Sunday, February 28, 2021

El Camino - The Way #12

Luckily for us we had been in Spain on one of our previous European adventures so we already were somewhat familiar with the Madrid airport - it was no problem taking the tram inside the airport to the bank of taxis waiting outside which took us to the train station where we caught our scheduled train to Pamplona.  We had arranged our overnight flight so that we would arrive early enough that we would get the train to Pamplona where we would arrive early enough to get dinner and a good nights sleep before stepping out onto the Camino path.  It was also a bit of luck that our hotel was immediately on the Camino path - so early the next morning we checked out and were sent on our way by the clerk with a hearty - Buen Camino - a phrase that we would hear a hundred times or more during our pilgrimage.  All the locals - clerks - sales people knew immediately that we were pilgrims by the back packs and trekking poles that were our constant companions.  Stepping outside the hotel we spied the silver Camino shell - the symbol of the Camino - imbedded into the concrete sidewalk - pointing our way to Santiago.  When the sidewalk ended and the path was replaced by gravel and dirt the marker was replaced by a concrete pillar with the same symbol and a yellow arrow - both pointing the way onward to Santiago. That Camino symbol and yellow arrow would lead us the entire way to the Cathedral where the bones of Saint James laid. 

Whenever we take a journey - we constantly look for markers - signs that we are on the right path - heading in the right direction.  Today - the Second Sunday of Lent - takes us from last Sunday's beginning onwards towards the fullness of Lent - our eventual celebration of Easter - the resurrection of Jesus.  Today - another day on pilgrimage - we continue - refreshed by the Eucharist we just  received.

Deacon Dale 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

El Camino - The Way #11

Star Trek - To go where no man has gone before - Fortunately - unlike the TV series - many who walk the Camino de Santiago have traveled previously in foreign countries - experienced back packing in the wild. To travel - far from home - means you move out of your comfort zone - have an adventurous spirit - willing to step into the unknown - willing to risk - in order to gain.  If you have not already begun your Lenten journey - today is your starting day - today you took that first step - you picked up your Bible - opened to page one of that book you selected to start reading - opened the pamphlet you got on how to pray the Rosary - Divine Mercy Chaplet - said your first prayer - asked Jesus to bless whatever you decided to do. Although we had been doing international travel for the previous fourteen years - we had never done any serious backpacking - not counting an overnight camping trip with the kids.  For us to walk into the airport in Chicago with only a small back pack with all our needs - small enough to qualify for a carry on - holding less than a dozen items to wear for the next five weeks - two hundred dollars in cash - along with our passports - ID cards and two credit/debit cards - took guts. Being in our late 60's - no contacts in Spain - the closest contacts back home in Illinois - was a bit scary - but we knew we had each other - Jesus - His Angels - walking with us.

Our Camino Angels

As all of us walk our Lenten journey - no matter how well it goes - doesn't go - no matter what road blocks we end up facing - we know we will endure - we will progress forward - even in times when we come to a sudden halt - we will continue on.  Jesus walks with everyone of us - His angels constantly at our sides - walking with us - before us making clear our path - that our journey during these 40 days will be constantly blessed.  

Deacon Dale 

Friday, February 26, 2021

El Camino - The Way #10

Once we had experienced El Camino de los Santos - walking from St Patrick Church in Yorkville to The Shrine of Saint Mary in Plano and back to the site of the future Shrine of Saint Giana at Saint Patrick - we noticed a few things that pointed to possible issues that we would face once in Spain.  A positive point - the trail in Spain was a thousand years old - well established - the majority kept pilgrims on paths safely away from traffic - our path in Illinois was a first time effort that required us walking over virgin soil - sometimes on the edge of country roads - too close to traffic for comfort.  Luckily the time we walked on the edge of roads was minimal - it is good to note that in the last eight years a permanent cycling - walking path has been constructed between the two towns - walking today - much safer.  When we walked in 2013 there was basically no amenities available - today the new path follows safely to the side of State Route 34 - now with food and restrooms easily available.  In Spain - on the Camino Francis portion of The Camino - very highly developed with food - restrooms - pilgrim hostels in abundance.  This short Camino taught us the value of maintaining a steady pace - not too slow - not too fast.  We had already determined it best to stick to a 2 1/2 to 3 miles per hour pace - steady enough not to become boring - not too fast to tire ourselves out. 

