Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Witch of Endor

So, it's Halloween and I HAVE to say something about The Witch of Endor. Her story can be found in 1 Samuel 28:3-25. Check it out. There's actually a service in the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services for All Hallow's Eve and some parishes actually use it. I know I did whether in a parish or doing campus ministry setting. I used it today - well, an abbreviated, customized version - for my Hospice staff.

It's a curious story about Saul's visit to a woman who was blessed with a gift of extrasensory perception. Today we might call her a "medium" or a "seer". But she is known in scripture as "The Witch of Endor".

Like all gifted women, when their gifts are feared or envied, they become "evil" and outlawed. You know, sort of the way that rich Republican politicians think abortion is evil and ought to be outlawed - until their girlfriend becomes pregnant and then it's a blessing.

Samuel had died and Saul had outlawed all mediums under penalty of death. Saul was getting ready to do battle with the Philistines, but when he got a look at their troops, he was seized by fear and absolutely scared to death!

So, he prayed but God did not answer his prayers, not by dreams or prophets. So, what was a King to do? He broke his own law and ordered his men to find someone who could provide him with a seance. His men said, "There's a witch in Endor" - and the rest, as they say, was history. Or, scripture.

Saul, brave man, disguised himself and went under cover of night to Endor and ordered the woman, "Call up the person I name." But, the woman said, "This is a trap! No way!"

Saul assures her that no harm would come to her and when the woman agrees, he says, "Call up Samuel." With that, she recognizes him, "You are Saul!"

Samuel's spirit is aroused from the dead and he is none too happy to be disturbed. Samuel tells Saul that God has turned his back on him because of his disobedience and that God is now on the side of the Philistines. He tells him that it won't be long before Saul and his sons join him.

Saul falls to the ground weak - he hadn't eaten for a while - and overcome with fear. It is then that the woman feels great compassion for Saul and does a remarkable thing.

She who had been in fear for using her gifts under penalty of death recognizes the fear in Saul and is moved to an act of unspeakable generosity. She takes a grain-fed calf - probably meant to feed her for a few months - and slaughters it, feeding Saul and his men. She also bakes some flatbread and serves it to them as well.

Here are a few snippets of what Sam Portero writes in "Brightest and Best":
Halloween affords us a time to snicker at death, to race through the graveyards with our friends, to dress up in disguise as though the ruse might fool the grim reaper and protect us for yet another year. But we need not run from the fear or disguise it with costumes or ritualize it away in parties and laughter; it was that fear that drove Saul in desperation to find the Witch. 
There was more for Saul at Endor than a vision; there was care. That is the greater surpise, the surprising turn at the end. For Saul, whom the woman had feared for his power, was reduced by his fear to one in need. 
It says that when she saw that Saul was terrified, this woman - this "witch" - was moved to minister to him. She urged him to rest and to take food. She prepared him a meal and gave him what he need most, which was care.
The good news of the story is that fear does not remove us from the reach of God. Fear may be the point of vulnerability through which God actually reaches and touches us. 
In our very arrogant and confident generation, fear may be one of the few places remaining through which the light and the love of God may shine. It has already made many of us more careful; it may yet mak us more (faithful).
Whistling as we walk past the graveyard will in no way exempt us from the eventuality of one day residing there. Dressing for success cannot protect us from the failures to which we are prey. Smiling cannot avert the genuine pain that comes from contemplating our own certain end in the face of our friends or in the bathroom mirror.
It may do us much good to face into the fear: Saul did and found there the face of God."
Happy All Hallows Eve!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Transformed people transform people

A Sermon preached for Pentecost XXIII - October 28, 2018
The Episcopal Church of St. Philip - Laurel, DE
(the Rev'd Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton

Have you ever read something that was so short and so succinct that the truth of it caught you up short? That happened to me the other day when I read something by Roman Catholic Contemplative, Richard Rohr.

He was talking about suffering and how suffering is transformative. He said, “When you can be healed yourself and not just talk about healing, you are, as Henri Nouwen said, a ‘wounded healer’.”

And then he said this, “Transformed people transform people.”

Let me say that again: Transformed people transform people.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week, especially in terms of the gospel story about Blind Bartemaeus and what that might have to say to us about all that has been happening in our country this week.

So first, let me put the Gospel story into context. Bartemaeus, we are told, is the son of Timeaus. He is obviously known and at least pitied in his hometown of Jericho.

You remember Jericho, right? At least you remember the old African American spiritual, “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. Oh, Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down.”

Well, scholars are pretty universal in their agreement that the story holds little historical value but it’s a great story, nonetheless.   

So, the story goes that Noah cursed Canaan to be a slave and God gave the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. 

