Category Archives: Pilgrimage

On Lent as a Pilgrimage – 2024

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A visual metaphor of Lent – for example – as a pilgrim path toward Jesus, per John 6:37… 

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

The Book of Common Prayer says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are key. They show that a healthy church has two sides, including the often-overlooked “mystical” side that answers the question, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.

It has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. (As it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”) The fourth theme – another one often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to do even greater miracles than He did. (John 14:12.) 

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Not long ago I published an eBook, 30 Years’ Feedback from God. Which has nothing directly to do with this post, but finishing it up freed me to start on my next book. Its tentatively titled, “My 2023 Hike on the Stevenson Trail in France.” (What the French call the GR 70.) Which got me thinking of past pilgrimages I’ve made – like hikes on the Camino de Santiago.

Which also got me thinking about “Lent as a Pilgrimage.” That’s when I found out I wasn’t alone in that thought. I’ve included four links in the Notes – from which I’ll borrow here – and they all point to the wisdom of Psalm 84:5, that happy are the people whose “hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.” And here are some nuggets from those links: First, that “pilgrimage” is not some abstract idea or concept, but rather “a deeply fitting idea for this time of Lent:”

A pilgrim is someone on a journey – a journey away from a place of comfort and familiarity on the way toward unknown places of both possibility and challenge. 

For many of us, Lent is definitely a place of challenge, discomfort and the unfamiliar. (Though for some reason I’ve come to enjoy the idea of Lent.) On that note, in Lent we “intentionally break away from our normal routine of daily life,” with all its trivialities, and focus on the spiritual. “In other words, Lent is a pilgrimage – a spiritual pilgrimage to the Cross.”

Which you could say describes every Christian pilgrimage.

Which brings up some of the Christian-pilgrim hikes that I’ve done so far; five of them now. (The latest was that 2023 hike on the Stevenson Trail in France.) So for this installment of “Lent 2024” I offer up the following past posts, in reverse order, On St. James (2023), Pilgrimage, and “Maudlin’s Journey,” from July 2023, St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage,” from August 2019, and I’m back from my Rideau pilgrimage, from September 2018.

The first post said James, son of Zebedee – also called “St. James the Greater” – is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. And he is the St. James – Sant Iago – whose remains (“relics”) are the focus for thousands of peregrinos who hike the Camino de Santiago. Here’s what Satucket noted:

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 James’ name itself had magical powers in the past. And speaking of a pilgrim path, you could say every Christian uses some of that magic in following John 6:37, where Jesus said He would never turn away anyone who comes to Him. Meaning that from the time you “take the pledge,” your life is one long journey on the road to Jesus.

On a related note see Feast of Saint James the Apostle in Spain – timeanddate.com:

Many people in Spain celebrate the life and deeds of James, son of Zebedee, on Saint James’ Day (Santiago Apostol), which is on July 25.  Saint James was one of Jesus’ first disciples. Some Christians believe that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The article noted that July 25 is a public holiday in “Basque Country, Cantabria, and Galicia, where it’s a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.”  (A side note:  The “autonomous community” – or province – of Galicia, is in northwestern Spain, and that’s where Santiago de Compostela lies, as the “provincial” capital.) 

The article added that according to Christian tradition: 1) this James the Greater may have traveled to the area now called Santiago;  2) this James was beheaded in Judea in 44 CE, but also; 3) that his disciples carried his body by sea to Padrón, on the Galician coast. Then they  buried his body “under what is now the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.”

Then there’s the Back from Rideau pilgrimage post from 2018. For the unfamiliar, the Rideau Canal is a 125-mile canoe route, in our case from Kingston, on the shore of Lake Ontario, up to Ottawa. But it’s not really a “canal.” There are canals and locks to go through, but mostly a bunch of “big-ass lakes,” as one wag put it. Including but not limited to Newboro Lake, Upper and Lower Rideau lakes, and Big Rideau Lake. (With the emphasis on Big.)

Colonel By Island is somewhere in the middle of Big Rideau Lake, and my brother Tom and I reached it on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 21, 2018, after “paddling through a veritable monsoon.” That morning we had paddled 10 miles, but in the afternoon we made a mere four miles. (After leaving Narrows (Lock 35.)) Which is why we decided to camp at ”Colonel By” instead of proceeding further. “But wait, there’s more!” We got up the next morning, after trying to sleep through another violent rainstorm, only to find that raccoons had broken into our food containers and taken much of our supplies of breakfast bars, crackers and trail mix. 

Which leads to it being said that all true pilgrimage calls for “discipline, patience, perseverance, leading to the discovery of the self within.” More to the point, a pilgrimage – like our 11-and-a-half-day canoe trip on the Rideau canoe trail – “may be described as a ritual on the move.” Further, through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – not to mention veritable monsoons and raccoon raids – we can quite often find a sense of our fragility as “mere human beings.” And finally, such a pilgrimage – like such a true Lenten discipline – can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

I’ve experienced some definite “chastening” on past pilgrimages, but I’ve also experienced a whole lot of beautifully liberating moments as well. Like getting up at 4:00 in the morning – to avoid contrary winds – and getting to see the sun rise in the east over a nice calm “big-ass lake.”

Here’s wishing you both a chastening and a liberating Lenten pilgrimage…

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The upper 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 endeavor, 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. 

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

“Feedback.” The full title, 30 Years’ Feedback from God: Or “A Look Back at FSU’s 1993 Championship Season – and Its Impact on 2023.” 

The full reading of Psalm 84:5, “Happy are the people whose strength is in you! Whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.”

Other past posts of interest, and for possible in a future “Lent 2024” post: An update – “Feast Days in France,” from September 9, 2023, and my February 2015 post, On donkey travel – and sluts. Those four links supporting the idea of Lent-as-pilgrimage: Lent as a pilgrimage on which we are not alone – Catholic Philly, The Pilgrim Way of Lent – Washington National Cathedral, Our Pilgrimage Through Lent | Christianity Today, and A Reflection on Lent as Pilgrimage – Verso Ministries.

More on ritual, and pilgrimage as “ritual on the move:” In one definition a pilgrim is someone on a quest to “find himself.” (See Self-discovery – Wikipedia.)  And one way of finding yourself is through a healthy sense of ritual, as noted in the book Passages of the Soul:  Ritual Today. (James Roose-Evans.) That provided the “all true ritual” quote It also noted that a healthy sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society, and that a big problem now is that we’ve abandoned many rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma.”

I took the lower-image photo, on one of those early-morning paddles:

[T]o avoid the often-contrary prevailing winds, we started getting up at 4:00 a.m. (Which would be – to most people anyway – a “raw experience” in the form of a lack of the usual number of hours of sleep. Not to mention having to stumble around in the dark while breaking camp.) On the other hand, getting up that early led to the picture … of one of the benefits of getting up at 4:00 a.m. Aside from the fact that the water is usually much smoother at that hour – especially important on those “big-ass lakes” in the first half of the trip – it also led to us seeing some beautiful sunrises. 

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. From the Old Testament, Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.” (In the Version in the Book of Common Prayer.) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…  (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

Re: “mystical.” Originally, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.” See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripturetradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR

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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On “the night life in Jerusalem” – from four years ago…

I enjoyed many a Maccabee at “the Leonardo,” though it wasn’t  on my Google Map radar…  

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Can you say, “Ooooops!

February 8, 2023 – I first wanted to post this over three years ago; just after Christmas, 2019. I wanted it as part of a “big and pleasant” year-end review of my earlier-in-2019 trip to Israel. (More precisely, a review of my pre-trip Google research on “where are the bars in Jerusalem?”) A year after the trip – in May 2020 – I got back to the project, but this time with a side look at the then-new COVID pandemic. Then the project again got side-tracked, for reasons I can’t remember. Then this last February 2, 2023, I started working on an eBook about the Jerusalem trip. I typed in “Jerusalem” in the search box above right, and that’s when I found this still-in-the-draft almost-post. So what follows is mostly what I wrote back in December 2019, but with some editing and updating.

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December 27, 2019 – This past May of 2019 I flew over to Israel with a group of 20 or so people from my local church. We were all taking part in a two-week course given by St. George’s College, Jerusalem, called the Palestine of Jesus. Just after I got back from Israel – on May 29, 2019 – I posted Back from Three weeks in Israel. It focused mostly on the last day of the trip, which was a “cluster” (half a word). That “cluster” involved the long Wednesday I flew back home; 11 hours on the plane, combined with six “fast forward” time zone changes. (Also after getting lost in Tel Aviv trying to get to Ben Gurion airport from my lodging.)

