Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in Davao

We only have one day more before Christmas. We had the last Misa de Gallo (early dawn mass) this morning and tonight we will celebrate the Christmas vigil mass. I did the first day of the Misa de Gallo in the parish church, I also did the 8th day yesterday. As usual the church was packed, and the people occupied even the parking lot since there was not enough room in the church. We put a screen with lcd projector so that those outside could still see the liturgy inside. There were so many young people who seemed to enjoy being together with their friends at the early hour of the morning.
The Christmas parties in the parish started as early as three weeks ago and they will continue up to the end of the year. The other night I joined the party of the Davao Redemptorist Youth Mission Team (DRYM team). The members of the original mission team were present together with those who make up the present youth mission team. They consider me their "founder." I was delighted to see the members of the original team, most of whom are now professionals and others are already married. Some even brought their children. I encouraged the original members of the DRYM team to support and guide the next generation of youth engaged in evangelizing & organizing the young people in our parish.
Several days ago we celeb rated the first death anniversary of Fr. Abdon Josol - a member of our community who died of cancer before Christmas last year. I presided the memorial mass with the Redemptorist community composed of the senior community and the Redemptorist students, the house staff and the centennial group. After the mass we had merienda-cena.
This afternoon at 5 pm, the whole Redemptorist community will gather for communal penitential celebration, followed by a renewal of vows and then the Gaudiamus - food and drinks - before the Christmas vigil. As usual the Redemptorist students will be singing the Christmas carol before the start of the vigil mass at 10 pm. One of the songs that they will be singing is the popular Italian Christmas song - Tu Scende (composed by our founder San Alfonso di Liguori). I taught them the song - using the youtube clip of Luciano Pavarotti and also Andrea Bocelli.
We don't expect any noise from firecrackers and fireworks tonight due to the ban imposed by the local government. So it will indeed be a silent night.
In spite of my cold and sore throat, I have continued my training for the Cebu marathon, although I have started to taper. Most of my runs are just short intense sprint intervals (Tabata protocol) and strength training. I did my last long run 3 weeks ago (36 km) and joined the half-marathon 2 weeks ago. This afternoon I will just do a 45 minutes easy run.
This is the 16th year that I will be celebrating Christmas in Davao. This could be the last Christmas that I will be spending here. After the end of this semester in March, I will be moving on to a new ministry and will be based in another part of the country. I will savor every moment of my remaining months here.
I look forward to the coming New Year 2011.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Back home: Starting the last semester of my full-time teaching

I arrived here in Davao over two weeks ago. I came in time for the conference of the DAKATEO - the Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines -where I presented a paper on "the Environmental Praxis of the Basic Ecclesial Communities: an Ecclesiological Perspective."

The second semester started yesterday. This morning I taught a course on "Ministry & Orders" to the 4th year theology students. Tomorrow, it will be Mariology and on Saturday, I will be teaching Sacraments.

I have been teaching full-time for almost 16 years. When I started, I was 40 years old, fresh from my doctoral studies in Rome and now I am 56 years old. During my Camino pilgrimage, I realized that after 16 years in the academia, I've had enough. Deep within me I heard the message that I won't spend the remaining years of my life as a professor. The time has come to engage in a different ministry - outside the classroom. I have already informed the director and the dean of the theological institute where I am teaching and I will soon write a formal letter to my superiors.

So this is the last semester of my full-time teaching. What is going to happen after the end of the semester in March 2011 remains to be seen. I have several options to choose from. I am already excited about the next phase of my life. The next five months is period of transition.

I am posting here the photo-video of my life-journey (the first 56 years), which I showed to my class in Ministry & Orders this morning. It documents how I have lived my life preparing for my ministry and exercising my priestly ministry over the years.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Going Home - the Continuing Journey

After spending my Sabbatical as a Pilgrim and a Hermit for almost 7 months I am finally going home to Davao tomorrow. I came down from my mountain retreat in Busay the other day after spending 2 months as a hermit after finishing my barefoot pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. These last two months have been a period of reflecting on my journey from the Pyrenees across the North of Spain. It was also a time for reflecting on my life journey for the last 56 years. A very apt period since I celebrated my 56th birthday the other week, alone in my "hermitage."

Part of my reflection on my Camino experience was to go over and edit the diary of my pilgrimage which forms the 24th chapter of my manuscript: The Beloved: Memoirs, Diaries and Letters of a Priest. Making the final revision and editing of my autobiographical manuscript has given me the opportunity to go over my life-journey. I've also gone over photographs and created a photo-video.