Following Arlene's Red Pack 

Once a path is selected - the journey begins - now almost a week into Lent - plans should have been finalized - if not started - this would be a good time. Ten days into Lent - 30 days remaining - still plenty of time to experience a fruitful Lenten journey.  Just as we did in Spain - begin with a prayer - pick up your pack - start your journey.  As you continue - pray constantly - in all you do - pray - never stop praying - your journey will bear much fruit.

Deacon Dale 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

El Camino - The Way #9

As part of our preparation we decided that the best way to test our equipment was to start walking once the weather became agreeable.  We started by walking with our back packs and doing a loop from our home and back starting at 2 1/2 miles and working up to a 5 mile loop.  The goal was to be able to walk three segments daily with sufficient breaks for bathroom and food reaching a total of 18 to 20 miles daily - the distance that we anticipated walking daily in Spain.  From that we developed a Mini Camino - El Camino de los Santos - The Walk to the Saints. Our Mini Camino took us from our home in Bristol to St Mary Church in Plano, IL.  Once we had completed that we added some elements from the Camino de Santiago - creating a small pilgrim passport along with a set of stamps that pilgrims would collect on their passport at check points along the way. In June of 2013 - we recruited a group and made the round trip from St. Patrick Church to St Mary Church and back - about 18 miles total. We gained good insight from that one day walk and at the same time introduced about 20 to the concept of a walking pilgrimage.  On that walk - many prayers - songs - spiritual discussion was shared.

As mentioned before Lent is not about how much you do - what you do - where you do it.  It's all about doing old things you are familiar with - trying new things - being open to different ideas - concepts.  If you are not familiar with the Rosary - Divine Mercy Chaplet - sitting in Adoration - reading spiritual books - now is a great time to investigate them. Taking time to stop walking - to sit - be quiet - listen for the voice of God - the best time ever.

Deacon Dale 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

El Camino - The Way #8

The question many people asked us - so what did you take with you - a favorite talking point among those who are considering walking The Camino. Besides the very extensive conversation on what type of shoe is best for walking 500 miles - the second most animated conversation is how big of a back pack do you bring and what you put inside it. Considering the average person will spend a full month walking the Camino - living out of a single back pack and the essentials required to be able to survive a new bed - new hostel - new location - daily - does require serious thought. Our final list - 1 back pack - 1 Sleeping bag - 3 Undies - 2 pair to carry - 2 Bra - Wool socks - 2 pair - 2 Tech t-shirt short sleeve - 1 Tech t-shirt long sleeve - 1 hiking shorts - 1 pr zip off convertible pants - 1 compression sack - 1 sack for miscellaneous items ie toothbrush - toothpaste - hiking Headlight & batteries - guidebook - small digital camera - iPhone - charger - down jacket - platypus zip bag water system 1- mini iPad - medicines - first aid kit.  total weight  Arlene a 28 liter back pack 5.6 Kg/12.3lbs  Dale a 32 liter back pack 6.6Kg/14.4lbs (with out water) Adding water added about 2 pounds to each back pack.  
Arlene's Pack 

Not included in our weight allowance was the clothing we would wear as well as our trekking poles since would be using as we walked.  Of course with few items - doing daily laundry - in a sink with cold water.  Hiking with minimal things to worry about made it easier to focus on the task at hand.  As in Lent - primary focus - prayer - multiple Rosaries every day - Divine Mercy Chaplets - spoken - sung - intercessory prayers for dozens of people - our parish - priests - deacons - our bishop - Pope.  Our guide book told us what path to walk - markers to look for - distances to walk - filling the hours between markers - meals - breaks - with constant prayer.  This Lent - similar - isolated from the rest of the world - our days filled with prayers - taking breaks only for essential activities.  You too can walk this same path - filling the day with a selection of prayers of your choosing.