This post will review the pre-trip research I did before I left for Israel. And it will talk about how our expectations don’t always match up with reality. That’s another way of saying – as John Steinbeck said – “You don’t take a trip. A trip takes you.” But first some background.

Back home I like to end the day with two ice cold beers. That’s my reward for working on my writing, blogging and painting, along with other projects around the house, up until 10:15 p.m. or so. And I wanted to continue that “end-of-the-day reward” sense in Jerusalem, with a nice cold draft beer if possible. But if not, with some other form of “O-be-joyful.” (A code-word for ardent spirits.) Which in a way brings up the the photo atop the page.

Before leaving home I did some Google-mapping to find the closest bars to St. George’s College – and Pilgrim Guest House. (At the apex of Nablus Road and Sala-Ad-Din Street.) That research seemed to show the nearest bars to St. George’s were a mile or more away. But then – once I got to Jerusalem – I found a pleasant lounge at the Leonardo Moria Classic Hotel. Shown above, Google Maps says it’s a mere two-minute walk from St. George’s Guest House. (And I timed it myself.) Officially, the Leonardo is located at “9 St. George Street.” But as it also turned out, the College itself had a “Garden Bistro,” which served beer and wine.

That Garden Bistro included a “mini-bar” – a small bar within the complex itself – that served cocktails for those pilgrim’s at St. George’s who wanted a little something stronger to go along with their evening meal. The photo at left shows the courtyard where we usually had our evening meals.

I also noted it was “nice to know where to get a bit of wine nearby; i.e., wine which ‘gladdens the human heart.’ (Psalm 104:15.)” But like I said, that place closed fairly early, so if you wanted a night-cap later on in the evening, “the Leonardo” was the place to go.

The Leonardo not only stayed open later, it also featured Maccabee beer instead of Taybeh. Maccabee is the featured Israeli beer, while Taybeh is brewed by a Palestinian company. They’re both good, but Leonardo’s Maccabee “on tap” seemed colder. And some nights the Leonardo had a piano bar as well. One evening a yarmulke-topped pianist played the Chicken Dance. But I seemed to be the only one there who’d ever heard it before. (“Can you say, ‘incongruous?'”)

But all that came later on. On my first full day in Jerusalem – a Sunday – I first had to recuperate from the jet-lag, no-sleep red-eye flight that left Atlanta around 10:00 p.m. local time on Friday night. That Sunday morning – after arriving late Saturday night (local) – I took a long walk along Jaffa Street and found the BeerBazaar. (One of those “clustered” bars.)

That is, the BeerBazaar was one of those bars I’d seen in my pre-trip research.

But I had a hard time finding many of the other bars I was looking for. Which brings up another part of my pre-trip research. As part of that research, I mass e-mailed the 20 or so people in my local church group, to share my findings. The email began:  “For those of you interested in such things – like maybe having an after-dinner aperitif after a long hard day hiking through the wilds of Judea – I did a little research via internet and Google Maps.” I did note the “Garden Bistro” at St. George’s, “right on the Nablus Road complex itself.”  Which turned out to be true.

But as noted, the “Bistro” closed down fairly early, so in the “before I left email” I added, “for those interested in such things, it looks like the closest bars (etc.) are clustered about a mile or so southwest of the College.” Which also turned out to be true. There was a cluster of bars about a mile southwest of St. George’s, including the BeerBazaar.

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I have some more notes on some other places I found in my research. I’ve included them at the very bottom of this post, after a bunch of other notes. If you like, you can read them as if they came from Tom Wolfe‘s whiz-bang style of writing in The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. Or maybe from Hunter S. Thompson‘s note-heavy Gonzo journalism.

I’ve mostly included them “for further review at a later time.” However, there are references to things like a liquor store I found on Davidka Square, or a “Hataklit” bar with karaoke, which I never found, or a “Video Pub Gay Bar,” which I didn’t really look for. Or the Dublin Irish Pub

So I’ve included them for later review, but there are references to things like a liquor store I found on Davidka Square, or a “Hataklit” bar with karaoke, which I never found, or a “Video Pub Gay Bar,” which I didn’t really look for. But lest we forget our feast days, last Thursday, February 2, 2023 was the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The idea of such a “presentation” – of Jesus, as a baby 40 days after Christmas – followed a thousand-year-old custom that began with Exodus 13:2, where God said, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male:”

Counting forward from December 25 as Day One [for Jesus], we find that Day Forty is February 2. A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem.

And working backwards, I’ve written about this commemoration in The Presentation of Jesus – 2/2/22The “Presentation of our Lord” – 2020, and in 2017, On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord.” Check the links for more information, but the gist of the 2017 post is that Jesus was “presented” twice. We celebrate the first presentation every February 2d. The next one we celebrate on Good Friday each year, remembering how Jesus was about to be crucified…

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Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri (1).jpg

What could be called the “Second Presentation” – Good Friday, Jesus about to be crucified

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The upper image is courtesy of Leonardo Moria Jerusalem – Image Results. As for the distance from there to St. George’s, Google Maps actually says it’s a four minute walk, but it has you walking down St. George Street and over to “Sderot Hayim Barlev,” also known as Highway 60 (Israel–Palestine), then up to the other side of the hotel. The lounge entrance is on the side closest to St. George Street.

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

The full beer links are Maccabee Beer – Tempo Israel’s leading company for beer, and Taybeh Brewing Company – The finest in the Middle East.

“O Be Joyful.” See O-be-joyful – 17 of the Finest Words for Drinking

O-be-joyful began reaffirming the positive properties of intoxicants about two hundred years ago, and although the word is not in considerable use today, a book from 1977 asserted that an abbreviated form of the phrase was still in common use in some areas, and that “some New Englanders even today write ‘OBJ’ on their shopping lists.”

Back in the old days of our country, whiskey – for example – was used instead of hard currency:

One of the first media of exchange in the United States was classic whiskey.  For men and women of the day, the alcohol did more than put “song in their hearts and laughter on their lips.”  Whiskey was currency.  Most forms of money were extremely scarce in our country after the Revolutionary War, making monetary innovation the key to success.

See Why Whiskey Was Money, and Bitcoins Might Be.  So it was in that spirit – primarily – that I looked for some “O be joyful.” 

The lower image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia. Wikipedia caption: “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.” 

*   *   *   *

For those interested in visiting some of those Jerusalem bars – a mile or so southwest of St. George’s – here are some observations. (Even if those visits are only metaphoric.) They were gleaned from notes I took, via Googling, before I left for Jerusalem. For example, I saw on Google Maps that a number of bars seemed to be clustered “down by ‘Cat’s Square’ and/or ‘New York Square.’ The closest is Hataklit Bar. According to the Google Map review it has ‘Great cocktails’ and it has karaoke.” I wondered if they had David Allen Coe’s “You never even called me by my name,” but never got a chance to find the place. I must have walked by the street, “with the Hawaiian-sounding name,” a dozen times, but its entrance remained hidden. (Officially, its address is 7 Heleni ha-Malka, Jerusalem.)

From this point I’ve included some other notes, mostly in non-italic type, some of which I will use in the new eBook about my 2019 pilgrimage to Israel…

Not too far SW of that is Mike’s Place, “Kosher restaurant,” and great cocktails. It has an easier address to remember, Jaffa Street 33. Yet another place is Dublin Irish Pub, 1.2 miles SW of St. George’s… I saw that – according to Google Maps – there was even a “Video Pub Gay Bar,” near the Hataklit karaoke place. (“What goes on in Jerusalem, stays in Jerusalem?”) But seriously, for those interested in a bit of take-out libation, there are three Avi Ben Wine Stores in Jerusalem:

Avi Ben offers a wide selection of kosher and boutique Israeli wine as well as imported wines from the Bordeaux region in France, Italy and Spain. Avi Ben also supplies a wide choice of spirits from around the world.

The closest one is Yosef Rivlin Street 22. That too is about a mile SW of St. George’s, not too far from Cat’s Square, shown at left. (Apparently it used to be populated with cats, but no more. See “#BringTheCatsBackToCatsSquare.” One guy wrote, “There used to be a little market on the square, young folks gathering and playing music. But thanks to our ultra orthodox brethren the city’s dying. This place died too. Still, it’s close to the city center, restaurants, the Old City…. Ellipses in original.)