But the children of Israel, Abraham’s descendants, themselves became slaves in Egypt. Moses, led by God, led the people out of Egypt to the borders of the Promised Land of Canaan.

Moses charged Joshua, son of Nun, to take Jericho, the first city of Canaan to be taken back by the children of Israel. The Israelites marched around the walls once every day for six days with the priests and the Ark of the Covenant.

On the seventh day they marched seven times around the walls, then the priests blew their ram’s horns, the Israelites raised a great shout, and the walls of the city fell. Following God's law, the Israelites took no slaves or plunder but slaughtered every man, woman and child in Jericho, sparing only Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute who had sheltered the spies, and her family.

It is important to know a few things about Jericho in Canaan. The first is that Canaan, which had been the Promised Land, gradually became a place of disregard among the Jews. 

Canaan was on the trade route and so many people from many foreign lands were there, interacting with the locals. They often intermarried with the Jews, leading them to be considered racially impure or “mongrels”. They also didn’t worship in Jerusalem during the High Holy Days.

You will remember the story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman who begged for healing for her daughter. And, Jesus said to her, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs." "Yes it is, LORD," she said. "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." Well, the reference to “dogs” is a reference to the racial status of the Canaanites.

So, it’s important to remember that in agreeing to heal the man from Jericho, Jesus is healing another Canaanite. This explains a bit why the neighbors might be ‘shushing’ him and ‘sternly ordering him to be quiet’ when he calls out to Jesus for help. They have no reason to expect that this Nazarene Rabbi will help a Canaanite.

But, Jesus does. “Go,” says Jesus to Bartemaeus, “your faith has made you well.”

It’s also important to note that Jericho today is a city located near the Jordan River on the West Bank in Occupied Palestine. It would appear that the racial and ethnic tensions which existed in antiquity persist today.

Mark’s gospel story ends this way, “Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.” And, where would that be, you ask? Where was it that Bartemaeus, now with his sight fully restored, follows Jesus?

If we continue reading Mark’s story, from Jericho, Jesus and his disciples head toward Jerusalem where they walk right into the festivities for the celebration of Passover. We know all too well what is about to unfold. The crowd will echo the same greeting Bartemaeus used with Jesus. They will hail him as Son of David and shout Hosanna’s in his name.

And, oh, what Bartemaeus will see unfold before his very eyes! Oh, the horrors and the terrors he will witness. Oh, the betrayal and the brutality he most certainly wished he had never seen.

We don’t know what happened to Bartemaeus after the events we now call Holy Week. We don’t know if he witnessed either the Crucifixion or the Resurrection. But, I’m thinking there was a reason that the story of this particular man’s healing in the particular city of Jericho was told just before the events in Jerusalem.

Our modern eyes have witnessed things this week that we wish we had never seen. Fourteen pipe bombs were sent to 10 people – all outspoken critics of the present administration. On Saturday, at least 11 people were murdered and several others seriously injured, including 4 police officers, as they gathered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the bucolic neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, PA.

We are living in a time of blinding hate and palpable anger which are being fueled by violent, hateful, bigoted rhetoric. Normal levels of disagreement and dissatisfaction are now exaggerated and exacerbated to dangerously high levels.

And, in the midst of all of this violence and hatred came the internment of the ashes of Matthew Wayne Shepherd, a 21 year old gay man who, twenty years ago, was robbed, tied to a fence, pistol-whipped and left to die in the freezing cold of a field in Wyoming.

Matthew’s family has been holding onto his ashes all these years, afraid that “haters” as his father Dennis named them, would desecrate his resting place. His parents thought to spread his ashes among the hills and mountains of his beloved home state of Wyoming, but they had hoped that they might have a place where they could visit the earthly remains of their son.

As it turned out, that safe place became available in a crypt at The Cathedral Church of St. Peter and Paul, also known as “The Washington National Cathedral”, an Episcopal House of Worship in Washington, DC. 

Matthew was an Episcopalian and loved serving as an acolyte when he was a child. And so, after 20 years, Matthew’s physical remains were laid to rest on Friday, and in a place where people are blind to race or gender, religion or creed, age or ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The Cathedral is known as “a place of worship for all people”. And so it is.

In his homily, Bishop Gene Robinson told the story of the report of the police officer who first came upon Matthew’s body, tied to that picket fence. There was a deer lying down in the snow next to Matthew. From all appearances, that deer had been there all night, keeping vigil with Matthew. He had not been alone. One of God’s creatures had great compassion on his suffering and had stayed with him all through that long, awful, painful, frigid night.

The police officer reports that as she approached Matthew’s body, the deer looked straight into her eyes and held her gaze for a long time before getting up and leaving. “I knew that that was the Lord, right there,” she said.

