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470,000 Steps Later: The Importance of Listening

Greetings again, this time from Burgos in the north of Spain, as I pass the first quarter of my time on the Camino! It has been an interesting and inspiring time as I have taken now over 470,000 steps! I have really enjoyed the walking, even though my back is troubling me. The weather has been wonderful with some warm days, but the last few have been cool, which has been excellent for walking. Some of the track is quite steep and takes a lot of energy! However, the overwhelming benefit for me has been the people I have had the opportunity to engage with as we walked. Among them have been people from across the world, from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, England, Korea, China, Colombia, USA, Norway, France, and of course Spain, etc. I have found it incredibly enriching to listen to these people talk about why they are on the Camino, some aspects of their lives and challenges, and for a majority of them, how they see God engaging with them in their lives and particularly on the Camino.

One of the things I have learned, yet again, is the importance of listening! Walking for a couple of hours with someone, or a whole day does not mean talking all the time. Just being present to one another and allowing space for them to raise items they want to talk about leads to some very enriching experiences. One young woman I had the good fortune to meet in a church I stopped to visit stayed with me the rest of that day. Her story and her commitment to give a voice to the voiceless through being a lawyer was impressive. She and her husband are deeply committed to their Catholic faith in very practical ways. It was an inspiration for me to have the chance to just witness the way they were living out the Gospel.

One of the men I spoke to recalled how he engaged with the tradesmen who worked in his business before he retired and how he had practical ways of respecting each of them. This was not theory he was taking about, but rather the way he was living out the Gospel in the practical task of making a business profitable so that each of the people working with him could take home money to enable their families to thrive. I was really impressed with the very low-key way he was going about doing what he could where he was, with what he had!

On Sunday I was fortunate enough to attend a mass as I passed through the town of San Juan de Ortega. There was a special festival for the feast of the saint, but also because if was Corpus Christi Sunday. The mass was followed by a procession around the nearby streets and back to the church. I was pleased to be able to be part of that.

When I arrived in Burgos I took the opportunity to do a tour of the amazing cathedral there, parts of which date back to the 13th century. It is an impressive building. I then met up with an Australian, now living in New Zealand, and a group of six of us, including two other Australians had a wonderful evening together.

I have had the chance to engage with a number of people about the banner on my backpack. As a result most of them took my card with the link to the Foundation webpage where they have promised they will donate. I have been pleasantly surprised at how ready they are to contribute to help the students. One couple I met are deeply involved in social justice issues in their city and they agreed to take the details of what I am doing and spread it through the networks of other such people encouraging them to contribute. I am hoping there will be a surge of support as more people become aware of the need to support our students.

Thanks to all those people who have contributed and have encouraged others to do so. I am taking my steps and it is gratifying to hear of people doing what they can.

Best wishes,

Br. Peter

To stand in solidarity with Bethlehem University students, as Brother Peter is doing via the Camino, please click here to support.