So anyway, Avi Ben stores have a “range of gifts including wine glasses, accessories and gift baskets, as well as an assortment of chocolates, olive oils, coffee, cheeses, and more.”

It’s also near the Hebrew Music Museum and the Friends of Zion Museum.  Another BTW:  All these places could be closed on May 2, for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

And in the process of doing all this research – no extra charge – I saw that if you wanted to walk that mile or so to the Hataklit kosher restaurant or the Dublin Irish Pub, you’d have to pass through the “Green Line.” That’s  Highway 60, also called the City Line and the ‘1949 Armistice Agreement Line.’” I emailed Genia at St. George’s, asking if that would present a problem. “Is it possible to walk through [the Green Line], over or around what appears to be a pretty busy highway? She wrote back, “there is no problem walking around the College.  Whatever streets you are passing by, there should be no problem. They are not really very close to us.”

[And there was no problem. My first day – a Sunday – I crossed the Green Line and ended up at the BeerBazaar, a boutique bar in the center of Jerusalem.]

And here are some other notes about the trip, unedited, for future eBook reference:

left atl about 10:30 p,m, friday, very little sleep, got to Istanbul, then Tel Aviv. “Breezed” through customs with the help of the shuttle driver, though he had a hell of a time finding Herod’s [Guest House] on Isfahani Street. [A side note. While we arrived on Saturday night, our lodging at St. George’s didn’t start until the following Monday. So for Saturday and Sunday night we had to arrange our own lodging.]

Sunday I wandered around, Mostly on Jaffa street. Found BeerBazaar and liquor store on Davidka Square. Met Greta, but no further contact

Got a nice room early on Monday, 5/13, opening reception, etc. Dinner at Jerusalem Hotel, ate too much, kabobs, beef, chicken, lamb, miserable overstuffed night

Tuesday. Mount of Olives, lecture room, dozed off a couple times.  Lousy sleep patterns. Pools of Bethesda, etc.

Wednesday [May] 15th

city of david, coming down with a cold, excused myself from Holocaust museum, got the “‘Quils,” day and night, slept good for a change.

Thursday

Four beers during the day, Taybeh,  early night, early morning

[Then there was this;] “Shalom, y’all!”  

Referring to the “Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye.

And here are some other notes, from various Facebook posts…

It’s a shade after 11:00 p.m. here in Jerusalem.  (A shade after 4:00 in the afternoon back in the ATL.)  I just got back from up on the rooftop of St.George’s Pilgrim House, where my wash-and-wear clothes were drying in the breeze.  During the day it’s “hot as Gehenna” (Google it) here in the Holy Land, but at night it’s quite pleasant.  Cool and breezy, “Up on the roof…”  (Google it.)

Up there on the [terrace] and down in my room I’m in the process of sipping a brandy and water.  (“Sommelier,” for those interested in such things.)  And reflecting on the events of the day.

This morning we visited the Church of the Visitation, in Ein Kerem. After  lunch at the “Tent Restaurant, Beit Sahour,” we visited the Church of the Nativity and St. Jerome’s chapel and tomb, both in Bethlehem.  The church was both packed and crowded, and after standing around – and learning some fairly interesting talking points – I did a Good-Samaritan thing and gently persuaded a fellow pilgrim – who was in danger of getting stressed out – to forego a hump-through-a-tunnel extension of the tour, AND go to the garden restaurant next door and have (another) Taybeh (Palestinian) beer.

In situations like this you have to pick your battles.  It seems to me that finding a spiritual breakthrough usually comes in relative solitude, not when your surrounded by hot, sweaty and pushy “fellow travelers.”  (Google it.)

Speaking of which, the theme of the Visitation to Mary centered “on Mary responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to set out on a mission of charity.”  But there I didn’t see a whole lot of charity in the visit we made at the end of the day…

As my brandy-and-water is winding down and it’s getting time for bed – we’ve got an early start in the morning – I’m tempted to say the road to both freedom and spiritual enlightenment is littered with dumbasses along the way.  But hey, that wouldn’t be Christian…

Of course I knew that before I came over here. But before you start thinking I’m getting grumpy in my old age, it actually has been a pretty fun trip. I wouldn’t have missed it…

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Some highlights – Way of St. Francis 2022

A typical switchback, cut-back, whatever, of which there were plenty on “The Way…”

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As noted in the last post (From Jerusalem to Assisi), I flew over to Rome last August 27, a Saturday. On Tuesday, August 30, I took a train up to Assisi and met up with my brother and his wife. On Thursday, September 1, we started hiking back to Rome, via the Way of St Francis.

But not before I got a &^%#$ ticket – costing 30 Euros – for not validating my bus pass, in Assisi. It happened on the ride back from the Basilica of San Francis, at right, on the 31st, but it wasn’t my fault. Two knuckleheads in front of me had trouble making change (or whatever). A long line started forming behind me, so the driver told us – starting with me – to “go to the back of the bus.” That’s where, supposedly, there was another machine to validate your bus ticket.

For whatever reason I didn’t validate the pass, possibly because I didn’t see any such machine. So, when we got back to the train station in Assisi – a short walk from our lodging – an officious-looking official magically appeared and announced the aforementioned fine for failure to validate. I protested long, hard and loud – “but the driver told me to go to the back of the bus!” – but to no avail. It was all, “No comprendo,” or however they say it in Italy.

Not a good start to what was supposed to be a pilgrimage to enlightenment.

But this post is supposed to be about some highlights of the trip, so I’ll move on. Which is another way of saying that now that the project is over, it’s time to start the post-mortems.

For starters, the original proposed route was 154 miles, from Assisi to Rome. Specifically back to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, in Rome. But after our night spent in Piediluco on September 7, one of our party developed a temporary (GI) health problem. Aside from that, the weather forecast for September 8 was for really heavy rains. So instead of hiking that day we had to take a bus back to Trevi, then a train to Rieti – our destination for Friday, September 9 – then take a bus back to Poggio Bustonne, our reserved lodging for September 8.

That took off the 13.5 mile hike scheduled for that day (9/8/22), which was another good reason for the bus-train-bus alternative. (Along with the really heavy rain.) The net result was to round down our total miles hiked from 154 to 140 miles. Which we did in 18 days, from September 1 to the 18th. But we took days off from hiking on September 4, September 10, and September 15. Of course we didn’t hike on September 8, but that wasn’t what you could call a day off.

That is, the bus-train-bus travel day wasn’t what you could call a day off.

*   *   *   *

Some other observations: Much of the Way of St. Francis is like the Appalachian Trail. Except that it’s over, up, down and around the Apennine Mountains, not the Appalachians.

Like the Appalachian Trail, there were many days with very few places to stop for refreshment during the day. It wasn’t that unusual to go a whole day’s hike, of 10 or 12 miles or more, without any of those stops so prevalent on the Camino Frances (French Way). (On the other hand, in Italy you could still always look forward to a hot shower and a cold beer at the end of the day.)

I suppose there’s a chicken-and-egg question here. The Camino Frances is big business. Lots of places to stop and refresh because there are lots of pilgrims hiking. But such a cafe would have a hard time surviving on the Way of St. Francis, because of so few pilgrims. One suggestion to improve things: Construct shelters every five or ten miles, with picnic tables – or one at least – so weary pilgrims could stop and at least put our feet up and our packs down.

Also, my 8th grade math teacher taught us that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line. However, that rule doesn’t apply to the Way of St. Francis. And that led me to wonder, “Why did St. Francis follow this ‘path?‘” Back and forth, up and down, full of zig-zags, switchbacks and cut-backs. And why wouldn’t he take the smoother route along the valley that beckoned down below? (The smooth path that the train takes from Rome up to Assisi.)

As best I can tell, Francis never actually hiked this one path all at once. Instead “the Way” seems to be an amalgam of trips he took during his lifetime, often responding to requests from a nearby village or town, to help out in an emergency. (Including one literal “wolf at the door.”)

Another note: Earlier this summer, before leaving for Rome, I read that Europe was having a severe drought. But we seem to have brought some rain with us, at least in Italy and at least along the Apennines between Assisi and Rome. Which often turned the Trail into a deadly combination of gumbo-like muck, caking around the bottom of your shoes, and slippery-slick rocks and gravel, especially treacherous hiking down one of those many switchbacks or cutbacks.