As I go home, I bring with me the blessings that I have received during my pilgrimage and also my period of solitude as a hermit.

The first blessing is a deeper awareness of God's presence in my life-journey which has deepened my faith and trust in the Divine presence and my relationship with God.

The second blessing is a deeper appreciation of my priestly vocation and celibate commitment.

The third blessing is a clearer sense of how I want to live the remaining years of my life.
As I go home, I expect that there will be significant changes that will take place in my life. For over 15 years, I have lived an easy and comfortable life as a full-time professor in Davao. This has been the longest period of my life as a priest. The first period was as a missionary in the remote villages and mountains of Mindanao (8 years). The second period was as a scholar in Berkeley and Rome earning my doctorate (6 years). What has made my life bearable and meaningful over the last 15 years was my other involvements outside the classroom - part time pastoral work, BEC promotion, life & peace advocacy, clergy retreats, Christian-Muslim dialogue. For the next period of my life, I want to have more time to do these things. I don't want to be a full-time professor anymore. I want to live a more simple life-style, closer to the people - especially the poor, actively involved in pastoral ministry and forming BECs, continuing my life/peace/environmental advocacy and write and publish my books & articles.

I still have to work out the details. The second semester of teaching (November to March) will be a period of transition. The major changes will take place after that. What is definite is that I won't be spending the remaining years of my life in the classroom. It will be out in the field, journeying with the Lord's flock.

The next phase of my life will require going outside my comfort zone. It will mean truly making the journey from the mind to the heart. For almost 22 years, the life of the mind or intellect was dominant (six years of getting my doctoral degree, over 15 years of teaching). My extra-academic involvement & pastoral work was secondary. By nature, I am primarily a man of action and emotion - I am more at home working with my heart and hands. But by training, my head has been overdeveloped. I find dealing purely in ideas and abstraction very boring. I need to connect my head, heart and hands.

The challenge that I will face in the next period of my life is how to be more compassionate and caring, and translating theory into praxis. I will have to deal more with people and their day to day concerns and struggles, rather than dealing purely with ideas. It will mean being in fellowship - in communion - with people.

I will continue to be a theologian, but the locus theologicus - place of theologizing will no longer be the ivory tower of the academy - the library and the classroom. It will have to be among the grassroots community as I journey with the people. It won't be enough to just reflect on how God was made manifest in history as recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. It will mean reflecting on how God is made manifest in the life and history of the people today.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

From Barefoot Pilgrim to Running Hermit

This morning, I ran down from my "hermitage" to the Redemptorist monastery in Cebu to join my confreres for meals, check my e-mail, update my blog and get my food supply for the week. It took me one hour and 45 minutes. Yesterday, I ran for five hours in the mountains of Busay and Kan-irag (from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm) with a lot of steep ascents and descents on various paths and trails, in the rain the last one and a half-hour. Tomorrow afternoon, I will be hiking up to Busay - back to my "hermitage."
This is one of the joys of living as an occasional hermit in the mountain of Busay - running in the mountains. I started doing this almost thirty years ago - since I decided to spend time annually in the mountain as an occasional hermit. Besides the time for prayer, reflection, reading, writing and music, I also do a lot of running. This is where I trained for the marathon. I am still doing this as I turn 56 years old, and I expect to be doing this for the next thirty years.
What makes running enjoyable after doing the Camino is that it has become easier and more enjoyable. Since I have lost 15 lbs, I can run faster. My body feels light and I have more endurance and energy (even without breakfast and lunch). I wake up with a resting pulse rate of 43 beats per minute (bpm) - the lowest in my life. The average resting heart rate for many people is 70 bpm. For those who are fit it is 60 bpm, while for marathoners it is usually in the 50s. When I was 30-35 years younger, the lowest I could go was 52 bpm. So this is the "physical blessing" from the Camino. My blood pressure, which used to be high, is lower. I'm not worried about my myocardial ischemia.
I have started my training for the marathon. Here's is my schedule the past week:
Sept. 13 Mon: uphill hike Busay (2 hrs 10 min)
Sept 14 Tues: fartlek-mountain-run (1 hr 40 min)
Sept 15 Wed: easy, barefoot-run (40 minutes), plyometrics, weight training
Sept 16 Thurs: easy- mountain-run (1 hr 45 min)
Sept 17 Frid: rest, 30 minutes walk
Sept 18 Saturday: long/slow-distance mountain run (5 hours)
Sept 19 Sun: easy, downhill run (1 hr 40 min)
In my long runs, I use the Galloway method (a cycle of 9 min run/1 min walk) and the Chi-running styles (incorporating the principles of Taichi and a slight forward lean, with mid/forefoot running). Fartlek is the Swedish term for speed-play (varied pace).
This is the program that I will follow, with some variations, as I prepare for the marathon in 4 months time. Actually, it is not the marathon that I really enjoy - it is the training and preparation, especially the solitary runs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Meeting old Classmates & Friends

