Category Archives: Pilgrimage

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  

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.

On “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age…”

To see more images of the “meanest 33 miles in history,” go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results

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The next major feast day is Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 26. For a look at some past posts on the subject see the Notes. In the meantime I have something to be thankful for.

I just published a new E-book(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age(“Or ‘How NICE it was to travel, before COVID.’”) It’s published under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.” The cover photo – at right – shows me in Jerusalem in May 2019, wearing a “shemagh.” Also called a keffiyeh, I got it at Ranger Joe’s in Ft. Benning before leaving for Israel. (To “blend in.”) I’m wearing it over my black Atlanta United ball cap, thus “blending in” the best of the old and new.

In the blurb I wrote for Amazon Kindle eBooks, I said this book should be timely – “in the middle of our Covid-19 pandemic” – because right now “lots of Americans can only dream about visiting such exotic locales in the future, when the crisis passes.”

I compared it to the 1920s and ‘30s, when so many Americans were fascinated by Hemingway’s books on France and Spain. (Like “The Sun Also Rises ” and “A Moveable Feast.”)

I’m guessing part of it was that back then most Americans could only DREAM of travel to such exotic places. (Like today with Covid…) Then too it may be because Hemingway gave all those exotic street names and local pubs and restaurants. Like my finding the “BEERBAZAAR,” in Jerusalem, in May 2019. Which makes me think I should have written down way more information when I was “over there.” Then I could do more what Hemingway did, vivid description. But I have something Hemingway didn’t have. GOOGLE MAPS!

Then too – aside from my May 2019 pilgrimage to Israel – the book includes chapters on hiking the Chilkoot Trail in 2016. (“Meanest 33 miles in history,” exemplified by the top photo.) Or hiking the Camino de Santiago, twice. The first time was in 2017. I met my brother in Pamplona – home of Hemingway’s Café Iruna – and together we hiked (and biked) the 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela. (He flew into Paris and hiked over the Pyrenees, but the Chilkoot Trail had cured me of any such wishes to go hiking over mountains again so soon.)

Incidentally, the last two chapters of the book are based on the last two (of three) posts I did in a companion blog: Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino, and “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!” That “They sell beer” post was really long – “Word count 3450” – mostly because I had a lot to fit in. But, to balance things out I’ll make this post shorter.

The upshot is that I wrote about a lot of great adventures, but still had more to write about. Plus those I did cover I didn’t do full justice to. I did include one great memory from Israel:

May 28, 2019, Tel Aviv. The night before I fly home from Ben Gurion. Sitting at the bar in the basement of the Abraham Hostel, Levon St. 21. To my left, two travel buddies, Sam and Katie. Katie on my immediate left, Sam one seat over. To my right a young man who turned out to be a law student from Quebec. We got to talking, and I asked his name. He said “Silas.” So I started singing “Two was a-Paul and Silas!” Katie chimed in, “One was a little bitty baby,” then we both sang – in harmony – “Born, born, born in Bethlehem!”

(That was part of the chorus from “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” As I wrote in the book, “for a kick-ass a cappella version, see the one by Little Big Town.)

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There’s more on all that later, but first a couple production notes on the E-book. First off, you’ll notice that on page 6 of the Introduction – right after the paragraph beginning “May 28, 2019, Tel Aviv” – the line spacing goes all kerflooey. From justified it goes to non-justified text, and the line spacing gets wider. It goes back to normal for the next one-line paragraph – “Then the COVID hit” – but the text stays non-justified through near the  middle of the next page. (It says page 6 again; there are apparently two “page 6’s.”) Then it goes back to justified text.

I tried correcting it, uploading a second and ostensibly-corrected Word document, but it stayed the same, kerflooey for a page or two. Another note: I had the “Observations” at the end of many chapters in italics and non-justified, as well as the notes at the end of the book. The program made all those justified type. And for the paperback version the publishing program required a minimum of 100 pages, so I had to add four pages to the original 96.

So I’ll try to upload a corrected version, with the additional four pages and with a proper note at the very end as to where to buy a paperback version. I’ll let you know how it goes…

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Meanwhile, back to the subject of the book not doing justice to all my adventures…

For one example, as to the Portuguese Camino hike: I only got “us” as far as the Casa Límia in Ponte de Lima. That’s only about a third of the way up to Santiago de Compostela. Then too I could only provide limited coverage of my pilgrimage to Israel, which I last covered in This time last year – in Jerusalem, in May 2020. And by the way, that post has a lot of those “image may contain” boxes, that used to be pictures I posted, to make the posts more interesting. And which in turn is a problem I address in the book. And that’s why I now use lead captions like “To see more images of the ‘meanest 33 miles in history,’ go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results.” That makes it much easier to transmogrify these blog-posts into future picture-less book chapters.

