Over the course of the recent mid-term break the Headmaster, Fr Moloney, and some companions commenced the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. On ‘the way’ he was reminded, in quite a practical manner, of how the Camino and the Lord, will always provide…
I will never forget the Spanish village of Uterga. I arrived there on the Friday evening of the recent mid-term break with Gerry Foley (Head of Belvedere), his family, Jacquie, and their three children, Ethan (15), Elliot (12) and Amelia (10). After four days of tough walking on the Camino de Santiago, we all looked forward to a hot shower and comfortable bed in the local hostel – with me in a room all to myself! Our otherwise excellent guidebook had tantalized us all day with this delightful prospect. The hostel was open all year round, it told us, and my chamber would cost €10 for the night! However, to our dismay, when we got there the hostel was shut: in fact, it looked more secure and shut down than any modern windowless storehouse I’ve ever seen in the bleakest Irish industrial estate.
Darkness was falling fast; there were no shops, and we had no food. There were no taxis, and walking on – over rugged terrain – to Puente la Reina was out of the question. Nada. This would be a good test, I thought to myself, of the hope embedded in the saying, The Camino will provide! And sure enough, with a little help from my inadequate Spanish, learned over twenty years earlier and almost unused in the meantime, and Gerry’s keenness to get on the move as quickly as we could, the Camino did. In the village square we happened to chance on two families from Barcelona, who were travelling for a few days together, doing the Camino themselves. And, even better, they had two cars! Had we arrived two minutes later in the village square at Uterga these two Barca families would have already departed to their next destination. We were blessed. The chances of any other people passing through the village that night appeared extremely remote. They turned out to be really generous people and, having listened sympathetically to our predicament, they offered to drive us to Puente la Reina and then return to collect their own families later. Now in deep darkness, and with heavy rain falling, we didn’t need to be asked twice. What’s more, when we arrived in that town, they spent a further half hour trying to secure accommodation for us and got us beds in a hostel charging €5 per night (a much better rate than in Uterga!).
So, the Camino did indeed live up to its promise; it provided. And those two generous families were its agents. Or – better – God’s agents! As St. Teresa of Avila, another Spaniard, once put it:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
Yours are the only hands with which he can do his work,
Yours are the only feet with which he can go about the world,
Yours are the only eyes through which his compassion can shine forth upon a troubled world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
In our two-hundredth year, and as we journey along the camino that is Clongowes, looking forward to the bicentenary celebrations that commence in the new calendar year, we hope and pray that God will continue to provide.
This can never be one-way traffic, of course. The disaster in the Philippines reminds us that we, too, will be called upon to be God’s agents: in this instance, Fr. Rector has written inviting all of us to participate as best we can in aiding the stricken people of that part of Sout East Asia. At the same time, letters have been distributed to parents past and present and to our alumni in support of Jack Kavanagh following his awful accident in Portugal fourteen months ago.
We must be people of hope: buen camino!