Which raises the question, “What kind of fool would put himself through such an ordeal?” And that’s a question I found myself asking quite often on the Trail, especially during the early days of the hike. The answer I came up with? The idea on such a trek is to push beyond your limits. To ask yourself at least once a day, “What the heck am I doing here?” Or in my case, “What sane 71-year-old would spend good money just to put himself through all this?”

And then keep going…

On the St. Francis, the hiking is often rugged, rocky, sticky and/or slippery, like after a torrential rain the night before. Zig-zag, east, west, north, south, repeat, up, down, round and around. Whereas on the Camino Frances, once you get past Pamplona you’re heading straight west. It’s much harder to get lost, and there are a lot more friendly locals to help you get back on track.

Another feature of such a pilgrimage, sleeping in a different bed pretty much every night, and having to figure out a different shower set-up every late afternoon. Which made Rome such a great place to reach: Getting to sleep in the same bed four nights in a row.

Then there was our one 15-hour day. There was a mix-up in addresses for our rental. One note said Ferrentillo, the other said Macenano. We passed Macenano in the dark and hiked the extra three miles to Ferrentillo, only to find out the rental was back in Macenano. (The closest I came to crying the whole trip.) By that time it was 10:30 at night, and nobody relished hiking back the 90 minutes or so, in the dark. Fortunately, one of our party approached a group of three local ladies, and through some combination got us a ride back to Macenano, free of charge. That could well be the biggest highlight of the ordeal, seeing how nice Italian people can be.

*   *   *   *

There’s more to come in later posts, but this is supposed to be a spiritual blog. On that note, while hiking in Italy I faithfully kept up with my Daily Office Readings. And in September they included three major feast days: Holy Cross Day on September 14, St Matthew, Evangelist on September 21, and St Michael and All Angels, on September 29. You can see a quick take on these feast days at October 2018’s On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel.”

That October 2018 post talked about the Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church, and how it says the idea of purgatory is both a “Romish doctrine” and “repugnant to the Word of God.” On the other hand, there’s the painting below, of the Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory. Which brings up the fact that without purgatory, your dying day turns out to be a pass-fail test. You’re either in or you’re out.  You either go to heaven or “down, down the down-down way.” But with purgatory you get another chance. 

You get a chance to enter that “intermediate state after physical death,” where some of those “ultimately destined for heaven” can first undergo “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” Which to me, means another chance of getting to heaven. And who knows, maybe a challenging pilgrimage like my recent hike on the Way of St. Francis is, in its own way, a form of purgatory. And who knows, maybe that hot shower and cold beer at the end of each day’s hike was – in its own way – a metaphor, a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet to Come. First comes the harsh reality of negotiating the twists and turns of life here on earth, followed by the metaphoric “hot shower and cold beer.”

So the idea of purgatory gives me another chance at that metaphoric “hot shower and cold beer” at the end of my earthly life. Which is why I ended that October 2018 post by saying, “here’s to Michael (archangel), and his reaching out to save souls in purgatory…”

Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

*   *   *   *

“Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory . . .”

*   *   *   *

I took the top photo, one of many many switchbacks we saw hiking from Arrone to Piediluco, on September 7, 2022. By the way, Piediluco is a swanky resort area, by the Lago (Lake) di Piediluco. So the best fiscally responsible one-night rental option – at the Hotel Miralago, Piediluco – was one room with three beds right next to each other. They had a great breakfast buffet though!

As noted in the last post…” The full title, From Jerusalem to Assisi – 2022.

Re: The bus-pass ticket. In hindsight I can see the logic. An unvalidated pass can be used again for a free ride. (But 30 &^%$# Euros?)

Re: “Post mortem.” The link is to Guide to Post-Mortem in Business: “a process that helps improve projects by identifying what did and didn’t work, and changing organizational processes to incorporate lessons learned. The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) refers to this activity as ‘lessons learned.’” Also, according to mors, mortis [f.] M – Latin is Simple Online Dictionary, the plural form of mortem is “mortes,” not “mortems.” (I took two years of Latin in high school.)

Re: The Way of St. Francis as an “amalgam.” See for example The Way of St. Francis: Walking 550 Kilometers Along One of the World’s Greatest Pilgrimages:

St. Francis is said to have taken literally the scripture passage, “preach the good news to all creatures.” My favorite story focuses on the historic town of Gubbio where residents were haunted by a wolf that had developed a taste for human flesh. They begged St. Francis to intervene with the fearsome creature and then were amazed when the wolf sat peacefully at his feet while the two made a bargain.

The bargain: “If the townspeople would feed him daily, the wolf would leave them alone.”

“The closest I came to crying…” Not really, though I was concerned.

Re: Feast days in September. My DOR Lectionary book also included the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on September 8, the “Christian feast day celebrating the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” For more details see the link.

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on St. Michael, captioned, “Guido Reni‘s painting in Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, 1636 is also reproduced in mosaic at the St. Michael Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican.”

*   *   *   *

From Jerusalem to Assisi – 2022

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi – that’s where I hope to be next August 30…

*   *   *   *

Next August 27 – a Saturday – I’ll be flying over to Rome. From there I’ll take a train up to Assisi to meet up with my brother and his wife. Then on Thursday, September 1, we’ll start hiking the 154 miles back to Rome, via the Way of St Francis. But first I have some feast days to cover.

The first one is The Transfiguration of Jesus, celebrated back on August 6. I covered that in The Transfiguration – 2020. (Back in “Week 21 of the COVID-19 pandemic.”) The following Monday, August 15, was the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin. I covered this “Mary” in 2019’s St. Mary, “Virgin,” and more on Jerusalem, and the next year in St. Mary, 2020 – and “Walls of Separation.”

Which is where “From Jerusalem to Assisi” comes in. My 2019 pilgrimage to Jerusalem included a side trip to Bethlehem, and in that town – where Jesus was born – we found the “Wall of Separation” discussed below. That is, the 2019 post Mary [and] more on Jerusalem gave some background on this particular feast day. But it also talked at length about my May 2019 pilgrimage to Israel. (Beginning with arriving in Tel Aviv on another Saturday evening and being able to get quickly – and surprisingly – through the “dreaded Israeli security at Ben Gurion airport.”) 

That post covered the Jerusalem visit from our arrival on Saturday night, May 11, to the following Friday, May 17. That’s when we visited the Judean wilderness, the Jordan River and Jericho. I revisited the post the following year in St. Mary, 2020 – and “Walls of Separation.” It covered at greater length our visit to Bethlehem on May 16. The coverage included the ironic if not incongruous “Wall of Separation” that runs through Bethlehem. (Where Jesus was born.)

I say ironic because what some call the Wall of Separation, the powers that be call the “Israeli West Bank barrier.” And there, right next to the Wall, our group stopped at the “Walled Off Hotel.*” For more see Banksy′s hotel with ′the world′s worst view′ opens in Bethlehem:

“With a play on words on the luxury Waldorf Astoria chain, this place is called the Walled Off Hotel, because it was built almost immediately next to Israel’s separation wall in the Palestinian-ruled city where Jesus Christ was born.”

Which of course would be Bethlehem. That’s where Jesus was born and where “God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory” were expressed in Him. But seeing the Walled-off Hotel in that birthplace, “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.” And I still don’t.

But there’s another reason to review those two posts. I’m just finishing up a book, “On Mystic Christians – (you know, the real ones?”) Of which more in a future post, but once I finish that book, I plan to start another one, on that May 2019 three-week visit to Jerusalem. (And much of the rest of Israel, including my taste-testing the distinction between Israeli Maccabee Beer, and the also-locally-brewed Taybeh Palestinian beer.) But I also want to start a book on my three hikes on the Camino de Santiago, to include that next one coming up, the Way of St Francis

It just so happens that I wrote about St. Francis back in October 2015, in Saint Teresa of Avila:

“In other words, a mystic is a person who seeks to become ‘one’ with both God and his or her neighbor. Not unlike Francis of Assisi(Who no doubt some contemporaries thought himself was a bit of a weirdo…)

Which brings up two possible foreshadowings. One, my eventually writing a book on Mystic Christians. (“You know, the real ones?”) And a soon-to-be pilgrimage to Assisi and the Way of St Francis. But before closing, let’s get back to those feast days. Or at least the highlights.