I ran down this weekend from my "hermitage" to meet my classmate Fr. Claro Conde who arrived from England a few days ago. We started our priestly formation together in 1968 in St. Alphonsus' Minor Seminary and were ordained in 1981. After over a decade as missionary and vocation director here in the Philippines he went to England for a Sabbatical. He returned there a few years later working among migrant Filipinos and other Asians. He has been parish priest for Isle of Wight and has recently been assigned to a new parish in Southampton. He will soon be incardinated in the diocese in England. Although no longer a Redemptorist, he remains a Redemptorist at heart.

So last night, twelve of us - seminary classmates and those belonging to other batches - gathered in the home of Emy (a classmate) for dinner, drink and conversation. We spent most of our time reminiscing about our seminary experiences and sharing about the present. We also had great fun looking at the photographs that I compiled into a photo-movie, especially when we noticed a lot of changes in our appearances (we no longer look as handsome as we were before - and many of us have lost our hair).

Here's what I showed them:

I have been trying to review and reflect on my life's journey. Part of the process is going through the photographs and putting them together as a photo-movie using the Windows Movie-Makre. So I far I have finished the first part: the first 27 years (from childhood to ordination). Going over these pictures I notice the friends and companions I met along the way. They are part of my life and although we no longer travel the same road together now I remember them fondly and thank God for the times we had together. Meeting them occasionally, like last night, was heart-warming.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

"Movie-Photo" The Barefoot Pilgrim - Camino de Santiago de Compostela

I've finally been able to put together the photos that I took during the Camino using the Windows Movie-Maker program. The background music is the song that I composed - Camino Pilgrim Song. Here it is:

I love to watch this video over and over again because it brings back a lot of memories.

I made it to Santiago de Compostela after hiking almost 800 km for 27 days mostly barefoot and at times wearing my sandals when the road got so hot and harsh and on days when my feet needed to recover.

What difference did walking barefoot make to my pilgrimage?

Walking barefoot, inspite the difficulties and pain, has been an extraordinary and profound experience for me. It became a prayerful, meditative and contemplative act. It enabled me to focus my attention on the present moment - on every step I took, the sensation of my feet caressing the ground, and the smell and beauty of nature around me. It was for me an expression of my reverence for the sacredness of the path that I was walking on and my connection with past pilgrims who have walked the Camino for over a thousand years. It made me more aware of the Divine presence, especially that time when in my most painful moments I prayed for healing and felt energy rising from the ground and suddenly taking away the pain in my swollen ankle and shin.

Watching this video over and over again helps me reflect on my own pilgrimage experience.

There are three important phases in a pilgrimage.
The first phase is the preparation - a time for planning and preparing (physically, psychologically and spiritually).
The second phase is the actual pilgrimage itself.
The third phase is the post-pilgrimage stage which includes a time of prayerful reflection, reentry and going home.

The third phase is as important as the first and second phase. We should not rush to go home and forget what we have just experienced. We need time to go over deeply what we have gone through, observe the changes and transformation in ourselves (physically, psychologically, and spiritually) and sum up the lessons and insights that we can bring to our life. This is what I am trying to do as I live in solitude in my hermitage. Hopefully after this period, I can share my experiences with others and apply to my life what I have learned in the Camino.

The Pilgrimage did not end in Santiago de Compostela (the field of stars), it was not the final destiny, neither was the Finisterre (the end of the earth) overlooking the deep blue ocea. Our whole life is a pilgrimage to our final destiny - beyond this life, to the Divine Source of life. Meanwhile, the journey and pilgrimage continues - within ourselves and in our daily struggles to make this world a better place to live in. This message is contained in the song that I composed:

Camino Pilgrim Song

We are pilgrims on a journey
across the mountains and plains of Spain.
We're on our way to Santiago
to the field of stars.

