Yes, what you are looking at is the largest steaming pile of manure you’ve ever seen. When you encounter something as funny and unusual as this, you take a photo immediately and worry about how to explain it later.  It is just one of the many incredible, unusual and humorous sights, sounds and smells I recently encountered when I traveled to Spain with my three sons and small group of other men to walk part of the Camino de Santiago de Compestela. In English, people call this “The Way of St. James.” This pilgrimage challenged us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We averaged 18 miles per day with 20 lbs. packs on our backs. We went up and down mountains and through intensive heat. It was hard. Very hard. But it was worth it.

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I tried to capture it many times, but photos just didn’t seem to do it justice.

 

The Camino is actually a series of ancient pilgrimage routes, all leading to the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago, Spain. It is to this location that the early Christians brought the remains of the apostle James the Greater, when he died. His bones now reside behind the main altar.

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St. James the Greater

Before he died, St. James had spent a good deal of time in this region of Spain, proclaiming the gospel, baptizing new Christians and performing miraculous healings through the power of the Holy Spirit sent by Christ after Christ ascended into heaven. Much like brooks, streams and rivers, the Camino is actually a series of many routes that feed into each other, coming together eventually to arrive in the same place. This place, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compestela in the Spanish region of Galicia, is the end point of the Camino. We decided on the classic route called the French Way. In total, it is nearly 500 miles long. We began about 110 miles from Santiago and in six days walked to the Cathedral.

 

In addition to the Camino, our group also visited Fatima, Portugal, together. It was in Fatima in 1917 that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three uneducated shepherd children over the course of six months. These astounding apparitions played quite a role in the geo-political events of the 20th century.

Our group numbered 13. Two of my classmates from Notre Dame, Mike Steinlage and Craig Tiller, each brought two sons. Then there was my long-time doctor, a Spanish priest, and an entertaining agnostic Jew named Larry. Quite a crew.

After Fatima, our group split in two. Half went home and half continued on to Toledo, Spain, one of the great medieval walled cities that still remain in the world. There we encountered the mother of all Eucharistic Processions – the great procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi. We had other adventures before continuing on to Madrid where we stayed for four days before returning home.

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Here’s part of the crew just before we left for the airport. From left to right: Nicholas (17), Joseph (16), Michael (19), Dad (49) and Dr. Jose (Joe) Bufill, my neighbor, friend and oncologist. Joe was the driving force behind making this pilgrimage a reality.

It is my calling in life to share my experiences with people in a thoughtful but fun way.  But this trip with my sons was so rich and multifaceted that without further motivation, I’d never be able to force myself to spend the time writing about it. So I’m writing these posts primarily for the benefit of my children and grandchildren. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. Everyone, however, is welcome to come along! That’s how we roll on the Side of the House!

 

Hopefully, with the Grace of God, I will share with you some of the adventures and stories of the people, places and things we encountered. It was an amazing journey. As they say in Galicia, “Buen Camino!”

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