A Very Special Pilgrim Blessing


Another tradition for peregrinos (pilgrims) who walk the Camino de Santiago is for them to go to their priest or pastor before they leave and receive the ‘traditional pilgrim blessing’ (see below).  Through Brian’s involvement with the Catholic Worker we had met Father Peter Gyves, a Jesuit priest with Our Lady of Guadalupe Church which serves a predominantly Spanish speaking population.  Before he became a priest Fr. Peter served as a physician in El Salvador.  I think that  really spoke to both Brian and I because of our Peace Corps experience.  We also learned that he’d been at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, where Brian got his degree, and where Brian developed an affection for the Jesuits.  We contacted Fr. Peter who told us to come to the 9 am mass yesterday, which was in English and at which he’d be officiating.  We met him about 15 minutes before time and he explained that he would call us up to the front of the church after communion and do the blessing then.  (That is often the time that he does other blessings, babies, anniversaries, etc.)

What an incredible experience this whole mass was!  To start, the processional was led in by a mariachi band, who provided all the music and singing during the mass.  Fr. Peter’s homily was about what happened after the resurrection.  He talked about how the apostles traveled out to spread the gospel, including St. James who went to Spain where he is called Santiago, and how pilgrims, since about the 9th century, had followed the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, to trace his journey and honor his spirit.  He mentioned that after communion he’d be giving a blessing to two people who were about to start out on this 500 mile journey.  After communion and the announcements, he called us forward and explained to people what we would be doing.  He asked everyone to pray for us, and asked us to pray for him and for the parishioners.  He raised his hand above our heads, and asked the parishioners to extend their hands toward us while he read the blessing.   At the end of the blessing, he gave us each a big hug to the loud applause of the parishioners!


What an incredible send off!!   I still feel a glow from this very emotional experience, which I have to confess, brought tears to the eyes of this non-Catholic!  If you have never been to this church, it is certainly worth a visit.  A very welcoming place! http://olgsd.org/

We were also really delighted to have Catholic Worker friends, Betsey and Howard, there to support us and join us for breakfast following mass.   And tomorrow it’s off to Paris!

Pilgrims Blessing
“Oh God, You who took up your servant Abraham from the city of Ur of the
Chaldeans, watching over him in all his wanderings.

You who were the guide of the Hebrew people in the desert, we ask that You deign
to take care of these your servants who, for love of your name, make a pilgrimage
to Compostela.

Be a companion for them along the path, a guide at crossroads, strength in their
weariness, defense before dangers, shelter on the way, shade against the heat, light
in the darkness, a comforter in their discouragements, and firmness in their
intentions, in order that, through your guidance, they might arrive unscathed at the end of their
journey and, enriched with graces and virtues, they might return safely to their
homes, which now lament their absence, filled with salutary and lasting joy.
Through Jesus Christ Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, descend on you.

All: Amen.







Our Pilgrim Shells

Scallop shells have long been associated with St. James and pilgrims. In medieval times pilgrims pilgrims carried shells and probably used them to drink water.  Today shells are the symbols used as way marks along the Camino, and those walking The Way still wear them on their packs to show their status as pilgrims. Chris and Rachel gave us each a shell from her shell collection. Hm…how to get holes in them? Of course, my first thought was Roger, our former Scoutmaster, a devoted backpacker, who is very handy with tools, and also happens to be a dentist.  I actually wasn’t thinking of a dental drill, but Roger assured me that one of his diamond drills would do the trick, and the shells wouldn’t feel any pain!  He did a wonderful job and found some strong stings for them. Now we are official pilgrims!  Thanks Chris, Rachel and Roger!Image.

Donna ‘ s New Camino ‘Do’

So, when we were hiking, that long (youthful) blond hair would blow in my face, eyes and mouth or stick to the sunscreen on my face.  What to do?? To get it cut meant that only the ‘old lady’ gray on top would be left.  “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”

But the practical finally won out……..  My first selfie.  Yikes, I look like my grandmother.  (Oh, that’s right, I am a grandmother.)  Why does the selfie have to emphasize your double chin so much???Image

Testing Out Our Cold Weather Gear


On the Camino we will have three mountains or mountain ranges to cross. The first will be the Pyrenees, on the first two days. About 2/3 of the way through we’ll go over the Cantabrian Mountains and finally about a week from the end, the mountains of Galicia, known for their cold, wet and foggy weather. None of the mountains is over 5,000’, but they can have cold weather. Last year, a couple who left St. Jean the last week of April, only a week before we will leave St. Jean, ran into a blizzard going over the Pyrenees (where Martin Sheen’s son died in the movie “The Way”). They had to turn back, and the authorities closed the pass for three days! Pilgrims had to take the lower route. Of course, many other years it was fine.

But we want to be prepared for cold weather and wanted to test out our layering systems. That’s a little hard to do when you live in a place where the ‘winter’ temperatures don’t get much below 55. That’s been especially true this winter, as we have had an unusually warm winter. Temps have mostly been in the 60’s and 70’s.

So during the past couple days a cold winter storm came in, leaving us much needed rain along the coast and snow in the mountains. We decided it was a perfect time to go to the mountains and test out our gear.

It was about 60 when we left the beach at about 9:30, heading out route 8 for the Cuyamacas. It remained about that until we got past El Cajon and began climbing. Then it began dropping very quickly! We made the turn off for 79 and started up the mountain where we began to see a light snow covering on trees and ground especially around Stonewall Peak.

As we pulled into Paso Picacho Campground the car’s reading for the outside temp read 37 degrees! Yikes! We paid our fees, and went looking for johns. The first were closed, but we passed a number of tent campers, snow still surrounding their tents, most packing up and heading out. We couldn’t remember when we’d last been in weather that cold! There was also a strong wind, so the wind chill factor made it even colder than the 37.

We put on our layers, Brian donned his pack, and we headed out, briefly getting hailed on! We found a short trail and decided to do a short walk.

I hadn’t been in this area since the huge fires a number of years ago and was shocked and saddened to see the burned out and barren hillsides. After we’d walked about a quarter of a mile or so we saw a dark and ominous cloud quickly approaching.

Brian wasn’t sure if he had his pack cover and I didn’t want to overdo it with my ankle, so we headed back to the car, very happy to get out of the wind. But basically we learned that our layer systems worked. Brian decided to bring Chris’ warm jacket and I decided to leave mine at home.

And where else would you head after getting chilled in the mountains….off to ‘Mom’s’ in Julian for home made split pea & ham soup, half a sandwich and, of course, a famous apple pie to take home!