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I fell asleep on the window seat last night while reading a book on my ipad. The moon shining large and bright woke me at 3am. Rather than go back to sleep, I stayed up to watch the moon. It occurred to me that I am often looking towards the light, be it the sky, the sun, a window, candles. Sometimes that light shines on me, other times I can only see it from a distance, shining on something or someone else.

Now as I watched the light reflected on the water, it shimmered, it danced.

And as I watched the moon, I thought about the last few days, weeks, and months that felt like darkness for many and how each night I looked for the stars and the moon in the sky. Because I knew in the darkest day and in the darkest night there would still be light. I also know that sometimes only in darkness will I notice light, it is there all the time but I do not see it.

One of my favorite places to sit in darkness is in chapel during Compline when the cooler weather brings longer nights. A couple of candles are the only source of light and the dark chapel feels like a blanket I can wrap around me. Everything else fades and all I can see clearly are the candles. At times like these, I am reminded that night and darkness can be holy, but with our limited vision, we need light from a source, so we can find our way.

During my pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago, my group stayed a night in a hotel located in a fairly busy part of Tui, Spain. My room had a small balcony and I looked out to see how much would be illuminated and if I might be able to see the dark sky that night. I felt disappointed at all the buildings and street lamps I could see in the distance. I would not be able to see the night sky.

After a late supper, a few in our group decided to go for a walk. As we stepped outside, we noticed lights strung high above the streets. Some of them were arranged in the shape of a shell, similar to the one pilgrims on the Camino wear. The shell design is everywhere, some of them pointing in the direction we should go. This the shell I wore on my pilgrimage.

And the lights welcoming pilgrims on the way..

We noticed that we could hear music and shortly after saw more lights strung across some of the streets.

Although we knew we had to be up early to start our hike, we decided to follow the lights and the music. Down a side street we caught a glimpse of colored lights and walked towards them. We discovered a festival!

And music!

We didn’t stay long because we were hiking the next day and the festival hadn’t quite started, people were just arriving when we were leaving. I didn’t see the moon and the stars that night, but I certainly saw plenty of light (and celebration!) in the darkness.

Light comes, it always does. Knowing that, we need to look for it, for what may not be obvious. In today’s reading, a blind man calls to Jesus as he approaches Jericho. He calls out “Jesus, son of God, have pity on me!”

” I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life.”

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Recently I traveled with a group of peregrinos to Portugal and Spain with the intention of walking the Portuguese trail of El Camino Santiago. Before the walk we visited what is known as the Basilica of Fatima.

We arrived in Portugal on my feast day, St Hildegard, and I was happy to be able to celebrate it at Fatima. The following images are from that visit. Some of the photos are not very clear, but I think it is still possible to have a sense of what I encountered. Some of the photos were captured by my companions and used with permission.

From my window on the plane, a view of the sun rising as we traveled to Lisbon.

After arriving, a van took us to our hotel in Fatima. We set out to find a place to eat and found a restaurant. Photo is of sea bass. Note the blue and white tile. We saw a variety of blue and white patterns on walls, floors, pottery.

Our hotel was only a few blocks from the basilica and so we were able to see the steeple and hear the bells ringing as we approached. The first thing I noticed was how quiet and peaceful it seemed despite the number of people present.

Then I noticed there were people walking on a long path made of marble, some on their knees, some carrying babies. The day was sunny and hot and occasionally a companion walked by their side, shielding a baby from direct sun. I wondered, will those babies ever know how much their father or mother or grandmother loved them that they would do this?

A few photos of the Chapel of Apparitions, the people and more… We stayed only a short while so we could rest before returning in the evening.

Back at the hotel outside of the dining room, I saw this… Closed it would look like any other cabinet. I wonder if there is a specific name for this.

And just because…

When we returned in the evening, we found people gathering on the steps of the basilica and around the Chapel of the Apparitions. We estimated there were 25,000 present. All joined in praying the rosary in several languages that somehow all blended together.

Afterwards we joined in the candlelight procession singing Salve Regina. Again, despite the number of people present it felt very peaceful and instead of feeling crowded, it felt to me like breathing in a wide open space.

The next day we returned for Mass which was held outdoors due to the size of the crowd. It was a hot day and so along with many others, we tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. A few brave souls stood in the center.

We left Fatima after our noon meal, our stay feeling way too short and so I hope to return and explore Fatima and Portugal more fully. But since our goal was to walk the Camino, we gathered our things and started the next phase of our pilgrimage. More photos soon….

In September I prepared to go on a pilgrimage. My goal was to walk the Portuguese trail of the Camino de Santiago with my daughter and six other companions. Knowing we would be doing a lot of walking during this pilgrimage, I had been walking daily. I was pretty set for my trip but decided to go on a hike with a fully loaded backpack to determine how I would need it adjusted for wearing it for hours at a time.

My daughter and I chose to hike the overlook trail at a nearby nature center for our practice hike. The trails are well marked and include a variety of easy and challenging paths. At the overlook, which was about midway through the hike, I took this photo.

Though it had been a bit strenuous hiking to the overlook, I knew, or at least I thought I knew that going back would be easier. I’d taken off my backpack to rest for a moment while taking the photos and had put it back on without buckling all the straps. Starting back I was talking, not paying attention and tripped down a steep path. My loose backpack shifted and I pitched forward. I was able to turn enough to let my pack take the brunt of the fall. Though I suffered injuries to my arm and leg, I realized I could have been more seriously injured.

I also realized there was a lesson to be learned from my fall.. that the most important things for me to remember during my walking pilgrimage would be to be silent and to pay attention to where and how I walk.

This photo is of the walking trails.

This photo is of some journals I created from papers I made with paper pulp from recycled materials. My grandson helped bind one as a gift for my daughter.

I will be posting photos of the pilgrimage shortly…

 

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