And about that Jerusalem trip. I described the Leonardo Moria Hotel, a short walk from St. George’s Pilgrim Guest House, with a lounge sometimes functioning as a piano bar. (Once even having a yarmulke-topped pianist playing the Chicken Dance.) That turned out to be a favorite watering hole, not just for me but eventually many of my fellow pilgrims at St. George’s. (One night, for a birthday, “we” had 17 pilgrims there. I should have gotten a commission…)

So one point of this “limited coverage” is that in the future I’ll have to do at least one Sequel. (Tentatively titled “(More of) My Adventures in Old Age.”) In it I hope to add more oversea-travel adventures, including a return to St. George’s in Jerusalem. (Once we kick COVID’s ass.)

Stay tuned!!!

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The upper image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail – Image Results. See also Explore the Chilkoot Trail – Klondike Gold Rush. The lower image is courtesy of St George’s College Jerusalem – Image Results

Re: Past posts on Thanksgiving. See On the first Thanksgiving – Part I and Part II, On Thanksgiving 2015, On Thanksgiving – 2016, On Thanksgiving – 2017, and On Thanksgiving 2019. (Did I skip 2018?)

On Mary Magdalene, 2020 – and Week 19 of “the Covid…”

I just got back from 4 days’ canoeing on the Missouri River – and no, the river wasn’t this low…

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As the photo-caption above says, I just returned from a 4-day canoe trip on the Missouri River – 115 river miles, from South Sioux City to Omaha Nebraska. (Two weeks in all – three days’ drive out, four days back, the rest setting up or packing up.) Specifically, I got back last Friday, July 17.

And my last post was on June 20, Remembering Monday, May 18, 1992. (Including the image at right, it talked about the day I did my first Daily Office (Bible) Reading, on May 18, 1992.)

Which all means that I haven’t done a lot of posting lately on liturgical seasons or feast days. And on that note, the feast day for Mary Magdalene was Wednesday, July 22.

I’ve done a number of posts on this Mary “Maudlin,” including last year’s On Mary Magdalene – and all those “rules and regulations.” Also, On Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents(from 2018), 2015’s On Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles,” and – from 2017 – On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints. (I.e., Mary’s Feast Day – July 22 – is followed by this particular James’ Feast Day, July 25.)

Last year’s post emphasized one indisputable: That Mary Magdalene showed way more courage and faith than the 11 male disciples, when push came to shove. Which is why St. Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles.” See also Mary of Magdala | 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.

In turn that 2019 post cited 2018’s Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents.” That was an early post exploring the idea of conservative Christians “playing it too safe.” That is, choosing not to explore the “rich tapestry of life.” That led me to conclude that “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.’” (“It’s an oxymoron.”) Then too, that rules and regulations post brought up a standard conservative – and sometimes “Conservative Christian” – rant, that “all immigrants must follow all the rules and regulations.” 

On that note, the post pointed out that Jesus – by His own admission – came into the world to save sinners, not those who blindly “follow all the rules and regulations.” (Mark 2:17, and 1st Timothy 1:15.) Which certainly applied to Mary, that “bare-breasted reformed harlot.”

Which brings up “the letter versus the spirit of the law.” That is, the “idiomatic antithesis” about those who “obey the letter of the law but not its spirit.” In a sentence, “Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit” can be done by “exploiting technicalitiesloopholes, and ambiguous language.” And it’s based on 2d Corinthians 3:6, “This” – the Gospel of Jesus – “is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.” That is, life in abundance. (John 10:10.)  

Which all leads us to July 25, the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee. He’s one of several “James” in the New Testament, but this James is also called “St. James the Greater.” And incidentally, this St. James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. (Seen at left. See also Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints.)

And speaking of pilgrimages – like my recent one down the Missouri River – see also the September 2016 post On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts: “The point being that I’ve gone on a few pilgrimages in my time, and am fixing to go on another one this September.” September 2017 that is. That year my Adventurous Brother and I hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. (The French Way. Also, in the Sluts post, I noted that in the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to “the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”)

The post also said a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  Which happened on 2016’s Chilkoot Trail hike:

For my part, I certainly felt “chastened” after we got back to Skagway from the Chilkoot Trail.(Although the 10-of-12 beers that my nephew and I shared – of the two six-packs I bought – helped a lot too.)  And I had a blister-on-a-blister that got infected – that didn’t fully heal until three weeks after the hike – to further heighten the feeling of getting “chastened.”

