I left Zubiri at 7:30 am. After a good night’s rest I was ready to be on the trail. Just outside of town there was a small blackboard, the kind that might sit outside a small restaurant promoting the Special of the Day. It read, “The Abbey is Open!”
Since I started the journey, I had this notion that I would stop at many churches; pray, contemplate life, surrender, whatever came to me in the moment. But so many church doors were under lock and key with specific visiting hours, few of which would work for the typical pilgrim walking 8-14 miles a day.
But The Abbey was open. I turned to walk toward the building, rounded a corner and saw a line of gregarious (loud) pilgrims stretching out the church door waiting to get inside. I walked on. While I may have judged the moment incorrectly, I was not interested in what felt like a tourist stop. What happened to my church?
Miles later I stopped in a small hamlet called Larrasoana to warm up with a coffee and a visit to the Church of St. Nicholas. I was hoping to ask the real Santa Claus for an early Christmas gift. No coffee was found and the church was locked.
Contemplating my next move, I met Kathryn sitting on a bench tending to blisters. We discovered that we were on the same flight from Dallas to Paris. I saw her one other time along the way but we hadn’t met. We struck up a conversation. I found out she’s from Midland, Texas. We decided to walk a leg of the journey together.
The more we conversed, the easier the walk became. We spoke of Spirit and Light, and the beauty of The Way. We shared a similar story of walking through mountains filled with mist and sheep with bells ringing. Kathryn met their Shepherd on her walk. We shared church stories and the joy of music. I was struck by Kathryn’s ability to find meaning in every step. I asked what she does in Midland when not walking the Camino. She’s a Pastor of a Methodist Church. Of course! The talk carried our walk…7 miles like nothing!
After a coffee in Zuriain, Kathryn carried on solo. I left some time after her departure.
By grace, this lyric came to me in moments;
I’m in an Abbey here on The Way
The sheep and their bells sing a chorus of praise
The mist in the meadow, all the mystery I need
What a glorious day
Kathryn my Pastor preached with her feet
A walk of thanksgiving, a sermon complete
Come now what may, because I’m in an Abbey, here on The Way
I found my church. Christmas came early. Thank you St. Nicholas.