Open and Vulnerable

There was a young adult at my previous parish—a very smart “coastal” guy—who had done well in finance but found it empty. So he sold his furniture and packed up and flew one February to some place in France and walked the Camino. He was alone for the first part of his walk, but as he came into Spain and warmer weather and drew closer to Santiago, he found more people.
    He then moved to New York, started a new career, and loved Jesus.
    I asked him once, as I was getting the itch for making the Camino, where the route starts. I know many start in Spain, but he had talked about France, and I was confused.
    He said: You know, Father, the Camino starts wherever you are.
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    Well, truth is, I didn’t know. I hadn’t thought of that. But his words were instantly clear. A pilgrimage begins when you start to get ready for a pilgrimage.
    I suppose I started getting ready in a slight sense when I first learned that my rector’s wife, back in New York, had taken off for six weeks and made this pilgrimage. Then when I was widowed, it became a possibility for me. I wrote it down as a spiritual goal once, giving it a date and a purpose: “within five years, for health of soul and body, to draw closer to Jesus who has walked before me.” From time to time the thought would recur, but it is hard to plan to be away for six weeks from home, from work, from friends. A year passed. I moved to Texas. Another year. No Camino.
    Finally, about 15 months ago I decided to get serious, and I put it on the calendar. My bishop was enthusiastic, as was my rector. I laid out all my plans and worked on Spanish (muy poco) and walking (mucho) and getting gear (mas). And, dear reader, you know where this is going, don’t you?
    Spain is closed. No Camino. I’ll have to plan this out again.
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    But my parishioner, that young adult, his words have stuck with me: The Camino for me has already started. I’ve been on it for several years already.
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    Each Christian is a pilgrim. You are on a journey to God. The secret of your life is that it is a pilgrimage. You make plans, you prepare yourself, you move along. Then, as we all know, things change, and what we thought we were doing turns out to be different and to take us elsewhere.
    A couple of months ago, a friend posed this question: “What are you looking for on the Camino?” My answer was, “to be open and vulnerable.”
    Fellow pilgrims, this is the spiritual gift of the present time. We are experiencing together what it means to be open and vulnerable.
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    On the Web. Father John Sundara had a conversation with me about how fasting makes us weaker, and how that’s a good thing. We had a good time—so much so, that our conversation took two weeks! (Only about 17 minutes per week.) You can see and hear us here: https://incarnation.org/article/fridays-in-lent-march-13/
    The New Atlantis is an interesting source of cultural and scientific thinking. I recently read a review there, “Do We Want Dystopia?” of three novels that are (in the reviewer’s judgment) not altogether successful and yet helpfully probe the oddness of our technological moment. The novels are about (1) driverless cars that have been hacked, with people on the Internet voting which car (and passenger) will escape destruction and death; (2) a robot who looks human and can pass as human and quickly learns emotions like jealousy; and (3) a world in which we are saved from contingency, danger, and struggle, and the result seems to be that we are dead. I don’t know if I will read them, but I do recommend the review: https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/do-we-want-dystopia

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."