Deacon Dale 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

El Camino - The Way #7

In our research preparing to walk the 500 mile Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain we read frequently about pilgrims who had done exactly what we were doing regarding research - testing - returning - selecting various equipment to ensure that their pilgrimage would go without any issues - carrying a single back pack with only the essentials - weighing each item - selecting those that weighed the least - making sure that we would achieve the recommend weight for ultra lightweight back packing.  This pack - would be home for the duration of our pilgrimage.  All well and good until you arrived in Spain - only to find that your baggage - your single back pack was lost!  What to do - sit around - wait - to see if it was found - go shopping in Spain - hoping to find someplace to replace your carefully selected list of items?  Some waited - others with limited time to walk - gave in and spent extra money so they could start walking as soon as possible.  The alternate option - use carry on only - thus limiting the size and weight of your pack and ensuring that all you needed never left your eyesight.  As seen in the photo below everything pictured fit into our back packs. Arlene used a 28 Liter pack and I used a 32 Liter pack - 4 pods each - consisting of a sleeping sack - clothing sack - rain gear - miscellaneous items - hiking shoes - sandals for evening - trekking poles - sun hat - guide book - pilgrim passport. 

Camino Gear X Two 

Jesus had to be one of the early ultra lightweight trekkers - wearing a single robe - a pair of sandals and a walking staff - carrying only some water and enough food to get Him to His next destination. To walk far - carry less.  As we walk our Lenten journey we are well advised to follow that same rule - to go far - carry less.  Your Lenten journey does not have to be complex - you do not have to accomplish every spiritual observation available.  Bible - prayer book(s) - Rosary - video clips - time in Adoration - Holy Hour - all - some - none - all ok.  Remember the goal - improving your spiritual life - growing closer to Jesus - His Father.  In time - with God - all things are possible.

Deacon Dale 

Monday, February 22, 2021

El Camino - The Way #6

There are a lot of aspects to preparing for any pilgrimage - the research - acquiring various supplies - making lists - like Santa Claus - checking it twice - crossing all the T's - dotting all the I's.  Once you leave home - get to the airport - board the plane - too late to realize you forgot something.  Because of  this we bought equipment - took it home - tested it - returned if not up to our expectations.  For my hiking shoes - tried six different pairs - even then - final selection was off just enough that I had to cope with blisters.  Can't walk far with blisters - until you are forced to do just that.  After thirty minutes or so you forget you have a blister - you walk on for another eight hours - then you cope.  So this Lent you jumped in and got started on your journey - only to realize you forgot something - a minor point - until you remembered - then that minor point became a major point.  At this time we just celebrated the First Sunday of Lent - so as mentioned before - we are at an early stage of this journey - what we forgot - can still be added in - this journey of ours is fluid - open to change - open to sudden halts - open to God's voice when we take the time to listen.

When Jesus wanted to listen to His Father - went into the desert - away from the crowds - off by Himself. As we walk our journey today - we need to be open to making unplanned changes in our itinerary.  As long as we focus on our eventual goal - no harm in making changes in our plans - taking a turn here or there - not an issue as long as we keep our eventual goal in mind. Jesus was open to changes in His plans - we should be no different. Didn't read as much as you planned - say a quick impromptu prayer - a Hail Mary - Glory Be - Our Father - then stop for the day.  Tomorrow will come again - it always does.

Deacon Dale 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

El Camino - The Way #5

Whenever anyone decides to walk a pilgrimage - one of the first things to do is learn the language - how to greet other pilgrimage - learn directions - left - right - up - down - words that you know by heart so that these minor things do not impede your journey.  On our spiritual pilgrimage - still a few words that we should know.  Patience - quiet - meditation - reflection - humility - penance - praise - thankfulness - persistence - prayer. On a walking pilgrimage one will need water - food - walking sticks - good shoes - a change or two of clothing - other basic necessities.  On a spiritual journey a similar need - books - pen and pencil - writing papers - a Bible - other prayer guides - comfortable places and spaces - drink - food & snacks - a cup or glass.  Although we may walk in the desert with Jesus - no need to starve oneself or deprive oneself of basic needs.  All these on any journey helps us to ignore everyday items so that we may focus on what is above.

Jesus told His disciples to go - to venture out with only the necessities - so they could focus on their mission.  Likewise - when we journey during Lent - the necessities close at hand - our main focus on what we are doing with our spirituality.  There are 40 days of Lent so no need to rush through this experience - better to venture slowly - taking in all that He wants us to experience.  Stopping during the day - during prayer time - to reflect and take in what is happening - far more important that what we have covered.  Steady - slowly - step by step - we begin our Lent.

