I stayed alone in a classroom last night in an oratorio. I guess I was the only non-scout non-youth pilgrim there. The teenaged pilgrims partied till 11pm and got up at 5am 😣. I could only say I am no longer young. Although I had my own room, the commotion of a hundred young people in the building early in the morning left me no choice but to start the day early as well.
Slightly sleep-deprived and constantly running into massive groups, I felt a little annoyed at first. But it didn’t take long before my mood lifted. The sceneries were really lovely. It’s the nicest day I had in the region of Lazio.
The morning walk in gentle hilly paths with 15 stations of the cross helped center my heart. I’m not Catholic, and don’t know how they ‘do’ the stations. I assume the Catholics walk through them, read some texts about Christ’s Passion and meditate upon them. (But I can be wrong.)
Well, I took the chance to make a little vow at each station I walked through instead, ‘doing the stations’ my way.
The vows are:
I. Be joyful: no matter what happens in life. Keep a joyful heart.
II. Be grateful: for the highs and the lows and the in-betweens.
III. Be kind: to myself and others.
IV. Be forgiving: for myself and others.
V. Be truthful: in actions and words.
VI. Be brave: dive into what I believe in even it looks scary to do so.
VII. Be trusting: always trust in the goodness of people and of life.
VIII. Be hospitable: I learn much of this from VF.
IX. Be gentle: to myself and others.
X. Be patient: always.
XI. Be persistent: especially when I decide to do something.
XII. Be mindful: of my body, needs, feelings. And others’.
XIII. Believe: believe in God, in myself and others.
XIV. Be giving.
After 14 stations, the path led me to a little church called Santuario della Madonna del Sorbo. No pilgrims went there because the VF signs pointed to the right to continue. But I was searching for station XV so I went uphill a bit to the Santuario.
It’s the kind of church I love. Simple. Old. Small. The altar is a half-dome covered by frescoes. I sat there to pray a bit. Tomorrow I will be in Rome. Oftentimes it’s a small old church where I feel more prayerful than being in a grandeur cathedral or basilica.
For the final station, XV, I vowed to “let go.” I think that the utimate test of life is in whether we can let go. On the crucifix, Christ, in his final breath, said, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
The English word “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath”. Breath is the very thing that sustains our life. To commit one’s final breath to God is the ultimate letting go.
I walked out of the church feeling really happy. It seemed an appropriate way to round up my pilgrimage. Afterwards I simply walked very slowly to enjoy the beauty of the walk itself. Meanwhile, the vows made me look at the young groups differently. Instead of feeling annoyed, I greeted them loudly, wishing them “buon cammino.” From France to Italy, I think I have been blessed with “have a good journey” over a thousand times. Why shouldn’t I be the one blessing those young folks?
The joyful mood brought me cute encounters with some farm animals. In France, I often talked to them (because there were no one around). But the animals don’t seem to be out and about in Italy. So I feel great that I could talk to a few today in Italy.
Before reaching La Storta, I saw a small waterfall. All the young people ran into it to cool off, and I didn’t want to miss my fun as well. So I also got myself soaking wet.
These final days I had not seen a pilgrim I met before on the road. Giovanni and Martine are ahead of me. Thomas, Victor and Flaminia are a stage behind me. I miss them but I am actually very glad to walk the final stretch by myself. I think it’s precisely what I need — to spend time with myself this way.
Yeah, tonight I have my own room in a bnb run by nuns in La Storta. It’s a bit pricey but I do need some decent sleep to prepare for my final day to ROMA!
(9 August 218)