An update – “Feast Days in France…”

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For 15 days this September I hiked “in the footsteps” of the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail…

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October 12, 2023 – My last post said I’d add updates – to that September 10 post – as I hiked the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, in France. But alas, I never got the chance. The days were just too hectic, the “free” French WiFi was iffy at best, and most days it was enough just to shower, wash that day’s clothes for the next day, and get a good meal – at the end of the day. I also said I’d put those updates between two sets of asterisks (below), which is what I’ll do now, now that I’m back home in God’s Country, safe and sound. (As this first week back moves along. It’s taking some time to get over the jet lag and get back up to speed, like understanding what people around me are saying…)

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September 10, 2023 – The next major Church Feast is Holy Cross Day, Thursday, September 14. Just before – in the Daily Office – come for readings for the Eve of Holy Cross: Psalms 46871 Kings 8:22-30Ephesians 2:11-22. Next up is the Feast day for St Matthew, Evangelist, Thursday, September 21. Then Friday, September 29 comes the Feast for St Michael and All Angels.

The thing is, I’ll be in France from September 11 through October 8, mostly to hike the GR 70, also called the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. But I’ll only have a tablet, not a laptop, so covering those feast days will be problematic to say the least. So I’ll do this: Write up this post beforehand, then update it as I hike along the Trail. (After enjoying sights in Paris and Lyon.)

“As far as traveling in France goes, I’ll put updates in between these two sets of asterisks:”

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And now for the delayed updates: For starters, doing the Daily Office readings every hiking day was challenging. In previous hikes I’ve packed an actual printed Bible, but by the time I finished packing for this trip – and some anticipated heavy rain and maybe hail – my pack weighed 20 pounds. (Five pounds over the recommended 10% of body weight. In my case, 15 pounds.)

One less-weight option was the online Lectionary – Satucket. However, that required a good WiFi connection, and as noted, French WiFi was “iffy.” Sometimes non-existent, and sometimes I got the message, “connected, no WiFi.” So quite often I ended up using the PDF King James Bible I’d downloaded onto my tablet. (Which I also used to take pictures and post them on Facebook, and along with commentary for the folks back home.) In the end that worked when necessary, but it was way different reading that Bible with all its Shakespearean English.

As far as those Feast days, explained further below, on September 14 – Holy Cross Day – I was in Lyon, at a hostel called Ho36. I wanted to hike over the two bridges connecting my room to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, said to offer a spectacular view of the city. I ended up hiking Rue Marseilles, parallel to the rivers, but later corrected that error. I finally got to the Basilica, but learned you could only climb up to the top of the tower as part of a tour group. (“Not interested.”) But the hill itself offered a good view.

On September 21, the day for St. Matthew, we ended up in a cute little hamlet, Brugeyrolles, east of Langogne, which we thought was our final destination that day. (With some footsore backtracking.) But the first of many four-course late French meals made up for that “misdirection.” And on September 29 and St. Michael and All Angels, I finished the morning’s DORs in “St. Julian d’Arpaon, a kind of campground.” That day we hiked 13.68 miles, up and over a mountain, “Signal du Bouges.” Which may have been the toughest hike of the whole 15 days of hiking.

So, so much for my experiment of thinking I could post updates while on an actual “Camino hike.” Which I define as a hike where you don’t have to pack a tent, sleeping bag and all your food. Instead, at the end of each day you look forward to a room with a warm bed, hot shower and cold beer. Now it’s time to get back to the original post, which will cover me until I can get over my jet lag and back to my at-home rhythm. And hopefully I can do some more instructive posts in the near future. After all, this Stevenson Trail hike was a pilgrimage:

A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life

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Returning to the original September 10 post: So be on the lookout. Meanwhile, for those September feast days, see Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel” for starters, from 2018: “I wrote in 2016’s St. Matthew and ‘Cinderella‘ that two major feast days in September are Holy Cross Day (9/14) and St. Matthew, Evangelist.” A third major feast is September 29, for St. Michael and All Angels. (Followed by more detail on those feasts…)

The first is one of several Feasts of the Cross, recalling the cross used to crucify Jesus:

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

As for Matthew, he was a tax collector, and in Jesus’ time they were hated. A lot. A “tax farmer,” like Matthew, was “sure to be hated above all men as a merciless leech who would take the shirt off a dying child.” And so – in Jesus’ time – devout Jews avoided them at all costs.

They were fellow Jews, but worked for the Romans as tax collectors. Also because they were “usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes).” Which led to this lesson from Jesus:

[T]hroughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast. Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

Which turned out to be good news for pretty much all us “sinful and despised.”

As for Michael, he’s mentioned most prominently in Revelation 12:7-10:

[T]here was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels. And prevailed not… [T]he great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.  And I heard a loud voice saying … the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

See also Michael (archangel) – Wikipedia, which noted that in the New Testament “Michael leads God’s armies against Satan‘s forces … where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan.” Also, he’s mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel, once as a “great prince who stands up for the children of your people.” So like I said in earlier posts, “I’ll take all the help I can get!”

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In the meantime, if you’re interested you could check out Walking the GR70 Chemin de Stevenson – I Love Walking In France. And finally, about those pilgrim hikes I go on each year. Check out On St. James (2023), Pilgrimage, and “Maudlin’s Journey,” from last July 29. (Back then I was planning this trip to France. Now it’s today when I fly out.)

I listed some reasons there, but mostly I do it for the adventure, and to get away from the rut of ordinary, everyday life. But I’ll probably add some more reasons in those updates from France, between the two sets of asterisks above. In the meantime, wish me Happy Hiking!

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The hiking was mostly happy, but challenging, as I hope to detail in future posts. (While also commenting on upcoming Feast days, like October 18’s remembering St. Luke – physician, historian, artist. See also On Saints Luke, and James of Jerusalem – 2021.) The food was great, as were the many spectacular views from the tops of all those hills in the Cevennes. Which is another way of saying I’m still looking for an answer for people who ask, “Why would anyone want to do that?

The upper image is courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson Trail – Walking in France. See also On donkey travel – and sluts, my post from February 2015.

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

The lower image is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Image Resultswhich 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. 

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