Ultreya, onward must we go
Ultreya, to the tomb of Santiago

We are hiking across the Pyrenees
the Meseta and Galicia.
We don't mind the cold and the heat,
the blisters and the muscle pain.

Ultreya, onward must we go
Ultreya, to the city of Santiago.

Though we make our own camino
we are never all alone.
we meet friends and companions
on the road and the albergues.

Ultreya, onward must we go.
Ultreya, to the field of stars.

We are pilgrims on life's journey
within our mind, heart and soul.
And we grow in the Spirit,
in faith, hope and love.

Ultreya, onward must we go.
Ultreya, to our final destiny.

We are pilgrims on a journey
from darkness to light,
to the kingdom of justice,
and peace and of freedom.

Ultreya, onward must we go.
Ultreya, to our final destiny.

We are pilgrims on a journey
to our final destiny,
to the home of our Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Ultreya, onward must we go.
Utreya, to our final destiny.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Recording from my Hermitage: Camino Pilgrim Song

I arrived here in Cebu (Philippines) last Saturday (August 21) and went up to my "hermitage" in Busay on Monday (August 23). Once a week, on Sundays, I come down to the monastery to join my Redemptorist confreres for meals, check my e-mail, and get my food supply for the week. I go back to the hermitage the following day.

I spend most of my time in solitude, silence, prayer, reflection, reading and writing. I also find time to run or walk in the mountains. At night, I play the flute or the violin. Or I sing to myself, accompanied by my guitar. I prepare my own meals (I eat once a day, at night). This is my "sacred space." For the last 29 years, since my ordination, I spend a month or two annualy on this mountain as a hermit.

It is taking sometime to shake off the jet lag. It seems that my body-clock is still following the Camino time. I have difficulty in going to sleep and waking up at the right (Philippine time). My shins are still a bit painful and they require a few more weeks of rest and recovery. Then I start my training program for the marathon which I plan to run in January next year.

The past week, I have been reflecting on my own Camino experience, writing down the insight, learnings and lessons that I have gained. I still have seven more weeks of reflection. Some day, I hope to share the fruits of my reflection.

As I promised, I am posting a recording of the song that I composed while doing the Camino. I recorded this with my cellphone, so I'm doubtful about the quality.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pilgrim's Progress: The Journey Home

I arrived here in Rome last week and the following day I went to Milan with my friends Tina & Ed and their companion Nelly. We spent the long weekend there, visiting Lake Como and exploring the old city. During the long drive from Rome to Milan and back, I shared with them my experience about the Camino and taught them the song that I composed. They were so inspired that they decided to do the last part of the Camino (Sarria-Santiago de Compostela) next year.

Tina and Ed are old friends from way back. Ed works at the UN-FAO and Tina (who holds a doctorate in social science from the Gregorian University) organizes leadership/social enterpreneurship training for OFWs in Italy.

I spent the last few days here in Rome recovering. I just walked around the city for 3 hours each day, visiting my favorite places and buying books that I will bring back to the Philippines.

Today at midday, I will take the plane back to Cebu via Doha. I still have over 2 months left in my Sabbatical which I will spend as a hermit in the mountain of Busay. I will have much time reflecting on my Camino experience and preparing for my re-entry to "normal' life.

The journey home is not just a physical journey. It is a continuing inner journey. As the saying goes: the longest journey is the inner journey from the head to the heart.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Camino de Santiago: Pilgrim's Progress

