Barbara from Germany and Rosie from England emerged out of today’s early morning mist. They had originally met at a World Council of Churches conference in Geneva some years ago. Rosie is an Anglican priest and it turned out that we had friends in common. We talked about pilgrimage being a feature of all the major religions of the world and the possibility that the Camino offers for Christian outreach.
Bastien and Lea, from Germany, whom we met today, are now walking the Camino for the fourth time. In February and March this year they had already walked the Camino Portugues, from Lisbon, in cold and wet weather. The had resigned from their respective jobs and were looking for something new in their life.
Pascale and Bernard are French but have long lived in Brussels working for the EU. At the suggestion of their friend Jean-Claude, who by chance had also
come by a few days earlier, they stopped here today specifically to discuss the Carvaggio painting of the dinner at Emmaüs and also that of Velasquez, which Pascale found particularly moving. (See our own reflections here.)
Bernard told us that on Easter Monday every year a group of Christians in the Holy Land walk from Jerusalem to what is believed to be the ancient site of Emmaüs. One year he had himself made this pilgrimage.
Pascale et Bernard sont français mais ils habitent depuis longtemps à Brussels ou il travaillait pour la UE. Jean-Claude, leur ami, qui par hasard a passé chez nous il y a quelques jours, leurs a suggéré de s’arrêter chez nous expressément afin de parler du tableau du dîner à Emmaüs de Caravage et aussi de celui de Velasquez – que Pascale trouvais très émouvant. (Voir nos commentaires sur ces deux tableaux ici.)
Bernard nous a fait part que chaque lundi de Pâques un groupe de Chrétiens à la Terre Sainte marchent de Jérusalem à l’emplacement ancien supposé d’Emmaüs. Une année il a lui-même fait ce pèlerinage.
Our icon of the Holy Trinity (after Andrei Rublev) glows in today’s early morning’s mist. Shortly afterwards Guillemette joined us for morning prayer.
Today – May 8, Armistice Day – is a public holiday here in France.
Susan and I are novice shelter hosts, and we don’t know what success looks like. Well, of course, lots of pilgrims stopping for rest and refreshment; warm comments in the visitors’ book; conversations and company; and perhaps the chance to pray and sing together. At the start we think that ‘success’ lies in our own hands. I’m afraid we’re guilty of an urge to ‘go out into the highways and byways and compel them to come in’. But we are soon humbled. There may be pilgrims, there may not. They may stop, or they may walk briskly past. They may knock on the door, or they may sit in the shelter, refresh themselves and go on without our knowing that they were ever there, except that they leave a note of thanks. They may want to talk to us, or they may prefer to eat their picnic alone. They may go into the chapel, or they may bypass it (and the visitors’ book) altogether.
We do our very best to be welcoming. While the weather holds, we sit out and greet passers by; when it turns wet and cold we occupy ourselves indoors, but keep an eye on the shelter in hopes that we shall be needed. One morning Susan, running errands in the town, sends a text: ‘2 pilgrims, one with blisters’. Her act of ‘welcome in passing’ rewards me (who have done nothing to deserve it) with the rarest encounter of the week. One of the two (the one, I think, with the blisters, though he doesn’t say so) is an English speaker, walking the camino to settle his mind to life-changing events in his family. Our exchange is interrupted. It will never be finished and I shall never know the end of the story. Camino conversations are like that: immediate, direct, incomplete.
Our most joyous experience is with a group of 16 people – several families and their priest – from a parish in Paris. On a damp day they crowd into the shelter to eat their lunch, knee to knee in serried ranks. They want to know all about us (‘Vive Oxford!’ one writes in the visitors’ book, in a salute to where we come from), they tell us about their pilgrimage, and there’s a great deal of friendly talk and a lot of laughing. They troop into the house to use the toilet (Paradis! exclaims one woman) and the queue chants ‘Ubi caritas’ several times through with various harmonies while it’s waiting. Before the pilgrims go, they sing an Emmaüs hymn for us: ‘Nous t’avons reconnu, Seigneur, à la fraction du pain’. I’m sure Jesus is present at every meal they share together.
After a week of taking care of the shelter, ‘success’, we discover, is not a matter of numbers or testimonials, but of offering and receiving. And it seems uncertain whether we have done the first or the second.
Anne-Marie et Patrick se sont arrêtés chez nous aujourd’hui. Ils ont commencé cette année au Puy en Velay et avaient l’intention d’allé ‘jusqu’au bout’ – Finisterre peut-être. Elle a déjà fait le Chemin il y’a quelques années; pour lui c’est la première fois.
Je mets des photos des pèlerins sur le mur de notre abri (avec leur autorisation bien sûr !) Hier un groupe de pèlerins de Toulon était ‘ravis’ de trouver une photo, de l’année dernière, de Ravi qu’ils connaissent. Voir le blog Two American Pilgrims du Mai 2017
Two days ago a pilgrim left this heart-warming message.
I came along and I felt to be invited,
I wanted a cup of coffee, but got much more.
Thank you very much, Steven
Here are four of the nine pilgrims who stopped at Emmaüs on this miserably cold and wet day – but they all look pretty happy here, out of the rain! Christine and Gwyn (from Scotland) seated, flanked by Michele (from Italy) and Jean-Claude (French, but living in Brussels). Later they were joined by Patrick.
We had a good conversation about the looming disaster of Brexit. And it turned out that Jean-Claude and I had acquaintances in common.