Turning first to Mary, 2019’s St. Mary … and more on Jerusalem noted that aside from being the mother of God the Son Incarnate in Christianity, “Mary (Maryam) also has a revered position in Islam, where a whole chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to her.” And millions of Christians consider her to be the most meritorious saint of the Church, as both the Mother of God and the Theotokos. (Literally “Bearer of God.”) On that note, in Renaissance paintings especially, Mary is shown wearing blue. That tradition goes back to Byzantine Empire, to about 500 A.D., “where blue was ‘the colour of an Empress.’” Which seems appropriate…

Going back to the August 6 feast day, the Transfiguration – 2020 post talked about how COVID might be a blessing in disguise. Then it harked back to the Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World. No less a person than St. Thomas Aquinas considered it The Greatest Miracle because – unlike the other Gospel miracles – this one happened to Jesus. (Making it “unique among those listed in the ‘Canonical gospels.'”) Then too, the episode also transformed the disciples who witnessed the event, and “never forgot what happened that day.” (Which was probably what Jesus intended.) One witness, John, wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only.” (John 1:14.)  Peter also wrote of it, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18.)

And from there they went on to TRANSFORM (Transfigure) the world.

But there’s still a lot of work left for us to do. For one thing, we need to start tearing down the walls that separate us, and turn neighbor against neighbor. (See Divisive walls can be broken down through Jesus for one thoughtful review, with citations to Romans 10:12 and Galatians 3:28, among others.) Then there’s Ephesians 2:14, which reads in the Good News Translation, “For Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies.”

So as for my pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and the Way of St Francis:

Here’s hoping I don’t find any Walls of Separation!

*   *   *   *

Bethlehem’s Wall of Separation: “That look about says it all…

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of St Francis Assisi Basilica – Image Results. It is accompanied by an article, Finding Peace and Faith in Assisi by Rick Steves.

In Assisi, my favorite ritual is to sit quietly on the rampart of the medieval fortress high above town. I look down at the basilica dedicated to the saint, then into the valley at the church where Francis and his “Jugglers of God” started the Franciscan order. Hearing the same birdsong that inspired Francis, and tasting the same simple bread, cheese, and wine of Umbria that sustained him, I calm my 21st-century soul and ponder the message of a saint who made the teaching of Jesus so accessible.

Re: Book of Common Prayer. See page 339, under Holy Eucharist:  Rite One:

Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people…

Or see Online Book of Common Prayer. As to “corporate” and “mystic,” it’s like body and soul. Ideally they are a unified whole, but some people lose sight of the one in focusing too much on the other…

Re: The Way of St. Francis. The Via di Francesco website says it is a “route to reach Assisi following in the footsteps of St Francis, whether leaving from the North (La Verna) or the South (Rome).” In our case, we’ll explore Assisi on the afternoon of August 30, after meeting up, then during the day of August 31. Then we’ll head from Assisi back to Rome.

Re: Getting “quickly – and surprisingly – through ‘the dreaded Israeli security.'” A driver from Saint George’s College Jerusalem met our group of nine from my church back in Georgia. We were part of a larger group taking the 14-day Palestine of Jesus course, and in a sense that driver whisking us through Ben Gurion security was a minor miracle in itself.

Re: The Walled Off Hotel link. Be sure to read the Safety Notice, advising that due to current political developments, there is a potential for “increased tension” in the area. And further that the “narco’s [sic] among you” should bear in mind that the UK Foreign Office has advised against joining any demonstrations while visiting the area.

Re: Still a lot of work to do. For more reviews search “Jesus breaks down walls.”

I took the photo of the Wall of Separation, just outside the “Walled Off Hotel.”

*   *   *   *

On Mary of Magdala and James the Pilgrim – 2022

 I hope St. James the GreaterPatron Saint of Pilgrims, will guide me this September…

*   *   *   *

July 28, 2022 – Last Friday, July 22, was the Feast Day for “Mary from Magdala.” I covered that feast day last year in “Saint” Mary Magdalene – 2021, and the year before in Mary Magdalene, 2020 – and Week 19 of “the Covid.” And just for the record, we are now in Week 124* of the Covid pandemic, with no end in sight. (Plus we now have Monkeypox to worry about.)

Three days after Mary’s feast, Monday, July 25, we remember James, son of Zebedee. He’s one of several New Testament “Jameses,” but he’s also “St. James the Greater.” And this James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. As such, he’ll be my patron saint this September when I start an 18-day, 154-mile hike on the Way of St Francis, from Assisi back to Rome.

And speaking of pilgrimages, that post from two years ago, “2020 … Week 19,” talked about an earlier one. That was a four-day canoe pilgrimage on the Missouri River, 115 river miles, from South Sioux City to Omaha Nebraska. That was one of a series of journeys-of-discovery leading to this September’s Way of St Francis. But getting back to Mary Magdalene

St. Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles.” See also Mary … FutureChurch:

Mary of Magdala is 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. [Emphasis added.]

2015’s Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles” noted that this particular Mary – a common name at the time – has long had a rotten reputation. “In Western Christianity, she’s known as ‘repentant prostitute or loose woman,” but the consensus now is that these claims are unfounded.  For one thing, Isaac Asimov said this Mary would be more accurately considered “a cured madwoman rather than a reformed prostitute.” (A subtle distinction.)

Yet – notwithstanding that “sordid past” – it’s clear that Mary Magdalene showed far more courage than the original 11 disciples. (Not counting Judas.) See 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 is that Mary was both the first person to see the empty tomb of Jesus, and one of the first – if not the first – to see the risen Jesus. And that may have accounted for the stories about her “sordid past;” jealous males trying to sully her reputation and cover up their own cowardice.

So her story could be one long pilgrimage to eventually see the risen Jesus. By and through that journey she was able to escape her sordid past and move on to become something greater, the “Apostle to the Apostles.” (A good life-lesson to be sure.) And speaking of pilgrimages, July 25 is the feast day for the Patron Saint of PilgrimsJames, son of Zebedee.

Going back to 2014, On “St. James the Greater” spoke of this James being not only the patron saint of pilgrims. He’s also the patron saint of Spain and Portugal. Which is why the Camino de Santiago* traditionally ends in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain.

Tradition says that James traveled to Spain to spread the Gospel there:

[T]he Virgin Mary appeared to James on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta, while he was preaching the Gospel in Iberia. She appeared upon a pillar, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and that pillar is conserved and venerated within the present Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain. Following that apparition, St. James returned to Judea, where he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I in the year 44.

All of which is well and good, but raises the question: “Why do such a pilgrimage at all?” One answer comes from the book Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today, by James Roose-Evans. The book noted that a healthy sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society,” but that a big problem in today’s world is that we’ve abandoned many of the rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma. The book added that all true ritual “calls for discipline, patience, perseverance, leading to the discovery of the self within.”

More to the point, the book said a pilgrimage – like an 18-day, 154-mile hike on the Way of St Francis – “may be described as a ritual on the move.” And that such a moving ritual often includes the “raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep.” But through such an experience we can get a sense of our fragility as mere human beings. (Compared with “the majesty and permanence of God” and His creation.) Finally, the book noted that such a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

So, a month from today (August 27) I’ll be flying to Rome, to get “chastened and liberated…”

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Mary of Magdala – and note the similar pose to James, above…

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The upper image is courtesy of St. James Patron Saint Of Pilgrims – Image Results, and the Catholic Diocese of Calgary. That’s the “Latin Church ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Catholic Church in AlbertaCanada… Its cathedral episcopal see is St. Mary’s Cathedral, CalgaryAlberta. It is currently led by Bishop William McGrattan.See also Saint James, Patron of Pilgrims (Catholic Education Resource Center).

Week 124 of COVID. (Or 31 months.) That’s according to my calculations, originally set out in St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. There I explained that, to me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.”

Re: The Way of St. Francis. My brother, his wife and I will fly into Rome at different times, meet up in Assisi, and from there hike “back” to Rome. The 18 days will include three days off, of not hiking, in Spoleto, Rieti, and Montelibretti. The latter is some 32 miles from Vatican City and the end of the hike. For another take on the hike see The Way of St. Francis: Walking 550 Kilometers Along One of the World’s Greatest Pilgrimages.

Re: James’ vision in Spain. Tradition says it happened on January 2, 40 A.D..

Re: Santiago de Compostela. “Iago” is another translation of “James.” As Wikipedia put it, “Santiago is the local Galician evolution of Vulgar Latin Sanctus Iacobus ‘Saint James.””

Re: “Passages of the Soul.” The quotes are from the 1994 Element Books Ltd. edition, at pages 23-25.