Greetings from Santiago de Compostela! I finally arrived here at 10 am yesterday after hiking almost 800 km for 27 days starting at the Pyrenees mountains in France, across the plains of Northern Spain and the mountains of Galicia. I've done most of it barefoot, but I also wore my sandals when the trails and roads got harsh and hot especially in the afternoons. The last week week in the Galician region was easier for barefoot hiking due to the cooler climate and a lot forest cover.
The last 3 days was for me an experience of agony and ecstasy. It was agonizing because my right ankle and shin was very painful while hiking through the beautiful forest paths. I cried out to God to take the pain away. Finally the other day I felt a cold air from the ground entering my feet and the pain disappeared. I felt the intimate presence of Someone whom I engaged in a dialogue within my heart. I was crying in the middle of the forest savoring the experience.
Yesterday at 2:30 in the morning I started hiking barefoot to Santiago de Compostella without any pain in my ankle and shin. I gazed at the dark sky and saw the stars. I began to understand the meaning of Compostela - the field of stars. I walked very slowly, savoring every step, knowing this was the last day of my hiking pilgrimage. I reached Santiago at 10 am and lined up outside the Pilgrim's Office. When the pilgrims saw me barefoot they clapped their hands and allowed me to get ahead of the line to get my pilgrim's certificate. I followed Fr. Alessandro - an Italian pilgrim priest I got to know along the way. I was welcomed by John Rafferty at the office who kindly took care of my accomodation for the night and escorted Alessandro and me to the sacristy of the cathedral so that we can concelebrate at the noonday mass. I heard confession before the mass and concelebrated barefoot. I put on my sandals after the mass.
In the evening I had dinner with other pilgrims who became my friends along the way- Ed & Letizia, Angela, David. We shared about our experiences until 11 pm.
This morning I walked barefoot around the center of the city and took a last look at the cathedral. I will be taking the train to Madrid at 1:55 this afternoon.
My pilgrimage has ended but my life's journey continues.
I hope to do this again when I make my Sabbatical 11 years from now during the Xacobeo.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Camino de Santiago: Pilgrim's Progress - The Pilgrim's Song

Yesterday, I hiked 37 km from El Burgo de Ranero to Leon. This is the longest distance that I have hiked since I started the Camino. I did the whole distance wearing my sandals so I was able to do it more quickly. While walking alone I reflected on my own life's journey focusing on the last 10 years.
I reached the Albergue in Leon by 3:30 pm and was able to get plenty of rest. I was able to meet some pilgrims whom I befriended the last two weeks. I joined some the pilgrims for dinner at a restaurant and we shared our experiences. After the evening prayer with the Benedictine sisters I sat near the garden drinking hot chocolate. A young Spanish woman who heard I am a priest approached me and asked me to hear her confession. I gladly said yes.
I started walking barefoot at 6:15 and after almost 5 hours the road became hotter and harsh so I finally wore my sandals. I was able to cover 27 km. I am now in Martin del Campo.

While hiking I sang the song I composed yesterday:

Pilgrim's Song

We are pilgrims on a journey
Across the mountains & plains of Spain
We're on our way to Santiago
To the field of stars.

Ultreia, onward do we go
Ultreia, to the tomb of St. James

We're hiking across the Pyrenees,
The mesetas and Galicia.
We do not mind the cold & the heat,
The blisters & the muscle pains.

Ultreia, onward do we go
Ulreia, to the city of St. James

As we make our own Camino
We are not all alone
We meet friends & companions
On the road & the albergues.

Ultreia, onward as we go.
Ultreia, to our final destiny.

We are pilgrims on a journey
Within our mind, heart & soul.
And we grow in the Spirit
In faith, hope & love.

Ultreia, onward as we go.
Ultreia, to our final destiny.

We are pilgrims in life`s journey

to our final destiny

to the home of our Father,

his Son and the Holy Spirit.


Ultreia, onward do we go

Ultreia, to our final destiny

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Camino de Santiago: Pilgrim´s Progress

Two weeks ago, I started my running/hiking pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela starting in St. Jean Pied the Port at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. The day before, I had took the train from Madrid to Lourdes, France and after spending the night there proceeded to St. Jean.
The first two and a hal-days went very well. I was able to run/hike barefoot across the Pyrenees mountains and the Navarra region, up to Pamplona. The first day as easy due to a lot of grassy surface and and soft forest path. It was also cold up in the mountains. The second day was more agonizing due to the harsh gravel paths. The third day, I was able to hike barefoot up to Pamplona, but in the afternoon the road became too harsh and hot that I had to use my sandals for the first time.
Since the fourth day up to the present, I have done more hiking than running, and less barefoot trekking due to the heat and harsh road conditions. I have to use my sandals more often especially in the afternoons and also when confronted by long stretch of sharp gravel that would hurt my feet. For several days, I have been suffering from a swollen right ankle due to a sprain while running with my sandals. The only way to alleviate the pain is to hike barefoot. So these days I try to do more barefoot hiking, up to four to five hours in the morning before the summer heat is felt.
So far, I have been averaging 30 km per day. Today, I have done around 420 km since I started, more than half the length of the Camino.
The last two weeks on the road has been a time of solitude, prayer and reflection. It is indeed a retreat on foot. It is time of soul-searching, going over my life´s journey, and discerning God´s will for the years to come.
It has also been a time of experiencing friendship and community among other pilgrims, especially in the Albergues at night. I have also been able to celebrate the Eucharist and to listen to other pilgrims share their stories. I have also heard confession and gone to confession (to a fellow pilgrim-priest from Ireland.
Through out the past two weeks I have become acutely aware of the following:
1. My dependence on God´s providence and the kindness of others
2. My own limitations and weaknesses
3. The need to be more flexible, and not to rigidly hold on to my own plans and wants
4. The need to slow down, not to race, because life is not a race but a journey. The slower and relax I am, the more distance I can cover in one day.
5. The presence of God in the beauty I see around me and in other pilgrims I encounter on the way.
I still have 13 more days to go before I reach Santiago de Compostela. I am still at the Meseta - the hottest region in Spain. I hope that by the time I reach the mountains and Galician region where it is cooler, I can do more barefoot trekking. I am planning to do the last stage from Sarria to Santiago totally barefoot. Thus, I have reduced the average distance for those days to 24 km/day.
I continue to remember my loved ones, relatives, friends and confreres in my prayer. I pray and hope that I will reach my destination safely.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Departing for Spain to Begin my Running/Walking Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela

This morning, the summer course on Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue finally ended here in Rome. Tomorrow, I fly to Madrid for my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. I will spend a couple of days in Madrid and then take the train to Bayonne, France. I will make a side trip to Lourdes and from there go to St. Jean Pied de Port where I will begin my running/walking pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. As much as possible, I will cover the 800 km route barefoot like St. Francis and many medieval pilgrims. However, I have a lot of doubts if I can really do it. So, I will wear my sandals when the road gets too harsh or hot. I will be doing some running and also lots of walking breaks. The primary goal is reaching my destination on foot in 26 days and at the same time journeying inward. It will be a mobile spiritual retreat, involving meditation, reflection and prayer. It will also be accompanied by penitential acts (barefoot walking/running and fasting during the day, sleeping under the stars at night most of the time).
During the pilgrimage I will be praying for the following intentions:
(1) for healing - of several friends with cancer and for my own complete healing (hypertension, myocardial ischemia and atherosclerosis)
(2) for a deeper experience and awareness of God's presence in my life, stronger faith and ongoing personal conversion, and discovering God's will for me in the coming years.
(3) for peace in the Philippines (especially Mindanao), and that a final peace agreement will be reached between the Government and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), and the Government and the NDF (National Democratic Front).
(4) for the new administration of President Noynoy Aquino - that he will be able to lead the Filipino people in transforming Philippine society, get rid of corruption, bring about peace, justice and progress.
I am aware that this pilgrimage will be a time of grace. I rely on God's providence and the kindness of the strangers I will meet on the way.
This is my planned itinerary:

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela: Itinerary
(July 16, 2010 – Aug 10, 2010)

7/10 Sat: Rome- Madrid (plane)
7/11 Sun: Madrid
7/12 Mon: Madrid
7/13 Tues: Madrid-Lourdes (train)
7/14Wed: Lourdes
7/15 Thu: Lourdes-St. Jean Pied de Port (train)
7/16-8/10 - running/walking pilgrimage
7/16 Fri: St. Jean Pied de Port – Roncesvalles (27 k) albergue 6E
7/17 Sat: Roncesvalles – Larrasoana (27.6 ) albergue 6E
7/18 Sun: Larrasoana – Uterga (31.6) camping
7/19 Mon: Uterga– Ayegui (30.9) albergue 6E
7/20 Tue: Ayegui- Viana (36.9) albergue D
7/21Wed: Viana – Ventosa (27.8) camping
7/22Thu: Ventosa – Santo Domingo de la Calzada (31.5) albergue D/ or camping
7/23 Fri: Santo Domingo de la Calzada – Tosantos (28.1) algergue D
7/24 Sat: Tosantos – Cardenuela Rio Pico (31.2) camping
7/25 Sun: Cardenuela Rio Pico –Hornillos del Camino (33.7) albergue 5E
7/26 Hornillos del Camino – Itero de la Vega (30.7) albergue 3E
7/27 Tue: Mon: Itero de la Vega- Carrion de los Condes (32.7) camping
7/28 Wed: Carrion de los Condes – Moratinos (29.4) albergue D
7/29 Thu: Moratinos – El Burgo Ranero (27.2) albergue D
7/30 Fri: El Burgo Ranero – Arcahueja (29): camping
7/31 Sat: Arcahueja – Villar de Mazarife (31) albergue 7E
8/1 Sun: Villar de Mazarife – Astorga (29) Redemptorists
8/2 Mon: Astorga – Foncebadon (25.9) albergue D/camping
8/3 Tues: Foncebadon- Ponferrada (27.2) albergue D
8/4 Wed: Ponferrada-Trabadelo (32.3) albergue 6E
8/5 Thu: Trabadelo – Fonfria (30.4) camping
8/6 Fri: Fonfria- Sarria (33.6) camping
8/7 Sat: Sarria- Gonzar (30.5) albergue 5E or camping
8/8 Sun: Gonzar – Melide (31.3) camping
8/9 Mon: Melide – Santa Irene (30.7) albergue 5E or camping
8/10 Tue: Santa Irene – Santiago de Compostela (22.1) albergue 12 E
8/11 Wed: Santiago-Madrid
8/12 Thu: Madrid
8/13 Fri: Madrid-Rome
(I am not sure if I can blog regularly while on pilgrimage. Access to the internet will be limited)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Hiking in Ostia Antica and Back to Rome . The Second Journey