Bishop Robinson praised Mr. Shepard’s parents for not just grieving privately but for turning his killing, “this horrendous event,” into “something good.”

The more I think about it, the more I think that’s the real miracle of this gospel story of Blind Bartemaeus. I think the miracle was not so much about having his sight restored but more about what he did with his ability to see. He opened his eyes and followed Jesus – through his crucifixion on the cross and to his resurrection from the tomb.

The more I think about it, the more I think that can be the real miracle of the story of our lives. I think the miracle that is waiting to happen is for us all to open our eyes to what violent rhetoric and hateful speech is doing to us as individuals and as a nation.

When we do that, when we open our eyes, we can decide to end the violence and the hatred and turn all of these horrible events into something good.

Like Bartemaeus, we can have our sight restored.

Like Bartemaeus, our faith can and will heal us.

The more I think about it, the more I think Richard Rohr is right,

“Transformed people transform people”.


Monday, October 22, 2018


I have fallen in love with Galicia.

I didn't intend for it to happen. It just did. 

Perhaps it is because my maternal grandmother hailed from this part of the Iberian peninsula - in Portugal. I'm sure my maternal grandfather and paternal grandparents, who immigrated to the USA from the Azores, also have roots in this part of the world as well. 

In an inexplicable and strange way, it does feel so much like "home".

I look into the faces of the people in these villages and they could be my relatives, my aunts, uncles and cousins.  The hair is dark and thick and curly. The skin, "olive" complexion. The eyes are intense and expressive. And, of course, you couldn't miss the distinctive Iberian nose.

I listen to the sounds of the language and music and smell the food and I am instantly transported to my grandmother's kitchen.  I can hear her talking and singing as she cooks. 

There is a softness to the sounds of the language my grandmother reminded me constantly that I'd better learn fluently 'lest I be unable to speak with the angels, for it is a language so beautiful that it is the chosen form of communication in heaven.. 

It is a "shuusch" sound that falls with such familiarity and tenderness  on my ears that it almost makes me weep with a sense of ... what is it? Nostalgia? Homesickness?

Ah, no. It's not that. 

Now I remember. 

It's 'soledad', an inexplicable longing, a loneliness, a wanting for something that may be right in front of you but somehow is not available, perhaps because it has changed. Or, is no longer there as you remembered. Or, wasn't what you expected.

My grandmother used to remind me that you can have 'soledad' for a person when he or she is sitting right next to you.

I thought I was coming here to Spain to walk The Camino. And, I did that. I have the swollen ankles, the spider vein that popped on the back of my left calf and the still vaguely sore muscles to prove it.

More importantly, my heart is full and my soul is content that I not only physically walked The Camino (no small feat), but did so spiritually and emotionally as well.

At least, I thought I was content. 

Until I saw more of Galicia. 

And now, I have 'soledad' for a place I have only just this one time visited. 

I know. How does that even make any sense? 

I don't know. It just does. Somehow, it makes perfect sense. 

I am reminded of that wonderful quote by Blaise Pascal, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."

It is said that The Camino provides what the heart and the soul did not know that it had lost. 

I am discovering this new chapter of The Camino which, it is also said, never ends at the Cathedral de Santiago. It only just begins there. 

And so, I am leaving this place knowing that I will be returning one day. 

Yes, I want to discover Iona and make a pilgrimage there.

Yes, I hope to finish the pilgrimage of the Axis Mundi and make pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem.

Now that I know the differences between being a tourist and a pilgrim, I am longing to see what my heart and my soul and my spirit will gain from those two ancient, holy places. 

But, I also hope to return here to Galicia as a pilgrim not a tourist, to discover or recover or uncover my ancestral roots and deepen my spirituality and commitment to service which was such an integral part of the spirituality of my grandparents.

And so, I'm off to the Aeropuerto de Santiago de Compestella. I wanted to go back into the Cathedral Square for one last time - perhaps to attend early mass at the little Capilla Santa Maria Solome, the mother of Santiago - but I simply couldn't bear to say goodbye again.

My heart is filled with emotions, mostly deep, deep gratitude and boundless joy.

My soul is wide open to endless possibilities and dreams.

And yes, I have 'soledad'.

But, it's good, you know?

It means that I have experienced something so good, so wonderful, so amazing, that to leave it brings an instant sense of longing.

In its own way, 'soledad' validates and affirms what the heart has always known.

If I somehow take a sudden, unexpected leave of this life - or, if it is simply my time to go - and you wonder where it is my soul will choose to hover, look no further than Galicia.

I think most of my relatives - past, present and yet to come - are all here.