Deacon Dale  

Saturday, February 20, 2021

El Camino - The Way #4

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela was the focus of "The Way" - a movie that I viewed  written by Emilio Estevez and starring actor Martin Sheen. It is a moving story of a father and son and of a very special journey. As a deacon whose primary ministry these days is promoting pilgrimages - this movie - opened my eyes to what I would consider one of the ultimate pilgrimage experiences.  While the normal pilgrimages I promote involve traveling to distant lands - Israel and the Holy Land - Italy and The Vatican - involving ten or eleven days - The Way - promotes a walking pilgrimage of some 800 Kilometers (497 miles) that takes anywhere from a minimum of two weeks up to a month or more to complete. It does not feature air-conditioned buses and four-star hotels - rather, gravel paths and inexpensive hostels. It is a pilgrimage walked by some two hundred thousand or so pilgrims yearly - for the past thousand years. It is a journey - not into impressive cathedrals and basilicas - but rather into one's own heart - and the hearts of fellow pilgrims on the way.  It requires special preparation - good hiking boots - stamina - to complete the journey.

Jesus was not unfamiliar with walking - visiting places outside of His home town.  He walked with a purpose - His mission - to spread the Good News to anyone who would listen. He traveled light - He traveled with companions. His walks brought Him to many places and peoples - into the hearts of those who met Him - and even today - into the hearts of people who He never saw. As we walk our own journeys this Lent - we need to walk with intent - with conviction - with honesty - with God. Wherever our travels take us - The Holy Land - The Vatican - The local shopping mall - we walk as modern day disciples - we carry Jesus in our hearts - we share the Good News - we show what modern day disciples look like. May our paths meet one day - on The Way - during this Lenten season. 

Deacon Dale 

Friday, February 19, 2021

El Camino - The Way #3

After we made the decision to commit to this walking pilgrimage there was a lot of things that we had to figure out before we even got too deep into this project.  First was a reasonable time line. Our group pilgrimages were normally 10 or 12 days and except for the spiritual things we led - all else was arranged for us by our travel partners. In order for us to plan this pilgrimage just for the two of us to accomplish that - we had to do a lot of research so we knew what we were getting involved with.  Reading books - searching the internet - joining Camino groups to be able to connect with others who had already walked this pilgrimage took up the first few months of research.  We knew that we would have to do some practice walks with whatever equipment we would need. Living in Illinois - we knew  that we would focus on everything but actual walking due to the snow and cold weather.  Therefore, our first six months of preparation was reading and researching - investigating the required equipment - testing it in home - returning - exchanging - until we were comfortable with our decision. One of the most challenging was finding someone to watch our dog for six weeks. The second - preparing ourselves to live out of a back pack for 6 weeks was another.  For all journeys - spiritual or otherwise - good planning required. 

Screen Shot - The Way 

As we begin Lent - many will know in advance what Lenten observances they will do.  Many others are still investigating.  For those who start immediately with Ash Wednesday - good for them.  For those who have yet to start - no problem - plenty of time.  The goal of Lent is to observe some practice that will help one grow closer to Jesus - develop a better spiritual life.  As with many things - quality versus quantity - the goal.  

*Note: I posted a short video clip in the previous post but some could not view so trying a second time.  Click here >

Deacon Dale 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

El Camino - The Way #2

El Camino - Spanish meaning - The Way.  For this Lent my intent is to help lead everyone on a journey from Ash Wednesday through the 40 days of Lent - ending at the celebration of Easter. This journey will follow the journey that my wife and I made in the fall of 2013 - when we did a walking pilgrimage - starting at our home in Illinois to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  A journey that began in October 2012 and ended in October 2013. The back story - we had been invited by a friend to view the movie starring Martin Sheen called The Way.  At the end my wife turned to me and asked "how would you like to do this?"  I replied  it was only a movie - but turned to the computer to verify - my surprise - to learn that The Way - El Camino de Santiago de Compostela was a legitimate pilgrimage going back a thousand years or more. After some serious discussion - we made the commitment to learn - prepare - execute that pilgrimage.  The video below is a short overview of The Way 

Camino Video Clip

At that point in time we had already been gaining experience on international travel during the previous thirteen years - selecting places to visit - learning languages - local customs -  travel requirements so we could confidently travel to foreign places - initially just the two of us - then - starting in 2010 leading pilgrimages of groups to Israel - Poland - Italy.  Any undertaking like this takes Faith.  Faith in God - Faith in ourselves - Faith that we would be able to actually do this.  Just as we begin our Lenten journey - all of us pray that we will be able to walk these next days in Faith.