The second week of summer course on Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue ended last Friday. We have discussed so far the Vatican II documents of Ecumenism and the Catholic Church's dialogue with various Christian churches and ecclesial communities (Orthodox Churches, Anglican communion, Lutherans, and Pentecostal Movements, etc).
Yesterday was a free day so I decided to explore Ostia Antica - the ruins of an ancient Roman village at the mouth of the Tiber river. Originally, I was planning to hike there from Rome and take the train coming back. But I woke up late so I took the train going there and hiked back to Rome.
I reached Ostia Antica just before ten and explored the ancient village for more than two hours barefoot. I found it easy to walk barefoot on the ancient cobblestones and dirt road even as the temperature rose to 32 degrees celsius. I decided to rest by midday and ate the sandwich I brought. It was very quiet, there were very few tourists.
I was alone by myself and sat under a shade for over an hour meditating and reading a book I brought with me - "The Second Journey" written by Gerald O'Collins, SJ (my professor at the Gregorian University in Rome 17 years ago). He writes about the three journeys that we usually undertake in our life - the first journey (at the morning of our life -from childhood to adulthood), the second journey (at the noontime and afternoon of our life - midlife), the third journey (the evening of our life --old age).
O'Collins writes that the second journey may be undertaken by those who are 35-40 years old, while some do it later - when they are in their mid-50s or even as late as the 60s. The second journey is primarily an inner journey, but at times it is also accompanied by an outer journey: "It is the inner component which brings about a second journey. The external traveling has only a subordinate function. All the same, the shift from place to place appears to be a steady feature of authentic midlife journeys."
He further observes that the second journey involves the search for new meanings, fresh values and different goals. Persons on the second journey want more out of life.
O'Collins also writes that "people on second journeys repeatedly betray a deep sense of loneliness. This loneliness should eventually turn into the aloneness of a quiet and integrated self-possession. But before that happens, they will find themselves in Dante's "dark wood."
According to O'Collins the journey terminates with the arrival of new wisdom of a true adult.
"It is a wisdom of one who has regained equilibrium, stabilized and found fresh purposes and new dreams. It is the wisdom that gives some things up, let somethings die and accept human limitations. It is the wisdom that agrees, 'I cannot expect anyone to understand me fully.' It is the wisdom that has learned through suffering to live with human finitude and admit the inevitability of old age and death."
O'Collins uses the "pilgrimage" as the metaphor for the second journey. He writes that the second journeys end in two ways.
(1) the pilgrims reach a new place and a fresh commitment
(2) or else they return to their original place and commitment, only to reaffirm them in a new way.
For O'Collins, prayer is an essential component of this journey: "Those persons whose lives have been consciously touched by God will not readily come to journey's end without prayer. Only that can turn such persons from being mere vagrants into becoming genuine pilgrims. Nothing less than the deep experience of God can ensure that their second journey will lead somewhere in the end. It takes faithful praying to transform incoherent wanderings into a genuine midlife journey."
I was deeply touched, reading these lines. It seems to describe where I am now. As I make my pilgrimage in Rome, in Lourdes and on the Camino de Santiago, I have become more aware of the second journey that I am undertaking.
At 2 o'clock in the afternoon, after this period of rest, meditation and spiritual reading, I hiked 30 km back to Rome - along the via Ostiense. I reached our place after eight in the evening.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer Course on Ecumenical and Interreligious Movements

The Centro Pro-Unione at Piaza Navona

Lectures and Discussion

At the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID)

with Msgr. Andrew Vishnu (undersecretary PCID)

We have just finished the first week of the summer course on Ecumenical and Interreligious Movements. This is being held at the Dora Pamphilia building just in front of Piaza Navona. There are 14 participants coming from the USA, France, Vietnam, India, Colombia, Philippines.