So this post celebrates both Mary Magdalene, as “the Apostle to the Apostles,” and St. James as the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. And speaking of pilgrimages, they can also be a way to “escape a plague.” Or at least get away from it for four days or so. (But see also A Pilgrimage during the time of the Black Plague, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Meanwhile, we always have “the Risen Christ” to fall back on…

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 Mary Magdalene – first to see the Risen Christ – thus Apostle to the Apostles…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Lower Missouri River – Image Results. “The image was accompanied by a 2012 article from the Sioux City Journal, about how the low water level – eight years ago – could hurt boating and tourism.” I borrowed the image from a post on my companion blog, On my “new” Missouri River canoe trip, from July 5, 2020. That post was a preview, and I’ll be writing a postmortem – not literally – in a future post. As in an analysis or study of a recently completed event. The caption for the photo originally said, “I just heard the Lower Missouri River near Sioux City was pretty low. Could it be this bad?” Quick answer: It wasn’t.  

As to “Week 19 of ‘the Covid'” in the post title, see On 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: Pilgrimage to escape plague. See for example, “Flight of the townspeople into the country to escape from the Plague, 1630,” seen below, courtesy of Pilgrimage Escape Plagues – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Rembrandt – The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen. (It’s the lead image in Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents.“)  See also On Easter Season – AND BEYOND.  The full caption: “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen, by Rembrandt (1638).”  And speaking of “racy,” the artist Titian did two versions of Mary crying.  For the “racier” – 1533 – version see Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia.

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.

For more on this “Mary,” see On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints, and also MARY MAGDALENE, Bible Woman: first witness to Resurrection, and What Did Mary Magdalene look like?

“As a spiritual exercise…”

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As a Spiritual Exercise, back in 1989 I started looking for new ways to “help” my favorite college team – Florida State University – win its first football national championship… (The image at right shows the 1524 book, Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. I just used a different method.)

At first it was a matter of finding the right ritual sacrifice, in the form of exercise, and especially aerobics. (Initially a series of wind sprints over a 3-mile course; the goal was to finish the three miles in an ever-faster speed.)

It was only later – in the spring of 1992 – that I added the discipline of Daily Bible Reading. And just as an aside, during that next football season – in the fall of 1993, and after much drama, with twists and turns of fate – the Noles squeaked by Nebraska to win that first national title. (In a game they were expected to win easily.)

In the 27-plus years that followed – 30-plus, if you go back to 1989 – FSU football won two more national titles. (For a more complete listing of such “wins,” see On my “mission from God,” and “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, including the image at left.) But there have been a number of heart-breaks as well, including losing the national-title game at the end of the 1996 season. (To our arch-rival Gators, no less.) And the past two seasons have been especially bad, with the Noles suffering back-to-back losing seasons.

On the other hand I’ve learned a lot of valuable spiritual lessons along the way.

Then too, this “spiritual exercise” has given me lots of insight into how the original Children of Israel must have felt when they did all the right things – and yet ended up conquered and sent into exile. (The functional equivalent of having back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in a dog’s years? And especially after establishing a 14-year college football dynasty?)

What brings all that to mind is the recent series of Daily Office Old Testament readings. Those recent Daily Office readings reminded me of all the twists and turns, the add-ons and “do not do” list of things that thwarted spiritual progress for Moses. And for his success on the field.

For example, that recent string of Daily Bible readings had a set rules and regulations – starting with Leviticus 8:1-13,30-36 – back on Sunday, May 10 (2020). And they’ve have been jumping around ever since. (After starting at Chapter 8 – and after leaving Exodus 40, 18 to 38, on Saturday the 9th – they jumped from 16 to 19 to 23, and so on, “to this day.” Exodus 40, for example, goes into great detail on “Setting Up the Tabernacle.”)

The point is that – over the past 30-plus years – I too have gleaned a number of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” (Not unlike those of Moses, set out in Leviticus.) Rules like “Thou shalt not listen to Panzerlied* on your iPod Shuffle in the days leading up to a game.” Or “thou shalt listen to ‘We Are the Champions‘ whenever it comes up, on your Shuffle or the radio.” (Because it brings good karma.) Also, “Thou shalt have thy monthly church-tithe check in the office safe before a game starts, at or near the first of the month.” And so on… Of course those rules haven’t guaranteed success, but neither did Moses’ rules and regulations, listed in Leviticus over the past weeks in the Daily Office.

So just like Moses – and especially like those who tried to follow his rules “to the letter” – for the past 31 years or so, I’ve been “working with God,” trying to get Him to help my teams win. But again, it hasn’t always worked out. And so you could easily say there have been far more disappointments and heartbreaks. On the other hand, by combining my Ritual Sacrifice with Daily Bible reading, I’ve learned some valuable spiritual lessons.

