This year a group of pilgrims mostly from Derry completed a stretch of the Camino. This was the fourth occasion in five years we ventured to the shores of Galicia in northwest Spain. The region has much in common with Ireland, a rainy climate although they do enjoy a phenomenon which we can only read about, called a summer.
Every year we travel it’s always an amazing experience. The temptation when you rise in the morning is to rush off and complete the day’s journey as quickly as possible. With fifteen of sixteen miles to complete most people would usually be finished by two or three O’clock in the afternoon. Many of the walkers try to front load the morning so the back of the trek is broken by lunch time. This allows an opportunity for the feet to recover until you reach your destination and enjoy some of the local anaesthetic to kill the aches and pains.
The danger with starting out too quickly and walking hard is that you run the risk of failing to appreciate the nature of the pilgrimage. If you push your body too hard you can do serious damage especially to your feet. On a walking pilgrimage you can never be too careful about your feet because it only takes one blister to turn an enjoyable canter into a marathon of endurance as every step becomes a source of pain.
How you care for your feet has become an area of expertise as blistered veterans explain how best to avoid getting blisters. Starting with the basics, you need good walking shoes or boots. However these need to be broken in and not just brought six months before you travel. This was a mistake I had made on previous trip. People tell you good socks are essential and again need to be worn in, although it’s a good idea to wash them or you end up walking on your own. This year I made a new discovery, surgical spirit worked a miracle and as a result I had no blisters. It toughens and hardens the skin, so taking no chances I had the spirit applied to my feet twice a day.
Discipleship is a pilgrimage many of us begin as children and as we journey through life we learn from the wisdom and experiences of those who have walked ahead of us. There are occasions when our steps will be strong and fast. On other days we feel every step and everything seems to be uphill. No matter what pace we find ourselves, walking the journey is only manageable when we open our eyes, ears and our hearts to one another. Through being carried and helping to carry one another we make present God’s love for his children. When we’re strong do we look to carry those who are struggling and when we are weak do we look for help? We share a common bond from the moment of our baptism; we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have a duty and a responsibility to reveal Christ’s love in the way we speak and treat one another.