We usually have 3 lectures and discussion in the morning. The afternoons are mostly free, with some guided tours.

This is schedule we followed this week:

Monday June 21

I. Biblical Foundations (Puglisi)
II. Historical Overview of the factions/divisions with the church (Rossi)
III. Eastern Christianity

Tuesday June 22

I. Reading of Ecumenical Texts (Rossi)
II. Reformation (Loughran)
III. Concept of Reception in the Ecumenical Movement (McDonald)

Wednesday June 23

I. Radical Reformation (Puglisi)
II. Anglicanism (McDonald)
III. Catholic Reformation (Loughran)

Thursday June 24

Morning spent at the offices of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of Christian Unity (Bishop O'Farrell) and at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Msgr. Andrew Vishnu).

Friday June 25

I. World Council of Churches (Rossi)
II. Models of Unity (McDonald)
III. Week's Summary/Discussion (Staff)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Pilgrim at St. Peter's Basilica

I was at St. Peter's Basilica yesterday afternoon - together with the participants of the summer course on Ecumenical and Interreligious Movements. I've been here so many times before and it's good to be back - after 15 years. There were a lot of people - but it was difficult to distinguish the tourists from the pilgrims. Well, one can be both.
The most moving experience for me was going below the basilica and visiting the tomb of St. Peter and the other popes, especially John Paul II and John XXIII - my favorite popes. I said prayer before their tombs. Unfortunately, taking pictures of the tombs was prohibited.
I believe that what matters most is visiting the tomb of St. Peter and the popes after a long journey, and not just seeing the beautiful basilica and the works of art of Michaelangelo and Bernini.
In the middle ages, there were three major centers of pilgrimage - Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela (Spain) . Pilgrims would often go on a long journey - usually on foot - to reach these places. Now, it is easier and faster to get to these places. And it is difficult to distinguish the tourists and the pilgrims. At least at the Santiago de Compostela only those who have journeyed on foot (at least 100 km) or by bicycle (at least 200 km) can get the pilgrim's certificate. This is what I will be doing next month - journeying barefoot along the 800 km trail of the Camino Frances starting at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains and ending at the cathedral where St. James is believed to be entombed.
In a pilgrimage, what matters is not just the destination but the journey. The journey is both inner/spiritual and physical/geographical. The long physical/geographical journey moves the pilgrim to an inner/spiritual journey. This means moving at a slow, relax pace. There is no need to rush.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Barefoot Pilgrim in Assisi

the old road to Assisi from the train station

outside the Basilica of St. Francis

tomb of St. Francis

the view from the Basilica of St. Claire

resting at San Damiano

the tomb of St. Claire
At 7:43 this morning I took the train to Assisi. By 10:15 we were already at the Assisi train station which was still 3 km to the old town. Instead of taking the bus, I just walked up. It was quite cold when I reached the Basilica of St. Francis and was in time for the mass. After the mass, I prayed before the tomb of St. Francis. I prayed for his intercession -that I will be able to run/walk barefoot on the Camino de Santiago in Spain next month - following his example.
After the mass, I walked around the town of Assisi - visiting the Basilica of St. Clare and the church/convent of San Damiano. Walking barefoot on the streets of Assisi was very pleasant, the pavement was smooth - except the rough road to San Damiano. I was very conscious of the fact that this was the same road that Francis and his followers walked on - barefoot.
I visited the room where St. Clare died and also her tomb. I prayed for a very special intention, remembering a special friend who is now in a Poor Clare monastery very far away and whom I have not seen for over 5 years.
It rained in the afternoon but I kept on walking around town. At 4 pm, I walked back to the train station to catch the last train back to Rome.
Being in Assisi brought back memories of the last time I was here - in 1994. Instead of taking the train from Rome to Assisi, I walked for six days carrying a backpack and tent, sleeping under the stars at night, and reaching Assisi on the Feast of St. Clare. I slept at the doorstep of the basilica of St. Clare that night and the following day took the train back to Rome. It was after that experience that I dreamed of walking on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela someday. This dream will become a reality next month.