For one thing – again – I’ve experienced how those early Hebrews must have felt, when they thought they’d done everything right. But then – for whatever inexplicable reason – they were disappointed if not shocked by how bad things turned out. I’m sure they felt like saying to God, “You OWE me.” I did everything You asked, and this is how you treat me?” But along the way I’ve also learned – based on my experience – that there was and is some kind of causality at work. That is, some mysterious “Force” out there which (or Who) responded to my prayers and sacrifice, ritual or otherwise. Though many times not in the way I expected…

Another thing I’ve learned – over the past 31 years, and a host of both disappointments and triumphs. I’ve become convinced – by and through my day to day interactions with this “Force” – that the “factual accuracy” of the Bible is pretty much irrelevant to an advanced Christian faith. That is, to me, it doesn’t seem to matter if a so-called expert says he’s found the actual ark used by Noah somewhere in Turkey.

Or whether Jesus feeding the 5,000 is just a miracle, “taken only on faith,” or a parable whose lesson is that if we followed the example of Jesus, we could end world hunger “tomorrow.”

What matters is what you do with your faith and your life. What matters is how you follow the Bible, and in doing so follow the example of Jesus. And for that matter His disciples (including Paul, that “Johnny come lately” who wrote like a lawyer, with so many lawyer-like convolutions).

In other words if you work with this kind of “canary in a coal mine” spiritual exercise, you could end up with all the proof you need: That there is a God, and that “He” is willing to work with you, and that somewhere along the line, there’s a “happy ending…” And it can all come by and through the “spiritual discipline” of daily Bible reading, combined with your own version of a “canary-slash-coal-mine” way of keeping on the straight and narrow.

And incidentally (on a related note), next Thursday, May 21, is Ascension Day. For more on that feast day see 2014’s On Ascension Day and subsequent posts listed in the notes.

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The upper image is courtesy of Spiritual Exercise – Image Results. Also, the image to the right of the first full paragraph refers to the “Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (Latin original: Exercitia spiritualia),” with the caption, “Exercitia spiritualia, 1548 First Edition by Antonio Bladio (Rome).”

A note on the post title. It’s similar in style to a Papal bull, that is, it’s “first few words of the text,” the incipit, i.e., “the first few Latin words from which the bull took its title for record keeping purposes, but which might not be directly indicative of the bull’s purpose.” See Wikipedia.

Re: Panzerlied. I first heard it in a 1965 film, see Battle of the Bulge (film) – Wikipedia. It’s a rousing song that goes well with road trips or picking up trash in a diesel-powered golf cart for the local branch of Keep America Beautiful. Unfortunately it has negative connotations having to do with the murder of “Jews, gypsies and fairies.” For more on the song see Wikipedia, or for a live version Panzerlied (Battle of the Bulge with english intro) – YouTube. For more on “Jews, gypsies and fairies,” see Slaughterhouse-Five Quotes | Shmoop: “The British had no way of knowing it, but the candles and the soap were made from the fat of rendered Jews and Gypsies and fairies and communists, and other enemies of the State. (5.14.4).”

See Thou Shalt Not – Image Results. And Thou Shalt Not (musical) – Wikipedia.

The causality image is courtesy of Causality – Image Results.

Re: Ascension Day. See also On Ascension Day 2015, Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016, and Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds.”

The lower image is courtesy of Canary Coal Mine – Image Results. This particular image accompanied an article, “Idioms in the news: Canary in the Coal Mine[,] ShareAmerica,” from November 2014: “Someone/something that is an early warning of danger.” An earlier image – “now defunct,” since the original post – was accompanied by an article, “I am the canary in the coal mine,” which also explained the idiom:

The tradition at that time – to foretell the toxic environment down in the [coal] mine – was for the miners to take a canary down with them on their daily journey… The canary is very susceptible to the toxic gases that were common in the mines, and would die when the gases were at a toxic level – signaling to the miners that they had to immediately exit.

See also canary in a coal mine – Wiktionary, about a thing sensitive to adverse conditions, which “makes it a useful early indicator of such conditions; something which warns of the coming of greater danger or trouble by a deterioration in its health or welfare.”

In my case, if I was doing something wrong in my daily life, a loss by FSU or “another team of mine” would indicate the need to stop doing that! (Not unlike the old Henny Youngman joke, where a patient says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” To which the doctor replies, “Then don’t do that!” See Henry Youngman Jokes – Henry Youngman One Liners Jokes.)

My recent Utah trip – and “3 Wise Guys…”

The Adoration of the Magi, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – as it relates to Epiphany. . .

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Grand Island, Nebraska.

