Anastasio doesn´t say a lot, God bless him -- he suffers from early Alzheimer´s. But I will take compliments from any source these days, and a man who lives in the purity of the present can´t be telling me lies, can he? (I was wearing a nice new red sweater, after all.)
Life is getting back to normal again. Somehow the Camino Vibe got switched on, and today we have LOTS of pilgrims in the house, including three Special Guest Pilgs: Rom and Aideen, Irish hospitaleros from the Gite Ultreia in Moissac, France, are staying over with their 2-year-old terror Matthew. We don´t see a lot of little kids around here. Milagros was over the moon, but Murphy and Tim are not at all sure about this. We have three other young pilgrims here too: a Korean, an Englishman, and a nice girl from Australia. They seem to really like the "family atmosphere" here, they chowed down heavily on the green chicken curry, did the washing-up afterward, and snuggled with Tim. Everyone was in bed by 10 p.m. But now, at 11:30, I can hear the baby crying upstairs. It´s the downside of staying with a family! Another camino memory for these pilgrims to take home. It is good to have company again.
|All the good pilgrims on Calle Ontanon|
Moratinos has done a whole lot of churchgoing lately, four Masses in a week´s time. It´s very good for all of us. It binds the community together around its loss, and if you are a Catholic believer, all those prayers and Masses are also good for Juli´s soul. The Catholic church (the only game in town around here, religion-wise) says dead peoples´ souls don´t go straight to hell or heaven, not unless the dead person was a complete sinner or saint. The majority of us fall somewhere in between. And because Jesus and Mary are so nice, we get a second chance. We can go to a hell-like place called Purgatory, and have the imperfections in our souls and characters burned and buffed away. It takes an awfully long time but in the end you get to go to heaven. (these beliefs fly in the face of everything my Protestant upbringing taught me about God´s grace, but that´s a whole other subject. I´m trying not to get too theological here!)
The really therapeutic part of Purgatory is for the people left behind. When something terrible happens, especially something out-of-the-blue, survivors feel compelled to DO something, to make an amend, to help somehow. (The great flood of blood donations after the September 11 attacks comes to mind. The actual victims were beyond the need for blood, but Americans rolled up their sleeves anyway.) The church in its wisdom says the living can pray for the dead, or have Masses said for their sake. Some angelic accountant keeps track of all that goodwill, and when the sins on the dead soul are counterbalanced by their loved-ones´ devotion, well -- Bing! Up he comes, translated into glory!
Here in Moratinos we have a Location Bonus. We live on the Camino de Santiago, a Catholic Christian pilgrimage route for the past thousand years. Walking a pilgrimage, and offering prayers and attending worship at the cathedral at the end, earns the hiker a major credit against the purgatorial sufferings he has waiting. But wait, there´s more!
If you want to, you can transfer your pilgrimage credits toward the soul of someone who´s already doing time in purgatory! So, seeing as walking is something I can do easily, I decided to make one last pilgrimage this year, for the sake of the soul of my friend Juli.
There´s a degree of presumption to this. Juli was a very conservative, careful person. She was not a big church-goer, but she didn´t drink or smoke or party. The few times I saw her cut loose and be human I also saw her repent heavily afterward. I´m not the Great Judge of Souls, but I know Juli can´t have run up much of a debt in the Bank of Sin. So I don´t feel so bad, taking the minimal 100-kilometer route into Santiago. I can do it before the end of 2010, and get a few extra credit points as it´s a Holy Year!
Three weeks ago, Juli and I discussed doing a Christmas pilgrimage together. She liked the idea, but was afraid she might not be physically up to the challenge, even just the final 100 kilometers into Santiago. Failing was not something she did well or often, and I didn´t push her.
Yesterday I told Juli´s mom I was planning to walk the trail for her, probably in December. She switched on like a lamp. She and Christy, Juli´s sister, had floated the very same idea that very same day, she said. Their family doesn´t go in big for Christmas anyway, and this year, with Juli gone, the holiday is a grim prospect indeed -- so why don´t we all go? she said. Julia and I can walk in the afternoons, to get into shape, and when Christy´s Christmas holiday starts we can all get on the train for Sarria and start walking from there.
When I came home in September I said I was done with Caminos for a while. But this one, done for a real purpose, with really dedicated people, looks like something special -- a walk that could be very therapeutic for us who mourn, and downright redemptive for Juli, our sister and daughter and friend.
And even if they can´t go in the end, I will.
I told Juli I would.