I’ve started walking around Ardmore again as the remote preparations begin for the Camino. In September I hope to journey with a group of twenty-four others along the roads and pathways of Galicia in north west Spain. This year we begin on the Portuguese border in the town of Tui and from there walk one hundred and twenty kilometres over five days towards Santiago de Compostella, believed to be the resting place of the Apostle St James. The shrine has been a centre of pilgrimage for over one thousand years.
We will be led by the spirit of the apostle who shapes the pilgrimage, by learning from the experiences and sharing in the faith and spirituality of countless generations whose lives have profoundly affected by the Camino de Santiago. Like many journeys we make, they have the power to influence our lives long after we have completed them. Life itself is a journey towards God and if we examine the life of Jesus we can begin to understand how his life was characterised by his relationship with his Father and his openness to the Spirit who continues to be the bond of love between the Father and the Son.
These thoughts were the furthest from my mind as I wondered around Ardmore over the last few weeks. It has been more than a year since I’ve enjoyed the privilege of putting myself through the aches and pains of walking prolonged distances. My first mistake was to try to break in a pair of new walking boots over the six mile distance -instead, the boots nearly broke me would be a closer version of reality. I was in so much pain I was walking like John Wayne after three weeks on a horse; I was reduced to crawling so slowly the road tax was nearly out of date by the time I got back to the car. Whatever about walking in the boots, trying to take them off my feet was a whole new experience. It been a long time since I’ve been reduced to tears but I had tried the knots too tight, then I had to unlace them and finally I had to try and bend down and take them off. All this took nearly as long as the walk!
Day two was slightly more successful, the boots and my feet had established a better working relationship. In hindsight I should have broke them in during my ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ lessons.’
Back to Ardmore, once you build up a head of steam it’s a beautiful walk past the cemetery, out the Rush Hall Road, turning left and up the steep climb of the Lisglass Road. To anyone who says it isn’t steep, you’re not my height and you don’t have my short legs, to say nothing of sore feet. Finally you turn left again onto the Forge Road. What I noticed this year when I had the breath to look up, were the new wind mills. These gigantic structures now dominate the skyline, in some respects they can be quite intimidating as they force you to reflect on your own insignificance in comparison. Even the small country roads bear the scars of the process involved in their assembly having to be widened to make room for these steel giants. At the moment they stand lifeless unable to harness the power of the wind until they are made ready for purpose.
Whatever about the presence of the wind there was no shortage of rain on day two. By the time I returned to the car I needed rung out. I thought it was bad trying to change the previous day but add the complications of trying to remove what were once waterproofs, followed by wet walking boots, then you’re ready for counselling. Yet it was typical of the weather over the last number of weeks, the experience of four seasons in one hour, never mind one day. The climate is as diverse as the people we share our lives with, so unpredictable and yet necessary to life.
We were born through relationships, and born to be in relationship. This is what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. Jesus’ life is shaped by his relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In the life of Jesus we see in action the reality of three persons existing in one God, not just in some abstract concept or obscure fact. We will never be able to fully understand nor comprehend the reality of God. We’re only ever able to deal with glimpses of God’s glory. From the moment of our baptism we become a part of this mystery, in the church as the Body of Christ we encounter God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Our destiny lies in the heart of the Trinity as we follow Jesus; he is our way into the life of God. The mysteries we celebrate in the sacraments make real the saving events of Christ life, only by encountering Jesus through the gift of the Spirit can we hope to become brothers and sisters of Christ and sons and daughters of the Father. The Trinity is a living reality, seen through the celebration of our faith. Our journey through life begins and ends with the Father, his Son calls, gathers and leads us towards salvation, a gift made present through the Holy Spirit. We encounter Christ today in the church through the presence of the Spirit sent to shape the people of God into Christ’s Body. As long as we remain united with Christ then the Father will recognise us as his children and welcome us home.