I haven’t posted anything since December 5, “last year.” One reason? This past December 27 I got in my car and drove 1,800 miles out west, “in the bleak midwinter.” (As illustrated at right. A truck stop in Grand Island Nebraska, snowed in on December 29.)

I drove out to visit my brother in Utah, and his wife. (My “hiking buddies” on the Portuguese Camino. See Just got back – Portuguese Camino!) Their son and daughter also came out – from Back East – along with my new (as of June 2018) “nephew by marriage.” (See On a wedding in Hadley – and John, Peter and Paul.)

It was a great trip and I’ll be writing more about it in later posts. But in the meantime, I need to get back to some of the themes of this post: Like reading and studying the Bible to get closer to God. And – on that note – paying more attention to Feast days.

The most recent feast day was Epiphany, celebrated back on Monday, January 6. Some previous posts on the subject include Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!” Then came last year’s Happy Epiphany – 2018.

To start off, the “3 wise guys” post explained how the Adoration of the Magi – illustrated by the painting at the top of the page – fits in with all this “Epiphany” stuff. We know the full story better from the hymn, We Three Kings (of Orient Are). Which hymn in turn celebrates…

… the Nativity of Jesus in art in which the three Magi, represented as kings, especially in the West, having found Jesus by following a star, lay before him gifts of goldfrankincense, and myrrh, and worship him. It is related in the Bible by Matthew 2:11

And as noted, the event is remembered as the Feast of Epiphany (January 6).

The “3 wise guys” post gave some further details, like theories on the actual names of the three wise men (three kings), and a fuller, more earthy explanation of circumcision:

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ… Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us. (E.A.)

The post also noted that because we are “more squeamish than our ancestors,” modern church calendars usually list January 1 – “eight days*” after December 25 – as the “Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.” And finally, it noted the practice of circumcision can be traced back as far as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which described “the sun god Ra as having circumcised himself.” (Thus making him “One Tough Monkey!”)

But enough about circumcision. (Including the circumcision knife above left, “from the Congo; wood, iron; late 19th/early 20th century.”) The point is that January 6 – the Feast of Epiphany – “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.” But that day goes by other names as well. It’s also known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  (And just to confuse things, the evening of January 5 is known as Twelfth Night.) Yet a third name for January 6 is Three Kings Day.

As discussed above…

But the end of an old year and beginning of a New Year is also a time to recall the events of that past year gone by, and 2019 was definitely a year of pilgrimage for me. Like my trip last May to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. (See “On to Jerusalem, On my first full day in Jerusalem, or type in “Jerusalem” in the search box above right.)

Or my September trip to hike 160 miles the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago, from Porto to Santiago. (Type “Portugal” in the search box.) But my most recent pilgrimage was a 15-day drive out to and back from my brother’s house in Utah.

Which included getting snowed in at a Motel 6 in Grand Island, Nebraska, with a view of the near-frozen North Platte River from my motel-room window, as shown below. But it also included a great burger and two draft beers at the Thunder Road Grill at the truck stop next door. (As shown in the notes.) So the way I figure, “there’s some kind of lesson there!

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The upper image is courtesy of Epiphany (holiday) – Wikipedia.  The full caption: “Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century.”

Re: “‘Eight days’ after December 25.” Today we would begin the eight-day count the day after December 25, which would make January 1 the seventh day after 12/25. But in Jesus’ time the Hebrews would have included December 25 in the eight-day count.

The Motel 6 in question was at 7301 Bosselman Ave, Grand Island, NE. The full link to the “Thunder Road” website is Thunder Road Grill | Pizza, Wings & Burgers | Grand Island, NE.

As for the “lesson there,” see Ecclesiastes 8:15, “I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.” Or Psalm 104:15, on wine (or beer) “to gladden the heart.” In other words, if you’re stuck next door to a snowed-in Nebraska truck stop, you might as well enjoy a burger and beer(s), especially if you can do laundry at the same time.

I took the “Grand Island” photos, including the one above right, of my glasses on the bar next to a half-empty glass of draft beer. The circumcision-knife image is courtesy of Circumcision – Wikipedia.

A delayed “If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem…”

By the Waters of Babylon, Hebrew exiles vowed never to “forget thee, O Jerusalem…”

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I just reviewed some “posts to be done” from a few months ago – and ran across this. As noted in the first ‘graf, it’s from the first week of last May. (I was about to fly to Israel for three weeks.) But I didn’t publish it then, so I’ll do that now. Accordingly, here’s that first pre-look at my planned Israel trip, and Psalm 137, “the middle of the Bible.”

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As told in “On to Jerusalem,” this upcoming May 10th I’m flying to Jerusalem for a two-week pilgrimage (As part of a local church group venture.)  To that end, I’ve been listening to some lectures-on-CD, The World of Biblical Israel | The Great Courses Plus.