I am richly blessed and so very, very grateful.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Day 12, Stage 11: O’Pedrouzo – Santiago (20 km / 12.4 mi)

Sunrise at Casa da Torre Branca
The day began at sunrise at the Casa da Torre Branca, a lovely farm house in Lavacolla which has been in the same family for over 400 years, where we had spent the night. We traveled through Pedrouzo and the remarkable, large stretches of eucalyptus forests and pine and fir reforestation areas.

Leaving Lavacolla, we began the ascent up to Monte De Gozo (Mount of Joy), a hill from where we caught our first glimpse of Santiago’s cathedral, which was breathtaking. There it was! Our destination! In plain sight! And yet, so much more walking to be done.

Suddenly, we were thrust out of the bucolic forests and meadows into the city of San Lazaro. Cars, buses, taxis – all jarring street noise which was a sharp reminder that a pilgrim’s journey is not one of sterile piety. The spiritual journey must go right into the heart of humanity – with all of its noise and clamor, its anxiety and suffering, its joys and sorrows – or it is meaningless.

Mount de Gozo (Mount of Joy)
I caught the first glimpse of the towers of the Cathedral from the small square of San Pedro (St. Peter) on which there is a small stone cross.

I must say, it took my breath away. I was flooded with a mixture of emotions. I wanted to go and yet, going there meant that the journey would end. I would have attained the goal of my destination.

As much as I wanted to be there – to ‘make it’ – I wanted to savor these last few steps.

I walked through Cervantes Plaza, via Sacra, Azabacheria Street, Plaza de Azabacheria and then, there I was, with hundreds of other pilgrims of all ages, at the Plaza del Obradoiro, looking at the baroque grandeur of the Cathedral de Santiago.

There I was, standing in the place which had once been the forest where the beheaded body of St. James had been buried, along with the two disciples who had carried his body there from Jerusalem.

There I was! I had made it to the place where for thousands of years millions of people had come to pay homage, to seek forgiveness and be absolved, to be granted a plenary indulgence, to be assured of entrance into heaven, to find an answer, or healing or a cure; or perhaps had no expectation and found nothing or, instead, found exactly what they didn’t know they had lost.

There I was! I found myself filled with a deep sense of gratitude and joy, full measure, pressed down and overflowing.

It was in the midst of that moment that I had a deep insight about how the pilgrimage is more than just a metaphor for life. It is the way of life.

A pilgrimage is filled with hot sunshine and cooling rain, with blisters and bruises, as well as times of unknowing and times of certainty. Life has its many challenges and trials, losses and blessings, its time of sweetness and joy as well as bitterness and sorrow.

A pilgrimage is made step-by-step, one foot in front of the other, in long periods of boredom and tedium, and moments of intense beauty and inexplicable happiness and profound insight. Life is best lived moment-by-moment, day by day, staying as much in the present as possible, marked by periods of clarity as well as uncertainty, sometimes with hope and other times with despair.

A pilgrimage does not necessarily have a lofty spirituality or sense of the holy; neither do some lives. Nevertheless, the Spirit of the Holy One is an ever-present companion, silent only because that Spirit is unrecognized or unacknowledged. 

Cathedral de Santiago
Hospice professionals talk about patients who have a “rally” – a few hour or few day burst of energy where the patient will suddenly ask for a favorite food after several days or even weeks of taking only bites of food and sips of liquid. 

They will ask to have someone in particular come and visit for no particular reason. Or, they will seek forgiveness from someone and/or ask for forgiveness from another.

I believe they have caught a glimpse of their “destination” and they want to slow down their journey a bit and savor for just a little while longer the fruits of their labors here on this side of Eden.

I think I had that “rally” in the Square of San Pedro when I caught my first glimpse of the towers of the Cathedral de Santiago. With my destination in sight, I wanted to savor where I had been and where I was going.

Oh, and then there was the exquisite, unspeakable joy of arriving at the beautiful city!

In the Eucharistic preface of the Burial of the Dead, the Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church has these words, “… for we know that life is changed, not ended…”.

Those words have always been profoundly important to me.

 I believe them with all my heart. I believe them even more deeply today.

When we were in Madrid, the leader of The Camino gave us a white rock to keep in our pocket and a Pilgrim’s Blessing.   I have that white rock near me as I type the words of that blessing.
1.     Blessed are you Pilgrim, if you discover that the Camino opens your eyes to what cannot be seen.

2.     Blessed are you Pilgrim, if what concerns you most is not getting there but getting there with others.

3.     Blessed are you Pilgrim when you gaze out at the Camino and you see it filled with names and sunrises.

4.     Blessed are you Pilgrim, because you have discovered that the real Camino begins when the walking ends.

5.     Blessed are you Pilgrim, if your backpack is getting emptier but your heart is so full that it doesn’t know where to keep more emotions.

6.     Blessed are you Pilgrim, if you discover that taking one step back to help a fellow Pilgrim is worth more than one hundred steps forward without worrying about others.

7.     Blessed are you Pilgrim, when words fail to express the gratitude you feel for every surprising moment on the Camino.

8.     Blessed are you Pilgrim, if you seek truth and make your life a Camino in constant search of people who embody the Camino, truth and life.

9.     Blessed are you Pilgrim, if you find yourself on the Camino and you present yourself with the gift of time without hurries so as not to neglect the image of your heart.

10.  Blessed are you Pilgrim, if you discover that a great part of the Camino is silence, and a great part of silence is prayer, and prayer brings you closer to your (Creator) who is waiting for you.
Life is changed, not ended
I hope that you have found some blessing as you have journeyed with me these last few days. 

I know I feel deeply blessed, full measure, pressed down and overflowing.

I will be posting a few more blog posts as I have a few more days here in Santiago.

Tomorrow I will travel to Rias Baixas by boat to watch the folks on that island harvest mussels and clams and scallops.

They will be brought on board the boat and steamed for us and served with the wine that is also produced on that island.

I travel to Madrid on Monday and will spend a few more hours discovering that magical city. I make my way home on Tuesday.

I am so very grateful for those of you who have kept me in prayer, sending me words of encouragement and support, cheering me on when I was afraid I wouldn’t make it.

As the Spanish say, “Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto.”

Thank you, Life, for you have given me so much.

Buen Camino, my friends. Buen Camino.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Day 11, Stage 10: Arzua – O’Pedrouzo (20 km / 12.4 mi)

Today we expect to see many more pilgrims and services along our way, since many of the different Caminos to Santiago will begin to unite. Once again, our route takes us through meadows, forests, orchards and rural villages.

In Preguntono, we take the road leading to Cortobe, Pereiirina, and Calzada. In Saleda the Way approaches the main road leading to Santa Irene, where there is a small 18th century chapel and a covered fountain with the image of St. Irene. Legend says that those who wash their feet in this fountain get cured and released of blisters.

Today is October 18, 2018, the Feast of St. Luke. Thirty-two years ago, I was ordained priest at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Lowell, MA. Lowell is one of the old “mill cities” where English mill owners hired young women from England and then Ireland and then Portugal to work for room and board and a small stipend of about one dollar per month.

In Lowell, one of the mill owners decided to build an Episcopal Church in town. Since his wife’s name was Ann, he decided the church should be named after her. And, since church attendance would be required of his employees, he also required that they tithe 10% of their monthly wages to the church. They had no choice. It was required.

There was poetic justice in my ordination there.

I am the daughter and granddaughter and niece of “mill girls” who worked the mills in the nearby mill town of Fall River, MA.

I am also the daughter and granddaughter and niece of labor union organizers who fought for safe working conditions and fair wages and benefits.

My family became activists and organizers after a fire in one of the factories took the life of my grandparent’s firstborn son and namesake, August Lima Medeiros, Jr. 

I am quite certain that the owner of those mills in Lowell rolled over in his grave at the thought of a Portuguese-Azorean “greenhorn” – and, for goodness sake, a woman – being ordained in “his” church.

That is not exactly the vision he had for the future of that church. His wealth and privilege and sense of how the world is ordered would have prevented him from even imaging such a possibility.

Pity, eh?

Last night, I had a “memory-dream” – a dream that I first experienced the night of my ordination in my bed in the house in Lowell where we lived. It comes back to me every now and again.

I remember being awakened in the middle of the night by a light in the room. As I opened my eyes, the light grew bigger and brighter until it filled the entire room. The center of the light was a pinpoint of open space which beckoned me out of the bedroom. I got up slowly from the bed and softly tipped-toed out of the room to the hallway.

There, I saw the entire city of Lowell illuminated, shining beautifully like a brilliant gem in the velvety night sky. It was not at all the gritty, down-on-its luck city one saw in the harsh reality of the day, with mills long-abandoned and bordered up, waiting and hoping and praying for the next wave of immigrants to make them hum with activity again.

I don’t know why, but I heard myself ask the light, “Am I to stay here?”

And, from the middle of the middle of the light, a sound spoke to the middle of the middle of me: “You will travel far in my name.”

And then, that was it!  The light was gone and I was standing in the middle of the hallway, in the middle of the night, all by myself, in the dark.

I went back to bed and convinced myself that I was just sleepwalking – just a little over-exerted from all the excitement and emotion of the day.

But, that dream has returned and haunted me for years. Sometimes, it just appears. Other times, I invite it back so I can understand deeper layers of its meaning.

Thing of it is, that sound was right. I have traveled far and wide, doing this work of ministry.

I’ve worked in and either been canonically resident or licensed in six dioceses – Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, Newark and Delaware. I’ve attended seven general conventions – three times a deputy – and two Lambeth Conferences.

The five years that I was Canon Missioner to The Oasis and worked for Jack Spong, I traveled all over The Episcopal Church, preaching, teaching, presiding and witnessing, mostly in church which claimed never to have met an LGBTQ person before, much less one who was ordained.  

I never would have even imagined, thirty-two years ago, that I would be walking the Camino on this anniversary. Or, as a matter of fact, ever.

I posted this poem on my FB page this morning. It is a poem by Antonio Machado that I discovered a few years ago and it has served to sum up my understanding of my vocation and ministry thus far. I have taken it with me these past 32 years of ordained ministry.

It is the second stanza which has really inspired my sense of ministry. I have come to know that the Bees of Heaven will gather my failures and take them to the Queen of Heaven to be blessed and will return to me as white combs to build new ministry and sweet honey to sustain me.
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.
Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
The Bees of Heaven have been with me on this Camino, taking all my failures up to the Creator who is blessing it and now, even now, is making of it white combs with which I will build the future of my vocation and ministry.

Tomorrow, we walk 20 km to Santiago.

Buen Camino, amigos. I am so blessed that you have come this far with me.,

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Day 10, Stage 9: Sobrado Do Monxes - Arzua (21 km/13 mi)

And so it begins - moving closer and closer to Santiago. We are leaving the Upper Tambre basin and heading towards Carelle, a quiet livestock village with a parish dedicated to St. Lawrence.

We have been following the paved road through Bodelos, Corredoiras, Boimil and Boimorto in rural Galicia. The end of the stage is in Arzua where the North Way and the French Way meet. There is a natural bee production farm here which is quite lovely and famous. We are staying for a second night in the incredible 17th century manor house Pazo de Brandeso.

Today's poem for reflection is Finding What You Didn't Lose, by John Fox
When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you've had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.

When someone deeply listens to you
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind's eye.
It is as if gold had been discovered!

When someone deeply listens to you
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you 
She came quickly around the corner, looking distracted, eyes down. She almost ran into me.

"Oh! Sorry," she said.  And then, she backed up a half a step and looked at me. She moved her head back and forth, looking at me.

"Oh, my," she said. "You look different today. I mean, I almost didn't recognize you."

I smiled and then felt suddenly like a self-conscious teenager, and a bit embarrassed.

"You ARE feeling better, aren't you?" she asked.

"Yes, yes I am," I said.

"It shows," said she. "Welcome back.'

"Or, " she said with a smile, "perhaps I should say, welcome."

Several of my fellow pilgrims have smiled and asked, "Feeling better?" Others have just smiled a knowing smile.

Most of the toxins I had been carrying within my body are now gone. I am able to breathe more deeply than before. A full breath. In. And, out.

I'm sure I have not lost a pound. In fact, I'm sure I - we all - have gained weight. (How could we not?)

And yet, I feel so much lighter. Brighter.

I feel like I am more of who I am. More at home in my self.

I was reflecting on this poem and realized that I have not said much of anything to my fellow pilgrims about my interior journey on this pilgrimage and yet, it seems, I have been deeply listened to and heard.


The particulars of the subject or issue matter not. My fellow pilgrims have been listening. They know. They see me. They hear me. They care.

And the truth of the matter is that I have been listening deeply to each one of them. I know. I see. I hear. I care.

I don't know how that has happened without speech or conversation. I only know it has.

I came to this Camino with a curiosity about many things but one of them was the personification of The Camino. People speak about The Camino as if it were a person.

Goodness knows, I've easily fallen into it.

"The Camino will teach you."

"The Camino will guide you."

"The Camino will provide."

I've thought it an interesting phenomenon - the way some people personify evil as Satan or good as an Angel. It makes it very convenient never to have to take responsibility for your own evil. Or, for that matter, to claim and own your own goodness.

While I still believe that's true, there is something . . . magical . . . or, mysterious . . . . or, at least, inexplicable . . . about the personal transformation that happens on The Camino.

I can't really explain it. I think it's one of those things you have to experience to know.

I have come to decide that that "something" that happens, happens because of deep listening. I suspect that deep listening can happen when one meditates or prays.

But, the walking  . . . .
Something happens in the walking.
Something happens in the walking to a different place.
Something happens in the walking in a different place where basic things are the same:
And yet, everything is different enough to have to pay attention.

Something happens in the walking
You walk and walk and walk, miles and miles and miles
And suddenly find yourself in a place deep inside you
And, you find yourself a stranger in a familiar land.