The lower image is courtesy of wikipedia.org/wiki/Penitent_Magdalene_(Titian,_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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Catching up from my trip to Dubuque…

Downtown Dubuque, Iowa, as seen from a bluff high above the city…

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I just got back from a 10-day road trip to Dubuque, Iowa. My current lady friend hails from there, and wanted to visit family. (Especially kids, grandkids and a new great-granddaughter.)

I went because I’d never experienced such a lily-white Midwestern Fourth of July. (Not lately anyway, compared to the Black mecca that is the Atlanta Metropolitan Area.) And it was quite an adventure, featuring lots of visits to her family, and my eating way too much food, and getting not nearly enough exercise. (I gained five pounds, and was lucky to limit it to that. One comment at a dinner on the evening of July 4: “That’s all you’re eating?”)

But this blog is about faith and spirituality, so let’s back on track…

To help celebrate the 4th, I went back over some past posts. I came across this, from 2014, On Sunday of the July 4th weekend. I told of another mid-summer trip, taking a train north from New York City to Montreal. On the ride up to the Canadian border I had time to read my passport. That made for some interesting reading, “especially on this holiday weekend,” of July 2014.

Page 1 of the passport said the U.S. Secretary of State personally requested – of “all whom it may concern” – to permit this particular named citizen (me) “to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.” Which I found pretty impressive. (Especially since I’ll be flying over to Rome on August 27, to hike the Way of St Francis.*)

That was followed by the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which also made for some impressive reading. (“We the People…”) That was followed by pages topped with pithy quotations about America and the promise of freedom it stands for. (Mostly.) Pages 8-9 are topped by a saying from George Washington, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.

But as I wrote back in 2014, we’ve seen “way too often lately” that the stupid and dishonest can also repair to that standard of freedom. And I’d say that goes at least double for the eight years since 2014. But since this is a Christian blog I’ll take the high ground and quote John Steinbeck on the American July 4th sense of freedom that we celebrate each year:

[T]his I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.

Which leads to some questions. Like, “Have we maintained that freedom of the mind to take any direction it pleases?” Are we winning or losing the fight against a religion or government that limits or destroys the individual? Which leads to the quote on pages 16-17 of the U.S. passport. Attributed to Teddy Roosevelt, it reads:  “This is a new nation, based on a mighty continent, of endless possibilities.” (Get that? “Endless possibilities.”) All of which led me to quote Ellison Onizuka, the American astronaut who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle disaster:

Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds . . . to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.

To free people’s minds. To me, that’s what the Bible is all about…

But of course Onizuka could have said – in a slightly different way – “Sing to the Lord a new song.(As it says in Psalm 98:1 and elsewhere.) He could add that you can’t live up to, fulfill or implement either promise – of America’s endless possibilities or those of Jesus – interpreting the Bible or the Constitution in a closed, narrow, “strict” way. So I’d say our duty as Americans – as Christian Americans – is to foster the endless possibilities of both the American Dream and the promises of Jesus. (That in His name we should live a life of spiritual abundance, and do greater miracles than He did.) Which brings up the miracle in the Bible.

To many people, those miracles are “fairy tales,” stumbling blocks like those Paul mentioned in 1st Corinthians 8:9. But the thing to remember is that they are designed to stretch the human mind, to get that mind out of its conservative, keep-things-as-they-are Comfort Zone.

After all, the English people who first settled America were neither conservative nor “keep-things-as-they-are.” They wanted to sing a new song, to experience the endless possibilities in the New World, to “look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.”On that note see Isaiah 40:31, “those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”

It’s your choice America…

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Ellison Onizuka, quoted above on our Fourth of July freedom…

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The upper image is courtesy of Dubuque, Iowa – Wikipedia. The city was named for Julien Dubuque (1762-1810), a Canadian from Champlain, Quebec, who settled near what is now the city. One of the first Europeans to settle in the area, he initially got permission from the Mesquakie Indian tribe to mine the lead in 1788. “Once he had received permission from the Meskwaki to mine lead, Dubuque remained in the area for the rest of his life. He befriended the local Meskwaki chief Peosta – for whom the nearby town of Peosta, Iowa is named.” He is believed to have married Peosta’s daughter.

Re: Book of Common Prayer. See page 339, under Holy Eucharist:  Rite One:

Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people…

Or see The Online Book of Common Prayer.

Re: The Black mecca that is the Atlanta Metropolitan Area. That area that has been my new ome for the past 12 years.

Re: The Way of St. Francis. I’ll meet up with my brother Tom and his wife Carol, and hike the 160-or-so miles from Assisi to Rome.

The Steinbeck quote. See Quote by John Steinbeck: “And this I believe.”

Re: Psalm 98:1. See On singing a NEW song to God, from May 2015. See also Psalm 33:3, Psalm 96:1, and Psalm 149:1.

The Bible readings for July 4 (2014) includes a note about how a group of Anglicans – members of the official state religion of the time – voluntarily gave up their power to guarantee “freedom of religion to people of all religious faiths.” See too The Bible readings for July 4, also from 2014.

Re: “Miracles.” What Is a Miracle according to the Bible? – Bible Answers noted that the most important thing “is not about the miracles themselves but the God who performs them.” But see also Did the Miracles in the Bible Really Happen? – The Honest Skeptic, and/or Are you Skeptical of the Bible Because it Reports Miracles? One quote: “Rather than being a stumbling block, miracles should be expected. If God is who he says he is, then miracles should happen and should be expected.

The Ellison Onizuka quote is on page 28 of my passport. (The ellipses are in the passport original.) Onizuka (1946-1986) was “an American astronaut from KealakekuaKonaHawaii, who successfully flew into space with the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-51-C. He died in the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger, on which he was serving as Mission Specialist for mission STS-51-L. He was the first Asian-American to reach space.” The lower image is courtesy of Wikipedia.

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On Saints Luke, and James of Jerusalem – 2021

Saint Luke painting the Virgin and Child” – as one of the first icon painters?

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The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

A month ago – last September 24 – I flew back home from Madrid, after a month in France and Spain. First I flew into Paris on August 25, spent four days there, then joined up with three other family members. From there we took a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. (In French, “port” means “pass.”) From there, the four of us “hiked over the daunting Pyrenees.” (Seen below.)

For me the adventure ended 17 days later, after hiking 177 miles from Saint-Jean to Burgos. The other three are still hiking, toward Santiago, but meanwhile I had accomplished what I set out to do. (Correct a wimp-out from an earlier hiking adventure. See 2017’s “Hola! Buen Camino!”)

And speaking of wimp-outs – or other mistakes – I meant to publish Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021before I left for Paris. (As kind of a prelude.) But somehow I got caught up in making preparations for the trip, and so ended up posting that “prelude” after the first one about the hike, Just got back from “Camino 2021.” That latter post has the beginnings of the section of the Camino de Santiago I hiked this year. (I’d already hiked and biked the 450-mile part from Pamplona to Santiago, and this year just wanted to finish the Pyrenees portion I wimped-out on in 2017.)

In Just got back I covered the trip’s first four days, in Paris, including a visit to the being-rebuilt Notre-Dame Cathedral. And my companion blog has a new post, Hiking over the Pyrenees, in 2021 – finally! (And an earlier Post-trip post mortem for “Paris – 2021.”) I’ll write more on my just-finished 2021 Camino trip in future posts, but for now it’s time to get back on track.

Specifically, with a Feast Day from last October 18, and one just coming up on October 23. 

October 18 was the Feast Day for St. Luke, and October 23 is the Feast for James, brother of Jesus. I wrote of these two saints in Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal.* There’s more detail on St. Luke in 2014’s St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, or On St. Luke – 2015. (Or – from 2018 – On Luke and the “rich young man.”) And October 23 is the Feast Day for James, brother of Jesus. The latter is one of several “Jameses” in the New Testament…

About which there seems to be some confusion, not least of all on my part. He’s sometimes confused with James, the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, “to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus (James the Less) and James the brother of Jesus,” also known as “James the Just.”

See On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men, which clarifies some of that confusion on my part. There I confused the “Brother of Jesus” – whose icon is seen at left – with “St. James the Greater,” whose feast day is July 25. (And among other things, James the Greater is the “patron saint of pilgrims,” especially Camino pilgrims.)

For more enlightenment on this topic see Men Named James in the New Testament – Agape Bible Study, detailed in the notes. More to the point, the James remembered on October 23 is said to be the author of the Epistle of James. Other New Testament books – the Pauline epistles and Acts of the Apostles  – show him as key to the Christians of Jerusalem.