On a related note, I connected to a Jerusalem Post article, If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem:

There is an almost natural magnetic draw to Jerusalem that stirs within us a special emotion. For millions of people around the world the heart of ancient Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, symbolizes spirituality and mysticism, a place of prayer and miracles, the centre of the world and a holy portal to God.

Note the “spirituality and mysticism” part, which mirrors one frequent theme of this blog.  The point is:  That title in the Jerusalem Post article refers to Psalm 137:5-6, which reads  “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”  (That’s from the King James Version. You know, the one God uses?)  

Which just happened to tie in with the Biblical Israel course, as described below.

See for example Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, describing “Nebuchadnezzar II‘s successful siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC.” One result? The people of Judah ended up “deported to Babylonia, where they were held captive until some time after the Fall of Babylon (539 BC):”

In English it [Psalm 137] is generally known as “By the rivers of Babylon,” which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version…  The psalm is a communal lament about being in exile after the Babylonian captivity, and yearning for Jerusalem.  The psalm is a regular part of JewishEastern OrthodoxCatholicAnglican and Protestant liturgies.  It has been set to music often, and was paraphrased in hymns.

So anyway, Professor Chapman focused first on Psalm 137 as the story of how that Hebrew Remnant – those Exiles – created the final version of what we know as the Old Testament.

That is, the Old Testament – as we know it today – did not exist before the year 586 B.C. Again, that was the year most Judeans were taken from their homeland – after the horrors of the Babylonian conquest – and suffered a “death march,” 800 miles to Babylon.  “After this defeat, they compiled, edited and shaped” their collected national stories into a virtual library.

Eadwine psalter - Trinity College Lib - f.243v.jpg
Psalm 137 in the Eadwine Psalter (12th century)

And again, according to Professor Chapman, Psalm 137 (at right) constitutes both the mid-point – the very middle – of years of Ancient Jewish history and the very middle of the Bible itself. 

In turn Psalm 137 was written at just the time when the books of the original Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – were collected, edited and redacted.  And it all came to be because of the Exile, that “national disgrace.”

In other words, before the calamity of the Exile, many books (in the form of scrolls) existed, but “here is where they were first collected into what we know as the Old Testament today.” That idea was mirrored in the Babylon captivity link at Psalm 137:

This period saw … the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews.  This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

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Which is about as far as I got: The story of how the Old Testament as we known it finally came into being. And it might never have occurred but for this humiliating “national disgrace” for the Children of Israel. (On that note see The Blessings of Trials –

But in the meantime we’ve moved on to the Season of Advent. See 2016’s On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent, and On Advent – 2015, which described the Season of Advent:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.”

And it should be noted that in some of the readings for the Season of Advent, Jesus tells the Parable of the Budding Fig Tree.  (Not to be confused with the barren fig tree):

“Look at the fig tree and all the trees;  as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near…”

In doing so Jesus quoted Isaiah – twice – as well as the Book of Daniel.  See also Jesus and messianic prophecy.  The main point Jesus was trying to make?  “Beware, keep alert;  for you do not know when the time will come.”  And also, “What I say to you I say to all:  Keep awake.”

Which is pretty much what the Season of Advent is all about…

And that “High Holy Season” always starts with the Feast of  St. Andrew – “the First Apostle.” That posts and others cited in it noted that while Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus,” he seems to be the least known about. Which is ironic because Andrew was one of Jesus’ the first followers. In fact he “followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others,” and so he is “called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.” 

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 St. Andrew, “the First Apostle,” and his x-shaped cross or saltire*

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The upper image is courtesy of Psalm 137 – Wikipedia. The caption: “‘By the Waters of Babylon,’ painting by Arthur Hackerc. 1888.”

The lower image is courtesy of and share, which included the full text of St. Andrew’s words before he died, showing “a very profound Christian spirituality.  [He] does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth.  Here we have a very important lesson to learn: Our own crosses acquire value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of Christ…”  See also Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.

About that “saltire” see St Andrew … 5 facts you might have known:

Legend has it that he [Andrew] asked to be tied to an X-shaped cross because he did not feel worthy of dying on the same shape of cross as Jesus.  The shape has been represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag, the Saltire, since at least 1385.

As to the Feast of St. Andrew beginning the new church year, see Anticipating Christmas, Beginning with Saint Andrew.  Or see St. Andrew, from the Satucket website:

Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year…  The First Sunday of Advent is defined to be the Sunday on or nearest his feast (although it could equivalently be defined as the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day).

