Camino Aragonés to Lourdes

Camino Aragonés to Lourdes_IMG_000000_000000

The Camino Aragonés comes over the Pyrenees at Somport. It follows the River Aragon to Sanguessa, going on to join the Camino Francés in Obanos just before Puente de la Reina. My pilgrimage, heading away from Santiago, began in Javier on the spot where Francis Xavier waved goodbye to the place he was born as he set off on his journey to India and the East from which he was never to return.



Basílica and Castle, Javier, Navarre


I wonder too if this is not my last long pilgrimage. I am aiming for Assisi. Pilgrims know that their destination is somewhat aleatory. In my time in education I held firmly that journeys of discovery had no fixed destination. Now, with age, I take another quote, from R.S.Thomas : “It is too late for destinations not of the heart.”   I am being led as I head for Assisi.  I want to uncover the Gospel message in all its rawness and Franciscan bareness. I sense that behind 2000 years of plaster, gold leaf and veneer who Jesus was and what he said is very simple: hence Assisi. Also it’s fashionable to go there just now.


An extraordinary, hidden abbey in Tarasteix. A time capsule of all Christian history and life.


Heidegger left us with an insight into the meaning of “Truth” which seems appropriate for the pilgrim in all of us. Aletheia  (αλήθεια) is translated as the Greek word for “Truth”. Heidegger saw it more as the “opening up of presence”. I am sure that Pilgrims on a contemplative path will feel this resonate. My own pilgrimage just now has so far taken me to Lourdes where the temptation is to wonder what really happened here in 1858.


We can put aside questions of fact whenever we like.

I cannot imagine that Jesus’ mum appeared to Bernadette here. Truth though is much more than a question about whether it all happened according to scripture or tradition. Yet something did happen in Lourdes in 1858 and repeatedly since then, just as something happened in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. Place, silence, ritual, symbol, imagination, communion and humility blend into an infusion which reveals presence and love. Being there.


Door in Canfranc.

Covering up

As far as I know Heidegger saw “Truth” as the uncovering of Being. For me I know my ego constantly works to cover up Being, to re-write history and transform the world in my own image. This, I think, operates in all spheres and orbs of Life with the exception of mathematics and, possibly, music. Importantly, the Catholic Church, especially in declaring itself the sole arbiter and guardian of Truth, has worked hard to bury Being itself, God’s presence among us, under centuries of theological definitions and doctrines. I want to know what Jesus actually said.


Truth in the cloud.

Listening for presence

So my pilgrimage, unsurprisingly, has begun by meeting Christ one day after another. I ask in prayer, as I begin to walk each day, to hear the basic Gospel message. Each day I have met someone who is meek, bereaved, hungry, poor, abandoned, excluded, ill….and also many others who look out for these people and care for them. Quite a few of these appear to be pretty “odd” people. Normal folk probably  don’t fill their homes with strangers who have severe social difficulties and smell a lot. My prayer is answered in abundance each day. I am an observer, it seems, for the moment.


A pilgrimage group, with their ill companions, gathered around the Grotto in Lourdes



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