When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod’s Temple to prove his faith…  Paul describes James as being one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself … and in Galatians 2:9 Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John the Apostle as the three “pillars” of the Church.

There’s also confusion on how he died. “According to Josephus James was stoned to death by Ananus ben Ananus.” But “Clement of Alexandria relates that ‘James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.’” Either way, he was important.

Which is also true of St. Luke.

The noted Catholic writer Garry Wills – in his book What the Gospels Meant – noted that Luke wrote the longest of the four Gospels.  He added that Acts of the Apostles is almost as long, and that these two of Luke’s books together “thus make up a quarter of the New Testament.”  (And they’re longer than all 13 of Paul’s letters.)  He said Luke is rightly considered the most humane of the Gospel writers, and quoted Dante as saying Luke was a “describer of Christ’s kindness.”

Thus Luke’s Gospel was – to Wills and many others – the most beautiful book that ever was.” Which means that Luke’s version of the Jesus story is one to which we should pay special attention.  And especiallto being “humane” and active practitioners of “Christ’s kindness.”

We could use a lot more of that Christian kindness these days…

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The upper image is courtesy of File: Maarten van Heemskerck – St Luke Painting the Virgin, and/or “Wikimedia.”  See also Maarten van Heemskerck – Wikipedia, which noted that the artist (1498-1574) was a “Dutch portrait and religious painter, who spent most of his career in Haarlem,” and did the painting above in or about 1532.

A reminder: I published my last post, On Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021,” out of order, or in the wrong order. I’d gotten it ready to publish before I left for Paris, but in the rush and uncertainty of packing, forgot to actually publish it.

Re: The lovelies of Portugal. I published that post on October 23, 2019:

It’s been a month since I got back from last September [2019]’s 160-mile, 19-day hike on the Camino de Santiago that runs through Portugal. See Just got back – Portuguese Camino! Which means it’s time to start moving on from that pilgrimage and back to this blog’s main themes.

Re: Men Named James in the New Testament. The site listed the following men named James in the New Testament:  1) James the son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle St. John (James the Greater);  2) James the “brother” of Jesus (whose Feast Day is October 23);  3) the Apostle James, “son of Alphaeus;”  and 4) James, the father of the Apostle Jude. Other sources indicate there were as many as six “Jameses” in the Bible.

The lower image is courtesy of Christian Kindness Image – Image Results. See also Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and tenderhearted to one another.” Not to mention my post, On Oscar Wilde and Psalm 130, on Wilde’s “fall from grace, his being sentenced to hard labor and ultimately writing “De Profundus.” That’s the Latin title of Psalm 130, which begins, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. “

On Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021”

As I wrote back on August 25, before I left for Paris, I’d “soon be hiking over the Pyrenees

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I said in my last post – on September 30 – that I had “last posted on July 26, 2021, over two months ago.” (See I just got back from “Camino 2021.”) Which made me wonder: Why such a big gap between posts? The answer: There wasn’t supposed to BE such a big gap.

I had prepared and pretty much written the following post, on St. James – Patron saint of Camino pilgrims – and on the Transfiguration of Jesus. (The last major feast day in August before I left for Paris on the 25th.) But while I’d “prepared and pretty much written the post,” I never actually PUBLISHED it. (I was probably too caught up getting ready for the trip, all while wondering if it would actually HAPPEN, because of Covid and its restrictions on travel.)

The month-long trip DID happen, but more to the point, in reviewing this yet-to-be-published post, I thought it sounded pretty good. So even thought it’ll be published out of order and “after the fact,” I’m offering it for your consideration. Later, down in the notes, I’ll make some after-the-fact observations about what actually happened…

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Last July 25, 2021, was the feast day for James, son of Zebedee. He was one of the 12 Apostles, and tradition says he was the first apostle to be martyred, some time around 44 A.D.

He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle. He is also called James the Greater … to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus.

That’s what I noted back in 2019, in St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage.” Which is fitting, because this year – 2021 – I have another great pilgrimage on tap. On September 1st I’m scheduled to go back to the Camino de Santiago – for the third time – but with some differences… For one thing, this year I’ll be flying into Paris, not Madrid or Lisbon. For another I’ll be hiking as part of a group of four. And finally, this year I’ll hike over the Pyrenees Mountains.

Incidentally, that’s the same section of the Camino where the Martin Sheen character’s son died in the 2010 film, The Way. The central premise of the film is that an old, out of shape Beverly Hills eye doctor “goes to France following the death of his adult son, Daniel, killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a Christian pilgrimage route.”

As if that wasn’t enough to give a reasonable person second thoughts about hiking over the Pyrenees, there was a recent news story, Human remains found in Pyrenees confirmed as those of missing hiker Esther Dingley.

“Ms Dingley, 37, had been walking solo in the mountains near the Spanish and French border and was last seen on Nov 22 last year.” The story added that there was “no sign of equipment or clothing in the immediate area … and the details of what happened and where still remain unknown.” Which is scary, but on the other hand, I won’t be hiking alone…

And once I do get over the Pyrenees I’ll be entering Spain – for the third time since 2017. And people in Spain take St. James the Pilgrim – he’s the patron saint of all pilgrims – very seriously. See for example Feast of Saint James the Apostle in Spain – Time and Date:

Many people in Spain celebrate the life and deeds of James, son of Zebedee, on Saint James’ Day (Santiago Apostol), which is on July 25. Saint James was one of Jesus’ first disciples. Some Christians believe that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

You can read more about this saint in 2014’s “St. James the Greater,” and 2016’s On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts. (And others, listed in the notes.) But there is one thing about a pilgrimage that should be noted: If it’s a good one, you’ll find yourself transformed.

Which brings up the Transfiguration of Jesus.

That’s the New Testament episode where Jesus is “transfigured and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain.” (See the connection?) I’ve written about this event in Transfiguration – 2020, The Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016, and in 2015, Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World. And that feast day was last August 6.

The 2020 post led off with a photo of an empty interstate, looking to a sky-scrapered city skyline, captioned, “The Coronavirus – A ‘Blessing In Disguise For Humanity,’ and maybe a metamorphosis?” Along with a note that we were “now in Week 21 of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (We’re now in week 75 or so, per my calculations.*) The key point: That “in the current plague we are surely going through a metamorphosis.” Or a change in circumstance that could seem, “to many, to have occurred by supernatural means.”

In other words, maybe God was and is trying to tell us something.

In further words, in the Transfiguration both Jesus and His disciples had to go through “a pivotal moment.” A moment in which Jesus met with Moses and Elijah, but which was also terrifying to Peter. (See Mark 9:6 “For they were all so terrified that Peter did not know what else to say.”) But despite Peter’s terror, this was a point “where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point.”

And you could say the same thing about COVID-19. It too is terrifying, but it could also be another moment “where human nature meets God.” It could be a moment where we turn on each other and start “Finger-Pointing,” or it could be a moment where we work together and overcome the challenge in the way God wants us to. And it could just be – if we play our cards right – where we can reconnect with Jesus in a way we couldn’t have before.

Unfortunately, there are signs that in this crisis we are being “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” (In other words, we seem to be ending up like Belshazzar, in Daniel, Chapter 5.) Or we could be “transformed.” And to continue that thought, to be transfigured – as Jesus was – is to experience a change in form or appearance, that is, a metamorphosis.

The term is also defined as to experience an exalting, glorifying or spiritual change. And one example of such a metamorphosis is the “transformation of a maggot into an adult fly.” Or for a better example, we could change from a caterpillar into a butterfly. So – in our journey through the present Covid crisis – do we want to remain maggots or get turned into butterflies? (To mix a few metaphors.) And such transformation is pretty much what the Faith is all about.

See for example Bible Verses about Transformed into His Likeness, which includes 2d Corinthians 3:18, which says that we true Christians “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Or Philippians 3:21, which talks of the power of Jesus, “who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” Or 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

Which is also what could happen to those who go on a pilgrimage. (Like hiking over the Pyrenees part of the Camino de Santiago?) In such a journey “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.”

Or as it says in Psalm 84:5, “Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way.” So maybe when I get back I’ll find that we Americans are no longer “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” (As shown below.) Maybe the country will experience such a transfiguration that God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant(s)!”

