Her Departure is Coming

How did she know? I was walking the Katy trail with my backpack—the 38-liter one that I will take to Spain next month. She was a power-walker, elderly (though perhaps not older than I), talking away with her companion. They passed me and then she, without stopping, turned her head backwards to ask: “Are you going to walk the Camino?” I don’t think there was anything obviously Camino-ish about me or my pack—for instance, there was no Camino shell attached to it. But she intuited. As she walked on, her torso twisted to face me, she said she had walked it in a certain year that she named but I have forgotten. I said I was leaving in April. She said it would change my life.

I think that’s true, but I don’t think I’ll ever have the flexibility to walk fast while twisting to talk to a guy behind me.

More commonly I get asked, “Are you in training?” Two years ago, same trail, same backpack, a runner who passed me stopped and turned back to ask that question. When I told him my hope of walking the Camino, he was impressed. He knew of the Camino, even as he knew about of a lot of other long walks. He told me he was training (though not at that moment) to walk a wilderness trail in the American West. He would be sleeping outdoors, cooking his own food, and thus carrying a lot more weight than I would or could. It was my turn to be impressed.

For the Camino is not that hard. Rather than the forty-pound pack that he would have to carry, I’m getting by with twenty pounds tops. The Camino—and here I mean the Camino Frances, the French Way, the most popular route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain--has so many pilgrims there is quite an informal support system all along. You just need a sleeping bag: there will be a bed somewhere, and there will be coffee and food and snacks and dinner, and there will be markets and people with food stands along the way. So you just need a change of clothing and some water and a guidebook and a few other things. Twenty pounds, in fact, is a bit luxurious on my part; this time I am planning to take a tablet and keyboard, two pounds’ weight that I did without last time. (This time I want to do more writing along the way.)

Departure is drawing nigh, and in that manner my Lent is a sort of feeble image of my Lord’s: he too was walking in training, or at least training his disciples, towards the event that Saint Luke literally calls “his departure”: the cross and all that follows. At the end of walking last time, I sensed I had traveled unknowingly in the shadow of Jesus’ own walking to the cross. So this year, when Lent ends, I launch into another walk to the cross—maybe. Who knows? The meaning this time may be quite different.

I think the closer we get to the liturgical life of the church, the closer its patterns become the patterns of our life. You too, dear reader, are “walking” towards Jesus’ “departure,” which is your own sharing in his life (which was his sharing in our life). It can happen without literal walking, of course. Whatever your life, it is a sharing of a walk with Jesus. Then along comes Easter, the explosion of new life into our old world. But Easter is not the end of walking. Having risen from the dead, Jesus keeps going—for famous instance, on the road to Emmaus with two disciples, walking and talking.

Such happens to us also. After the deprivation-walk of Lent, there is the great fullness of the walk of Easter. Let us keep on with our Lord, wherever we are and whatever the season. 

Out & About. What is the purpose of Jesus’ incarnation? It is to restore the possibility of friendship of us with each other and offer friendship with himself. This is the thesis of chapter 5 of A Post-Covid Catechesis, which I will be talking about on Tuesday, March 19, at St. Stephen’s Church in Sherman, Texas, at 6 p.m., and also on Wednesday, March 20, at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas at 6:30 p.m. In each case the talk is preceded by soup—no sign-up required.

Looking far ahead: The next Good Books & Good Talk seminar will be on Sunday, June 2, at 5pm, on Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

On the Web. M. Anthony Mills writes: “federal regulation is not always the most appropriate way to deal with the consequences of technological change. Nor is regulation the only option.” He reminds us of President George W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics that, over several years, engaged in “public deliberation about emerging technologies that may contribute to human fourishing but also pose serious ethical questions about freedom, dignity, and even what it means to be human.” He argues that we need something like that today to provide us with “the moral resources needed to grapple with the challenges and opportunities” of Artificial Intelligence. https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/a-presidents-council-on-artificial-intelligence

The Rev. Canon Victor Lee Austin. Ph.D., is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Friendship: The Heart of Being Human" and "A Post-Covid Catechesis.: