Cultivating Camino Community

For us pilgrims, the Camino community at home is often a necessity to keep the spirit alive throughout the year. Our chapter’s 2nd annual St. James Day Celebration in Piedmont, California, was a great example of how pilgrims come together to cultivate community. As a chapter coordinator, I find this annual event is my favorite to organize, not just because it takes place in my neighborhood parish. Rather, it has become a meaningful way to honor the reason for the pilgrimage, celebrate with friends, provide a blessing to departing pilgrims, and to introduce St. James to those who are curious.

It was a joy to bring both of my communities—parish and pilgrims—together for this special evening. The first part of the event was tailored for our pilgrim community with a potluck dinner and chapter announcements. I swear, our potlucks keep getting better each time!

There were Camino-inspired dishes, wine, tapas, paellas, caldo de Galicia, and of course, the superstar of the occasion, Tarta de Santiago. There were a few, actually! Continue reading

Letting Go: A Lesson from the Camino

Note: This is the full version of the article published in the December 2018 newsletter for American Pilgrims on the Camino (See “Letting Go” on page 7 of La Concha).

While there are many lessons that the Camino has provided, the greatest one for me has been to let go, both literally and figuratively. I am filled with gratitude for the lessons.

First, the literal letting go of stuff. After my first Camino, I had the urge to purge my closets. I realized that if I could survive with just a few items in a backpack, I really didn’t need all these clothes, some of which hadn’t been worn in years. I hadn’t noticed that I accumulated an embarrassing amount of stuff over 20 years of living in the same house. During the “Great Purge of 2016,”  I divvied up piles and offered them to my workmates, consignment shops and Goodwill. It felt good to know that someone can use stuff I didn’t need. The reward of having less made my choices easier. Whew! I vowed to not buy more and continue the purge on an ongoing basis.

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Let All Who Are Thirsty Come

Mel Soriano from Pasadena, California, is on his fifth Camino and is currently in Ponte de Lima, the place I started my Camino Portugués last year.  I am recommending Mel’s blog, Let All Who Are Thirsty Come, plus a few related links below. He is on a spiritual journey and eloquently shares his experience through stories, hymns, prayers, and photographs.  In his own words, he’s “Nomadic geek, Episcopalian, Pilgrim, mobile/data integrator, husband, fiscal progressive IMMIGRANT.”  He is also on the board of Integrity USA, the LGBTQ group affiliated with the Episcopal Church. For Mel, the Camino pilgrimage is about healing, contemplation, gratitude, and meeting people.

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Happy Mother’s Day

I’ve been writing up a storm lately, and I really need to pack for my Camino, but I couldn’t resist a quick toast all the moms out there. For they have the most important job there is. Cheers to all the moms!

I’ve been playing with the Facebook Messenger Snap Chat thingy. Check out the birdies. My mom gave me the cross pendant for confirmation. I love the surprise effect of mama and baby bird!

In service today, Father Dan said something along these lines, “God is the father. . . Wait, scratch that, God is the mother. How many times do we hear ‘God is father’ in the gospel, but really, God is not a specific gender. What’s more, God’s love is unconditional, like a mother’s love for her child.”  Amen.

Fr. Dan also quoted a recent comic from The New Yorker. “The prodigal son returns to do his laundry.” Continue reading

Fátima Memories

Today, Pope Francis was in Fátima to canonize Jacinta and Francisco, two of the children who reported seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary in a field in Portugal. This sighting took place one-hundred years ago, and made Fátima one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in the world. Learn more about the Fatima pilgrimage in this video.

My pre-Camino tour of Portugal included a night stay in Fátima. Most tours just stop there for a day, but because we stayed in a hotel right next to shrine, I was able to attend the candlelight procession in the evening, as well as the mass at the cathedral the next morning.

Candlelight mass before the procession.

The experience was deeply moving. It was just one day before leaving for my Camino, and during a time of my rekindled faith. After this candlelight ceremony, I pondered the idea of getting a blessing before my journey. Continue reading

Santiago Highlights: The Cathedral, from Roof to Crypt

Continued from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Santiago.

This post covers some of the fascinating aspects of the cathedral, including the rooftop tour, holy doors, botafumeiro, crypt, as well as the rites of embracing the apostle, and attending a pilgrim mass.

Rooftop tour of the Cathedral

If you enjoy great views, I recommend the Santiago cathedral rooftop tour. I did the Spanish tour because that was the only tour available on my last day. When I return to Santiago in June, I will book the English-speaking version of the tour.

Model of the cathedral

Model of the cathedral

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Santiago

I found God.

Well, maybe that is not so funny. However, it is what I least expected to get out of my experience on the Camino. So now here I am, two weeks away from being confirmed as a Catholic. How did that happen? Confirmation was never something I felt I needed. In fact, I resented the Catholic church most of my life, and I still have some issues with it.  If you recall from a previous post, My Rekindled Faith,  our family stopped going to church after my parents’ divorce. I completely lost trust in the church until my mom busted a myth that I held since childhood.

I will discuss what I’m doing for the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) in another post. For now, I just want to reassure my blog readers that I did not join a cult and nobody persuaded me to be “saved.” I was not preached to by any pilgrims, and I will not preach to anyone else. I just followed my vibe and realized that now is the right time, and my local parish is the right place.  A year ago I would have never thought I would be blogging about God, but this is part of my Camino. Now I see that the Camino really does provide, in more ways than I ever imagined.

Entrance to the Santiago Cathedral through the Holy Doors

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Ideas for Lent that don’t include giving up chocolate

For the first time in my life, I plan to practice Lent. I decided to attend Ash Wednesday service at UC Berkeley’s Newman Hall tonight on my way home from work.  I figured I wouldn’t get weird stares all day about the smudge on my forehead. Why would I do this? To make a long story short, the Camino brought me closer to God, and I decided to be confirmed as a Catholic. I am going through all the ceremonial rites and attending the adult confirmation classes at my parish. You may recall from a previous post, that I was a bad Catholic through my first Communion and a skeptic thereafter. But events in the last year encouraged a change of heart. This has all been part of my “inner Camino” which I will write about in due time. For now, let’s get to some ideas to consider for the 40 days of Lent.

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Intentions for 2017

I might be a little delayed in this post as the talk of new year’s resolutions has mostly faded away by now. I do have a good reason: on January 5, I had a minor surgery which forced me to slow down and heal. All is well, and I have recovered rather quickly. However, I believe that it is never too late to set intentions. Each new year gives us the opportunity to set our intentions and reflect on the previous year. My intentions for 2016 included two of my passions: yoga and the Camino, both of which were transformative in different ways. Last year also threw some challenges and surprises my way: the unexpected illness; a change in travel plans; the presidential election results; a rekindling of my faith; and a renewed connection with a family member. I believe it is good to be flexible and not too attached to a particular goal because something better might come along! You can’t go wrong if you follow your heart and listen to your intuition. At the end of this post, I share a few tools that you might find helpful: a five-minute meditation; an article on setting intentions; a spiritual reading; and an intention template that you can download and customize.

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My Rekindled Faith

When my mom and I were on our tour in Fátima, Portugal, I had to ask her about something that had bothered me since childhood. When she and my father got a divorce, our neighborhood church turned her away. I couldn’t understand this because my Mormon friends down the street had the support of the entire local Mormon congregation when their parents got a divorce. They brought over casseroles, babysat, and donated clothes and school supplies. By contrast, my mom, who had attended Catholic school and went to church every day, had nobody to help her. That’s the reason why I had resented the Catholic Church for most of my life. Continue reading