I had been walking the Meseta for a couple of days and felt I had entered a different phase of the Camino. There were fewer people, stops and shelter, along with much less variety in the terrain and an elusive horizon far off in the distance. Everything seemed to stretch out. Maybe I had stretched out too; I had certainly slowed down. At last I seemed to accept that there was no such thing as getting ahead.
When I arrived in Carrión de los Condes, I headed for the parish albergue where I met two beautiful young nuns, Maria from Spain and Diane from Peru. At the check-in desk, Maria sat with the male hospitalero inviting pilgrims to join her and Diane for a sing-song before evening Mass. At the appointed time, about twenty of us sat in the foyer in anticipation of being entertained – well, that’s what I anticipated anyway – but before any singing began, we were each asked to introduce ourselves and say what we were looking for from the Camino. I hadn’t expected that. Not only did I feel the discomfort of the truth in the pit of my stomach, I was also first in line to speak. With a shaky voice and a pounding heart I said I was looking for oneness, and just to add to my discomfort, I was asked to repeat what I had said! My mind questioned then whether I had said too much – or perhaps too little; had I been understood? Worst of all, had I sounded too holy?
After Mass the priest, with the help of Maria’s translation, invited the pilgrim congregation to join him around the altar to receive a blessing. Twenty or so of us stood in readiness for what I anticipated would be a group blessing when unexpectedly, the priest asked us to approach him individually. As he laid his hands on each person’s head, Diane sang in joyful accompaniment, and when I looked over at her through my tears she just nodded. I felt she was saying, yes, it’s all here for you. Then when it was my turn, I walked slowly and as consciously as I could to stand in front of the priest. It was an experience I wanted to savour. I didn’t want to miss a thing, and when I received the blessing, I felt the innocent gratitude of a child truly received. In fact it was like making my first communion all over again.
Over the previous two weeks I had received a number of blessings, some particularly special, but none compared to that night.