Something happens in the walking
When you listen more deeply to your surroundings
more deeply to yourself
more deeply to others
loving yourself more
being more gentle with yourself
so you can love
and be more gentle
with others.

Something happens in the walking.
You learn a new way to pray
that doesn't assume God is parent
but Creator
not as One who judges and condemns
but One who naturally gives and naturally takes
One who listens deeply
and inspires creation
and re-creation
in you.

Something happens in the walking.
In two days, we will be in Santiago, entering the city where for thousands of years millions of pilgrims have made this walking journey.

Something happens in the walking where millions of others have walked with intention.

There is something inexplicably marvelous and magical and mysterious about that.

We'll just call it "The Camino".

I know I am forever changed.

I am finding what I didn't lose.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Day 9, Stage 8: Altos de Mamoa to Sorado Dos Monxes (21 km/13 mi)

Today, The Camino in Galicia takes us to the highest point of the entire way – approximately 900 feet above sea level – across the boundary of Lugo, to enter the province of A Coruna, and continue towards Sobrado dos Monxes, where there is a monastery built in the 10th century, run by Cistercian monks. We’ll be spending the night in a lovely rural manor – a palace, formerly – in Arzua.

Today’s reflection is from The Sound of the Genuine by Howard Thurman
There is in every person something that waits and listens for the sound of genuine in herself. There is in you something that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. Nobody like you has ever been born. And no one like you will ever be born again.

You are the only one.

If you cannot hear it, the sound of the genuine in you, you will never find whatever it is for which you’re searching. And if you hear it and then do not follow it, it were better that he had never been born. You are the only you that has ever lived. Your idiom is the only idiom of its kind in all the existences. And if you cannot hear the sound of the genuine in you, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”
Things happen to the body at this sea level. Especially a body under the stress of walking up hills. Especially a body which has been under stress, anyway, for a long time.

The simple truth is that I did not research well enough the different terrain of this land and therefore, did not prepare well for it. I thought we’d be walking, so I walked. I walked on pavement. I walked on dirt trails. I walked on flat surfaces. I walked in malls. I walked up slightly hilly surfaces. I sweated. I worked hard.

Nothing got me seriously out of breath or feeling dizzy or queasy so that my heart was pounding so fast and so hard I could hear it in my ears and feel it pounding through my entire body.

I was not prepared for the effect of walking up steep hills in high elevation. I take full responsibility for that. That's one thing I didn’t research. So, I didn’t prepare in the way I needed to in order to deal with these hills at this altitude.

But, I also know that I came here to do this walk because I knew, in that place of knowing, that I have been holding onto a lot of toxins. And, those toxins made it increasingly difficult for me to hear “the sound of the genuine” in me.

For me, there are two kinds of toxins. The first is chemical.

As a Hospice Chaplain, I work with people who have recently finished a course – sometimes several long courses – of chemotherapy. We are frequently advised to exercise and drink lots of fluid because our patients often perspire and/or exhale those chemicals as their body tries to get rid of them.

Sometimes, you can even smell it in the air in their room. When we touch them or lean in close to hear them, we can take small amounts of the by-products of the chemicals which, over time, can have an adverse effect on us, making us feel sluggish or out of sorts.

The other kind of toxin is from certain personalities and, especially, corporate systems. I suppose we ought not be surprised that the helping professions – medicine, nursing, psychiatry, social work, religious organizations, etc. – seem to attract toxic personalities, or that those toxic personalities might contribute to the toxicity levels in corporate systems.

It’s paradoxical, on one level, isn’t it? I mean, people ‘just’ want to help others. That’s pretty straightforward. They ‘just’ want to help, to ‘just’ be of service, to ‘just’ make a difference.

The question is “Why?” Why do you want to ‘just’ help?

Intention and motivation are important to examine. Let me give you an example.

There is an oncologist – a cancer specialist – who is described as “very aggressive” in his treatment plans. If you want to “fight cancer” if you want to “beat cancer”, he’s your guy. He will load you up with every cancer-fighting drug in his arsenal of cancer-fighting weapons and give you as many and as much as you can tolerate. And then some.

He doesn’t tell you how absolutely miserable it will make you feel, how it will compromise the quality of your life and only give you – maybe, maybe – a 30 or 40 percent chance of extending your life – maybe, maybe – another year, or two.

Then again, maybe you will “beat the odds” and live the rest of your life cancer-free.

It could happen.

The cost will be very high, but if you want to risk it, he’ll provide you with the means. The thing of it is, if you listen to him closely, he’s very clear to say, “I”. As in, “I can help you.” As in, “I can give you another day.” As in, “I can give you another year.”

