The Meeting – by Paul Cyr

Barbara has donated a new painting for our project. She comments:

On the first day of the week two of Jesus’ disciples set out for Emmaus. They are troubled by the recent death of Jesus and the first accounts of his disappearance from the tomb. While walking they encounter a stranger who joins them and begins to explain what is happening.

This encounter is pictured in this painting by Paul Cyr entitled The Meeting which now hangs on the wall in the new shelter. While the inspiration for the name of this project came from the more famous painting by Caravaggio, I have been thinking about the importance of the many encounters which take place along the Camino and their value for walkers.

Most encounters here in Emmaüs and in brief meetings while walking, start with questions about where the pilgrims have come from – both that day and their home or initial start of walking. They continue with questions about destinations – again that day, that journey and the ultimate Intention. It helps that I have walked from Le Puy where many pilgrims start walking in France and have walked to Santiago and more recently along part of the Camino Del Norte. So we often have shared memories or aspirations.

But the deeper encounters generally occur when people stop for longer – maybe for lunch or in the evenings in gites or alberques in Spain. Walking allows the brain to rest and priorities to be clearer. Many pilgrims start with a quest or particular purpose, sometimes a life decision or coming to terms with the death of a loved one, but find that what actually emerges is something entirely different. The various conversations and encounters on The Way help clarify this, as well as the laughter and friendships which develop as one meets people again over a few days walking.

My memories of people include a South African banker escaping from the financial crisis who left messages for me and my companions once he had decided to travel more quickly than us, an elegant Italian woman who wore a ‘little black dress’ in the evenings, a retired Dutch couple who were brilliant at bringing people together over dinner every evening. All have helped reinforce the importance of community, even such a transient one as on the Camino. Welcoming people here in Emmaus I have mostly met people from France though also a couple from Belgium and a young man from Switzerland. This welcome is one expression of that Camino community and it is a message I’ve taken home to share after each part of my own pilgrimage.

And once the disciples in Emmaus realised who they had seen in the breaking of the bread for their evening meal they too wanted to share that good news with their community and hurried back to Jerusalem.