On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal

I started the original post off with the caption, ‘A beach-view, northwest of Porto, along the coastal alternative to the Camino de Santiago,'” but as noted below, this platform often substitutes my original photos with descriptions like “image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor.'” As of October 11, 2021, I’ll try to correct the situation, but in the meantime I’ll just present the written version, and whatever borrowed images may have survived.

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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.

But first, a tip of the hat to the lovely ladies of Portugal, including the one at the top of the page.* (Via telephoto on our first day’s hike, from Porto up the 10.8 miles to Cabo do Mundo.) And to the lady Camino hikers we saw going out of Porto Itself, as shown at right. (Which just goes to show that a true pilgrimage doesn’t have to be all “raw experience … hunger, cold and lack of sleep.” See “I pity the fool!” From March 2015.)

Which brings us to the more recent Feast Days this October. For instance, the October 18 just passed was the Feast Day of St. Luke. For starters, you can see more on him in 2014’s On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, or On St. Luke – 20. (Or – from 2018 – On Luke and the “rich young man.”) Then too Wednesday, October 23 is the Feast Day for James, brother of Jesus.

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. (When I confused “Brother of Jesus” with “St. James the Greater,” whose feast day is July 25.) And among other things, James the Greater is considered the “patron saint of pilgrims.”

Saint James the Just.jpgWhich would have brought us back to the topic of such pilgrimages, if this James had been “the Greater.” As for the confusion, see The Men Named James in the New Testament – Agape Bible Study. That 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.

So anyway, this “October 23″ James is considered the author of the Epistle of James. (He’s portrayed in the icon above left.) Other 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.

Then there’s St. Luke, from last October 18. On that note, I’ve written before on Bible study as a great way to “develop your talents.” See for example December 2015’s Develop your talents with Bible study. Which brings us back to Luke the Evangelist.

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 Luke’s version of the Jesus story is one we should pay special attention to.  And especially to being “humane” and active practitioners of “Christ’s kindness.”

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

But – again speaking of developing your talents – Luke wasn’t just a great writer.  He was also – according to tradition – an artist of note.  Beyond that he was said to be the first icon painter, and to have painted the Virgin Mary and Child, as shown in the image below.

So here’s to Luke as a prime example of Scripture-study to develop your talents.

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File:Maarten van Heemskerck - St Luke Painting the Virgin and Child - WGA11299.jpg

“Saint Luke painting the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child…” 

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Re: My photos of the “lovely ladies of Portugal, including the one at the top of the page.” As indicated in the opening notes, the platform transmogrified those images into written form, a situation I hope to correct. The lead caption included that “in Just got back – Portuguese Camino, I took the photos of the ladies in Portugal.” In the latter post I ended up writing, “I took a bunch of photos for this post, but when I reviewed it in October 2020 – for an upcoming book – the photos were gone. So, I’ve written around them.”

The lower 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.

Just got back – Portuguese Camino!

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I just flew back from Lisbon in Portugal. “And, boy, are my arms tired!” But seriously, I did just finish a 160-mile hike on the Portuguese Camino. I flew to Lisbon on August 28 and flew back on September 25, and so technically was gone a full month.

I greatly enjoyed the local Iberian beers, including Mahou, Cruzcampo, Sagres and Super Bock. See Beer in Portugal – Wikipedia, noting the “long history, going as far back as the time of the ancient Roman province of Lusitania, where beer was commonly made and drunk.”

My Utah brother, sister-in-law and I started in Porto, then hiked “back” up to Santiago to Compostela – again. (My brother and I hiked the Camino Frances in 2017, and so came in to Santiago from the east, not the south, like this time.) I wrote about that then-upcoming pilgrimage last August 2d, in St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage.”

In 2017 … my Utah brother and I hiked (and biked) the most popular “Camino,” the French Way… But a month from now – September 2, 2019 – my brother and I will start hiking the 140 or so miles, from Porto “back” up to Santiago.  Via the Portuguese Way, and this time we’ll be joined by my Utah sister-in-law.

But first a note. While in Portugal – then Spain – I posted pictures on Facebook. They were pictures I took with the same $50 tablet I used on the Camino Frances in 2017.

But this time I also took a lot of pictures with a Canon camera that was much easier to operate. And on getting home I promptly cut down the number of “Canon” Camino pictures to 591. So I’ll do some future posts featuring pictures from my Canon camera. (Some of which are a lot more spontaneous – interesting – than the tablet.) But getting back to that $50 tablet… (But see the notes on putting those pictures in a post.)

Posting pictures on Facebook with it wasn’t too bad, but writing commentary was a real pain. For one thing I seem to have fat thumbs. For another, the tablet had “autocorrect,” which had a serious problem with foreign names. It kept changing the “de” or “do” in a lot of Portuguese names to “Dr.” Every time. See also another example in an early post from Portugal:

Good morning from Cabo do Mundo. (BTW, autocorrect is having a hissy with these Portuguese names, plus my colloquialisms.) Ready for another 10 mile hike. Slept through the night. “Cozy quarters.”