Deacon Dale 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ashes - The Way #1

Like the mythical Phoenix who obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor today - ASH WEDNESDAY - the day in churches around the world - when ashes are placed on the heads of believers of all ages.  Ashes from the palms waived last year on Palm Sunday - celebrating Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem - now burned and sprinkled on the heads of believers - reminding everyone that all is not lost - that new life awaits those with hope.  

As we see those ashes - blessed - sprinkled - a sign of Hope that this Lent we will do it right - that we will honestly devote more time to prayer - meditation - reflection - on ourselves - our personal relationship with Jesus - His Father - the Holy Spirit.  Lent is very private - a personal time - observed in community - as we consider how we - as an individual - fit into God's plan for ourselves - those around us.  We Fast - We Pray - We Offer to others - that in our sharing - we are able to feel the touch of the Divine - in our life.

In Lent - we arise from the ashes of our past - to New Life

Deacon Dale 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Putting Some Fat Into Tuesday

Not everyone observes Fat Tuesday.  In some cultures that observance is practiced the Thursday prior to the traditional Fat Tuesday experience. While most Americans will celebrate Fat Tuesday today as the traditional final indulgence before the start of Lent - some are already beginning festivities with Fat Thursday. Yes, it's real.  Fat Thursday, six days before Ash Wednesday, is the traditional beginning of festivities in many European cultures that lead up to the beginning of Lent, a solemn 40-day period on the Christian calendar. People of Polish heritage are among those who celebrate Fat Thursday.  The traditional treat - the Polish jelly doughnut -  Pączki - is consumed by all.  It is on Fat Thursday/Tuesday that people focus on what ever indulgence they select prior to a period of extended fasting - prayers - alms giving.  Today they enjoy - celebrate - tomorrow - Ash Wednesday - they will repent.

For some - filling the stomach with an excess of sweets - then repenting - is how as a community many prepare for a long solemn period of self denial and prayer.  With God at our side - this can be one of the best spiritual observances one can participate in. 

Deacon Dale 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Valentines - How Do You Love?

How do I love thee - let me count the ways.  Easy to do when you are thinking about your spouse - child - parent - loved one.  When we look at those we love - lots of ways to describe them - their attributes - character - cuteness - good - funny qualities.  Without a doubt - very loveable.  In todays scriptures - people much harder to love - lepers - those who are diseased - physical defects - mental issues - older - aged - worn by the ravages of time - wrinkled - people struggling with their very lives - desperately trying to fit in - find happiness in a troubled world. 

All too many people are too quick to cast aside those who do not meet their expectation of beauty - charm - intellect - attractiveness.   Guilty of judging the book by the cover - looking only at the superficial.  Wise people know that physical beauty is only skin deep - the true beauty of an individual so often not visible to the human eye. When God looks at us - He sees deep to the soul - the interior of our being - our minds - hearts - our very spirit - our ability to either love as is - to reject based only on physical appearance. God calls us to love each other based on who we are - inside.  As we quickly approach the Season of Lent - now is a great time to ask ouselves - who do we love and why.

Deacon Dale 

Sunday, February 7, 2021


In today's first reading from JOB 7:1-4,6-7 we are told life is a drudgery - a long - never ending chore - a job.  Interestingly JOB also translates as job - something to be done - a task to perform.  As we read further - we come to realize  that none of us really knows the mind of God - what He asks of us - what He can do for us.  Once we begin to understand - grasp His power - the extent of His love - ability to walk with us in our lives - then and only then - can we even begin to comprehend His expansiveness.  None of us will ever truly know the mind of God.

Accepting Jesus as God the Son of God - understanding His ministry to us - helps draw us closer to God - who He is - our relationship to Him. Through prayer - worship - becoming an active disciple of Jesus - helps us to create a connection to God.  Staying connected to Him gives us the strength to continue our journey as a productive disciple of His.

Deacon Dale