It COULD happen…

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Well, it didn’t happen. It seems our country is still “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” And a lot of it has to do with Facebook and the amount of tribal political warfare that goes on there. So maybe that six-hour Facebook outage last October 4 was a sign from God. Instead of saying “well done, good and faithful servant(s),” He might have been telling us, “Stop obsessing with Facebook, and stop putting all that garbage in it!”

(Of course, I’m just guessing, you understand…*)

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The upper image is courtesy of Camino Hiking Over Pyrenees – Image Results. With a page and caption, “The walk to Roncesvalles, Spain, from St Jean Pied de Port took us over the Pyrenees. Blessed with good weather…”

Re: 2016’s On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts. The “sluts” part of the post noted that the word had a different meaning for Robert Louis Stevenson in 1879, when he published Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes. (For more on the book see also the prior post, On donkey travel – and sluts.) Back then “slut meant roughly what one sense of slattern means today: a slovenly, untidy woman or girl.”  It could also refer to a kitchen maid.

Re: Weeks of Covid. As of Monday, October 11, 2021, we are now in the 83d full week of Covid, 20 months and three weeks, according to my calculations. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. To me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.”

The Psalm 84:5 translation is from my mother’s Book of Common Prayer, “Proposed,” and published in 1977. (As certified by Charles Mortimer Guilbert.) My mother died in 1984, and for a time it was used by my late wife Karen, who died in 2006. I now use it on a daily basis, for the psalms in each day’s set of Daily Office Readings. (Currently Year One, Volume 2.)

The lower image is courtesy of the Belshazzar link to the Wikipedia article. The caption: “RembrandtBelshazzar’s Feast, 1635, (National Gallery, London). The message is written in vertical lines starting at the top right corner, with ‘upharsin’ taking two lines.”

And the quote “just guessing, you understand,” came from She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) Script – TV & Movie Transcripts. As spoken by Ben Johnson as Sergeant Tyree, talking to John Wayne as Captain Nathan Brittles. Image courtesy of She Wore A Yellow Ribbon – Image Results. (My other favorite Sgt. Tyree quote is, “That ain’t my department, sir!”

I just got back from “Camino 2021…”

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I last posted on July 26, 2021, over two months ago.* The reason for the lapse? I was preparing for a month-long overseas adventure. The plan was to fly first into Paris, and from there take a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in southwest France. And all during that time I had my doubts that the proposed trip would actually occur, because of Covid….

But it did occur, and the result was a month-long, 170 mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. And that trip included a hike over the daunting Pyrenees mountains, seen at left.

The trip started with a flight to Paris on August 25. It ended last Friday night, September 24, with a butt-sore 13-hour flight from Madrid back home to Atlanta. (With a nightmare layover in Amsterdam.*) Which – with six time-zone changes – meant 26 hours straight without sleep. (Can you say “body-clock bedraggling?”) In between, I accomplished what I set out to do.

Like I said, all of this was part of a month-long trip, first to Paris and then over the Pyrenees. The main feature was a month-long, 170-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. The push for this adventure came after a similar one in 2017, noted in “Hola! Buen Camino!” That post began: “My brother and I arrived in Santiago de Compostela on Thursday, October 12[, 2017]. This was after hiking – and biking – the Camino de Santiago, as shown in the map above. “

There was only one problem in 2017. I hadn’t hiked over the Pyrenees, like my brother Tom, and it’s bothered me ever since. So why didn’t I hike over the Pyrenees in 2017? Because the year before, 2016, Tom and I – along with his son, my nephew – had hiked the Chilkoot Trail. They called that “the meanest 33 miles in history,” and I found out why.*

One result was that for 2017 I’d had quite enough of mountain hiking. So while Tom flew into Paris and hiked over the Pyrenees hike – and had a miserable time by the way – I flew into Madrid and met up with him in Pamplona. That still left 450 miles of hiking to get to Santiago. (With biking as well for the last 200 miles; we started running out of time.)

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I’ll be writing more on my 2021 Camino pilgrimage in future posts, but for now I’ll focus on the first four days. I spent those four days in Paris, which I visited for the first time since 1979.

One place in Paris I visited back in 1979 was the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris. And – viewed from the inside – that visit was literally awesome. But given the Notre-Dame de Paris fire in 2019, I was curious to see how things had changed, how the repairs and renovation were going.

I took the picture at right on Saturday, August 28, 2021, during a walk around the entire complex. There were lots of other people around, checking out the progress, or just standing and looking just outside the chain-link fencing on the sides and back. I was pleasantly surprised at the progress, but it’s definitely a work in progress. (For a more detailed and comprehensive review see Notre Dame Rebuild Progress | 2021 Updates.)

For more on other events in those first four days, see my other blog’s Post-trip post mortem for “Paris – 2021.” But here’s a spoiler alert, about a highlight of the trip, in Madrid: I ended up having a beer (or maybe two) at the Plaza de Jesús.* Which is a very good place to end up…

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On a related note, September 2021 included “feasts” for Holy Cross Day (9/14), St. Matthew, Apostle (9/21), and St. Michael and All Angels (9/29). For more on those “holy-days” see the notes, with summaries and links to past posts. But for now it’s enough to say yet again:

There’s no place like home!

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Re: “I last posted on July 26, 2021, over two months ago.” As noted in Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021,” that wasn’t exactly true. I had “prepared and pretty much written” the St. James/Transfiguration post before I left, but never actually published it. Which is why that post and this one were published “out of order and ‘after the fact.'” But with the next post I’ll get things back in order. Probably on my experiences actually hiking over the Pyrenees and into Pamplona, and somehow tying all that in to the next major feast day, for St. Luke. (Written and updated Monday, October 11, 2021.) For an appetizer, see 2014’s On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, and – from October 2019 and its happier times – On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal.

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The upper image is courtesy of Camino de Santiago 800 PROJECT: Map of the Routesilverarrow18.blogspot.com.  

The “Pyrenees” image is courtesy of Pyrenees Mountains – Image Results.

Re: Nightmare in Amsterdam. One big nightmare factor was having to go through Dutch Customs, with only two staffers for our huge plane-load of people, and even though I had gone through security in Madrid, and was simply changing from one plane to another.

Re: The Chilkoot. See my companion blog, Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!” Which included this: The ‘Chilkoot Trail‘ isn’t really a trail, it’s just ‘one big pile of &%#@ rocks after another!!!‘”

Re: Plaza de Jesús. See Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre, which translated notes this “Jesus Square” or “Place of Jesus” is in the Cortes district, and begins on Calle Lope de Vega. For the last two days of the trip, after I left Burgos, I got a room at the Artistic B&B, at Calle Lope de Vega 11. (Just up the street.) Wikipedia noted that the plaza is home to several taverns, “in Madrid rancid tradition:”

This is a contrast that makes the queues of pilgrims, pious women and devotees of the Christ of Medinaceli, much appreciated, frequently mix in the square with nomadic groups of celebrators, tourists and subjects of the Madrid aperitif.

I’m not sure what all that means, but I enjoyed my two nights at the plaza. I’d stop there after a day of doing touristy stuff like visiting the Prado and the Museo Reina Sofia – home of Picasso’s “Guernica” – or strolling through the Real Jardín Botánico. The Wikipedia article has a good closeup of the tile “plaza sign.” In my picture, at left, there is a street – or plaza – sign, in blue, just above the head of the tall man in the foreground. Just above that is the tile of the representation of Jesus, the one you can see better in the Wikipedia article.

Re: September feast days I missed hiking the Camino. For a catch-all summary of those three feast days, see 2018’s On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel” As for summaries, “Holy Cross Day is one of several Feasts of the Cross, all of which ‘commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus.'” For still more on St. Matthew see St. Matthew and “Cinderella.” It noted that “the love Jesus had for all mankind extended even to tax collectors.” (Matthew was a tax collector, in Israel “hated above all men as a merciless leech who would take the shirt off a dying child.”) As far as St. Michael goes, he is shown in the painting, “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.” To which I said:Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

The lower image is courtesy of There‘s No Place Like Home- Image Results. See also No Place Like Home – Wikipedia, which noted that – aside from the famous line in the movie Wizard of Oz – the phrase may also refer to “the last line of the 1822 song ‘Home! Sweet Home!,’ words by John Howard Payne and music by Sir Henry Bishop; the source of inspiration for the other references here: ‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home,’” and/or “‘(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,’ a 1954 Christmas song most famously sung by Perry Como.”  For a “live” version, see also There’s No Place Like Home – YouTube.