Which brings up an early-on collection of “estampas.” The photo at right shows the stamps in my credencial as of September 6, four days into the hike. The “cozy quarters” note referred to our first night’s lodging on the hike. (A tiny two-rooms and a kitchen place, where my brother and I shared the “parlor.”)

That came after this post: “First day’s hike is history. West through Porto – with shady spots and sidewalk cafes – and out to the coast. Then north. Made Cabo do Mundo, 10.8 miles. Nothing too sore. Good first hike.”

That last referred to the first day’s hike. Nice thought, but it turned out to be misleading.

I learned it’s not the first day – or even three – of hiking that wears on your feet. It’s the pounding from day after day hiking with a 15-pound pack. And it’s my humble opinion there’s no way to train in advance for that – except to do the same constant hiking at home, day after day. A long hike once or twice a week won’t do it. It’ll help, but you’ll still have to go through the agony of getting your feet accustomed to the constant pounding. Day after day.

Another note. Remember how we used to peel our skin off after a bad sunburn? Back in the old days, when we were young and before today’s fancy-schmancy creams and lotions that prevent such peeling?  Something like that happened to the soles of my feet once I got home. By the time we reached Santiago the soles of my feet were like shoe-leather, tough, blister-over-healed-blister and callused. (Or “cayused,” as one cute Farmacia lady said.*)

But then in the week or so since I’ve been home, I’ve peeled off several layers of tough, leathery skin. Apparently the affected parts of the body – like the soles of your feet – also go through a process of “decompressing,” just like you do mentally after such an adventure.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First some notes I made after getting to my hotel in Lisbon.

It came after another red-eye flight, just like the one I made to Tel Aviv and Israel last May. And one thing I learned early on in the trip was that the internet lied about cheap Portuguese taxis. (Bonjour!)  Instead of the four-Euro ride to my hotel like I’d been led to believe, it was more like 15 Euros. Which wasn’t that bad, for one ride anyway. But luckily I got hooked up with the Metro.

I took the Red Line from the Aeroporto and got off at Saldanha station. My “Hotel Alif” was right across from Campo Pequeno. It’s a famous bull ring togged out like one of our football stadiums, but with lots of restaurants open on weekdays. (That first day I got yelled at for cutting through one restaurant, getting acquainted with the area. Then the next night I went back for dinner and got served by the same waiter.)  Next day – Friday, August 30 – I did some touristy stuff, including a visit to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (“Monument to the Discoveries”).

It was a lifelong dream. (Or at least since 1979, when I made my first trip to Europe and couldn’t make it to Lisbon.) For a nominal fee I took the elevator to the observation tower, where I met three young ladies from Australia. (I could understand what they were saying, mostly…) Also the Museu de Marinha, a few blocks up from the Monument. (After stopping to enjoy a “Sagres.”)

On Saturday, the 31st, I took a train up to Porto, met up with brother and sister-in-law, and spent a day sightseeing, before heading out. And now for some flavor of that first-day hike:

We hiked west along the Douro River, along the Porto side, then hit the Atlantic Ocean and swung north. It’s the lesser traveled scenic alternative for the Camino Portuguese. Lots of beachside resorts, bathing beauties, and of course some old pot-bellied guys in speedos.

So again, I’ll be doing more posts in the future on this adventure. But in the meantime there are the main themes of this blog. Like the Liturgical year‘s Feast Days. The most recent Feast Day was St. Michael and All Angels, on September 30. For more on that feast day see On “St. Michael and All Angels.” And while I hiked the Camino in September there were two other Feast Days. For more on those and St. Michael see On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel.” (Holy Cross Day, 9/1419, and St. Matthew, 9/21/19.)

But in closing, here’s a camera-photo from the first day’s hike out of Porto. I’m always interested in my fellow peregrinos, including how they adjust their packs. Then too, in a future post I’ll include more camera shots of some not-so-typical scenes on the “Coastal” alternative…

[The photo showed two young lady hikers, one adjusting the other’s pack.]

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I took a bunch of photos for this post, but when I reviewed it in October 2020 – for an upcoming book – the photos were gone. So, I’ve written around them .

Re:  “Cayused.” It happened first thing one morning on the hike. We stopped at a Farmacia, as my sister-in-law wanted something like Band-aids for her blisters. She looked at one brand in Portuguese, but the lovely clerk said “those are not for blisters, they are for – how you say? – cayuses.” Which is how the Portuguese pronounce “calluses.” It was very cute, and very memorable…