only to Jesus in his contribution to Christianity and its growth.

But people are more familiar with the downside, as in Matthew 23:13. Jesus: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let in those who wish to enter.” And Mark 7:6, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'” In time they inherited the reputation, “especially on the pulpits of many churches, of being ‘holier than thou’ and esteeming themselves more highly than others.” 

Or as said, “a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.”

And it’s mostly because of today’s Pharisees (I’d say), that church attendance has fallen. In 1999 70% of Americans belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. In 2018 it was 50%, and in 2020 it was 47%. That’s the first time in 80 years of polling the percentage fell below half.

A lot of it has to do with politics. Specifically, “Christians” who use the Faith as a tool of political power. I addressed the problem in Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2023. Speaking of Christian nationalists and the like, I noted that Garry Wills for one said Jesus was above politics. “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36.) And Wills and “What Jesus (REALLY) Meant” said Jesus simply never got involved in politics. He focused instead on healing the divisions so prevalent during His time on earth. (Not making them worse, “as some politicians do today.”)

A big part of solving the problem is finding a suitable name for such people, “Christians” who drive away possible new Christians “in droves.” I’ve tried such as “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.” (A book under my nom de plume.) But that’s painting with too broad a brush. Or terms like Fundamentalist or Literalist. But as noted, all Christians should start out with “the fundamentals,” as in Army boot camp. Besides, both terms have too many syllables.

I finally came up with “CMCs.” Close-minded Christians. Christians who don’t follow what Jesus said in Luke 24:45. But what’s that got to do with “Freedom [in] ’23?” Just this, that only last Sunday I found a secret weapon against CMCs. Romans 5:6, “Christ died for the ungodly.”

The fact that they call themselves Christians is what you can say is the Achilles’ heel of CMCs, Christian Nationalists and the like. Their “weakness in spite of overall strength, which can lead to downfall.” (Or that might just lead to a Christian Nationalist becoming more of true Christian. Aside from that, it might do you some good too. See James 5:20.)

The point is that whenever a CMC insults a fellow American citizen – solely because that fellow citizen doesn’t follow the precise CMC party line – you can always ask, “Are [fill in the blank] the Ungodly?” Assuming the CMC answers yes (thus walking right into your trap), you can respond, “That’s funny, Romans 5:6 says that Jesus died for the ungodly.”

You can take it from there. The endless variations include Matthew 5:44, where Jesus said to love not just your neighbor, but your enemy as well. Which brings up Independence Day, just past, and how Romans 5:6 can help Americans keep free and independent. (Free from harassment, name-calling and worse for all Americans, not just those you agree with.)

 This idea of independence – national, secular or religious – can be messy. For one thing, freedom means the ability to make stupid choices. Also Living Stingy: “You can’t have freedom, unless you have the freedom to make bad choices.” Or choices that not every American agrees with. Which brings up early Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom, written in large part by Thomas Jefferson, who went on to shape the Declaration of Independence. (Speaking of Independence.) In that statute the Virginia Burgesses gave up a monopoly on religion.  

They wrote that when a majority tries to influence the beliefs of others, they “beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness.” (“Like it was written yesterday!”) The Burgesses also noted the  “impious presumption of legislators and rulers,” to establish “their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible.” Thus when “fallible and uninspired men” try and establish their own view of religion as “the only true and infallible,” we’re headed for trouble.

In other words, that religion is best that proves itself in the “free market place of ideas.” (See Marketplace of ideas – Wikipedia.) In further words, if your faith is true and sound, you won’t be afraid of a little competition.

The statute concluded by noting, “Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself… [It] has nothing to fear from the conflict.” So on this just-past July 4th, here’s to freedom, healthy competition in religion, and America’s Adversary system as the best way to find The Truth.

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A true Christian will never be afraid of a little healthy competition…

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The upper image is courtesy of Modern Day Pharisees – Image Results. Mark 7:6 has Jesus saying, You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'” In answer to the Scribes and Pharisees asking why His disciples did not “walk according to the tradition of the elders? “Note also the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, saying the four sources of spiritual development are the Bible, tradition, reason and experience. Of these four, “Apart from scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity.”

See also Pharisees – Wikipedia, noting they believed in an afterlife, but the Sadducees did not:

Pharisees are notable by the numerous references to them in the New Testament. While the writers record hostilities between the Pharisees and Jesus, they also reference Pharisees who believed in him, including Nicodemus, who said it is known that Jesus is a teacher sent from God, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple, and an unknown number of “those of the party of the Pharisees who believed,” among them the Apostle Paul – a student of Gamaliel, who warned the Sanhedrin that opposing the disciples of Jesus could prove to be tantamount to opposing God – even after becoming an apostle of Jesus.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Pharisees as “Holier than thou.” See Who are the Pharisees Today? Meet the Pharisees and Sadducees. See also, as noted, my post On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2023.

Church membership falling: Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline, or Why Is Church Membership in America on the Decline?

“Only last Sunday.” The readings for July 9, 2023: “AM Psalm 146, 147; PM Psalm 111, 112, 113 [-] 1 Samuel 14:36-45Rom. 5:1-11Matt. 22:1-14.”

A note: I found some interesting reading Googling “liberal insult conservative.”

“Independence Day.” The link is to On Independence Day, 2018. See also On Independence Day, 2016, and – earlier – On the Bible readings for July 4, 2014.

The lower image is courtesy of Lady With Scales Of Justice – Image Results.

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