So, if you start one of “his” medical treatment plans that “he” prescribes for you and the extra time “he” gives you, and you start to feel like, actually, you’d prefer quality of life over quantity of life, w.e.e.e.e . . .l.l.l.l.l.l., now you’ve got a problem, see? Now, you’ve insulted him. Now, you’re a quitter and he doesn’t work with quitters.

Now, you’ve made him angry and he will not shield you from his anger, not even in your weakened and miserable state. Not even if it makes you cry. Actually, that will just make him angrier, and he will storm out of the room.

And, no, he won’t refer you to Hospice. Never! You’re on your own, now.

So, I’m back to my question: Is that ‘help’?

One wonders about his motivation and his intention. Who is he ‘helping’, really?

That’s a fairly extreme example. There are others that are more subtle than that.

Like, the social worker who is just a great guy, you know, always asking team mates if he can help them in any way – change a tire, mow their lawn – what a guy! Then, one day, he says something inappropriate, something sexual, and he just doesn’t understand why you’re upset. I mean, he’s a great guy, isn’t he? You’re just being overly sensitive. And then, he gaslights you like a champ.

Lots of borderline personalities flock to the helping professions. Community-based helping organizations (including churches and temples and their affiliated organizations)  get more than their share of passive aggressive behavior, lots of projection, and tons of “dysfunctional behavior”.

It’s important to remember that the “dys” in dysfunctional stands for “pain”.

Dysfunctional behavior is painful behavior. It is a person functioning out of a painful past that he or she is working out. I try to keep that in mind so that, first and foremost, I can be compassionate, but secondly, to keep a healthy distance.

Trying to ‘keep a healthy distance’ for a clergy-person, anyway, is a constant challenge. If you aren’t “all giving” and “always available” or provide the answer someone may want or need to hear, you are bound to hear a loud harrumph or soft weeping followed by, “And you call yourself a priest/minister/clergy person!”

It goes without saying that there are many priests/ministers/clergy people who are, themselves, dysfunctional. Oy, there are large, multiple minions of them! I have known clergy support groups that are comprised of dysfunctional clergy who support each other in their dysfunction.

I was part of one, briefly. It was awful. It would be hilarious if it weren’t tragic and sad. And, toxic.

In my experience, sooner or later, the dysfunctional person will attempt to re-create in you the turmoil and pain they are feeling. They don’t do this to be mean or cruel. They are doing it because it is the only way that they will know that you know how they feel.

Sometimes, the dysfunctional system will do the same thing. It’s called “corporate culture” and you either fit in, or you don’t.

One way of ‘survival’ in dysfunctional systems is to create ‘silos’ – parallel universes where one does one’s work alone, with concern for their project and then one “puts on a game face” to come out and interact with others.

In the corporate pecking order, the idea is everyone “below” is making the one “above” look good so you keep your nose to the grindstone and don’t make any waves so one day you, too, can move up the corporate ladder. You smile, you agree, you go along to get along and get along to get ahead.

The real mark of a dysfunctional system is poor communication. Everyone thinks the other person, the person lower than them, sent along the message. Another is that, when an “educational event” happens, the presenter cares less about whether or not the information was received and understood and more – much more – about whether or not everyone signed the attendance sheet.

One thing that over 30 years of working with church personalities has taught me:

Anyone who seems to work really hard at being nice is someone you absolutely ought not ever trust.

And, the amazing thing is that no one knows how transparent they are; how inauthentic they are.

I have long understood that, as a clergy person who works in hospice, I “live and move and have my being” in multiple sources and levels of toxicity. This is a core piece of why The Camino appealed to me as “good medicine” for me, giving me the opportunity to walk and sweat off the toxicity I’ve been holding onto and to drink lots of water to flush it out of my system.

‘Walking in Beauty’ is especially appealing to me for that reason. I think beauty is the strongest medicine to neutralize the ugliness of the evil that can build up in toxic people and toxic systems.

I have tested that theory and proven it correct. Indeed, I think I’m getting rid of lots of toxins on this walk. In fact, I know I am. All the toxins I’ve been holding in my gut are finding their way out. As they make their way out and make room, I am also releasing the toxins I’ve held in my mind and my heart.

It’s a long, terrible, awe-full, wonder-filled, process. I am blessed to have this time to do this important, transformative work.

The Camino is a wise teacher, knowing what each peregrino needs even before s/he knows what s/he wants or needs.

There’s a line in a Madonna song, “Beauty’s where you find it.”

Releasing long-held toxins to make room for more of the goodness and beauty of life is an amazing and healing thing.

It is helping me to rediscover the sound of the genuine in me.

Thank you, again, for making this journey with me. I'm so glad you're here.