— 1 —
Happy Kissing Friday! Well, at least according to my daily desk calendar Forgotten English:
On the Friday immediately following Shrove (Fat) Tuesday, English schoolboys were once entitled to kiss the girls in their classes without fear of punishment or rejection—a custom that continued at least as late as the 1940s.
Horton Cooper’s North Caroline Folklore (1972) reported these rules involving schoolchildren: “Boys shall not carry any girls in their arms or on their backs unless heavy rains or mush ice have made the creeks and branches impossible to cross because of flooded footlogs, and then, only boys who are barefoot or wearing boots may do so. No hugging, squeezing, or kissing shall take place while the girl is being transported across the water.”
No more touchin’? No squeezin’? Journey fans hardest hit.
— 2 —
A few months ago I picked up a few “bargain bin” books from my Catholic bookstore. One of them was To The Field of Stars, written by Father Kevin Codd, a Roman Catholic priest. Fr. Codd decided to walk the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) while he was assigned to work as the head of a small American seminary in Belgium for a few years. Having gained an interest in the camino by reading about the film The Way (see #4 and #5 below) I bought the book for $4. I am currently around 220 kilometers in to what will be his walk of over 800 kilometers and am finding it to be a book rich in experience and insights. When he entered into Pamplona the city was swelling with revelers there to celebrate the Sanfermines, the city’s annual festival that runs for nine consecutive days in honor of its patron saint, San Fermin. This is also the time of the “running of the bulls.” He describes his arrival:
We pass through a park where hundreds of dirty, hung-over, and often fairly naked young people are camping out. The landscape is dotted with plastic sandwich bags hanging from tree limbs and cyclone fences; they contain fermenting feces of the human variety. How thoughtful of these young revelers to collect their waste from the grassy lawns and hang it up for the tourists and pilgrims to admire as they stroll by. I am feeling cranky at the end of this day and the scene that is greeting me here pushes to the surface a sour burp of cynicism about humanity.
Around 20 kilometers down the road Codd is approaching the summit along a ridge of mountains called the Sierra del Perdón, the Mountains of Forgiveness. Just before the final push up the summit he comes to a fountain called the Fuente Reniega, or Fountain of Denial, and while recalling the legend attached to the fountain he ruminates over the lessons he’s learned since Pamplona.
I think to myself that (the lesson from the legend) is surely a reminder from Santiago (St. James) of what a cranky ass I have been all morning. I have failed the test. With every step taken since leaving Pamplona I have denied the simplest tenet of my faith to forget self and love others.
In my aloneness…the image of those small plastic bags filled with human excrement hanging in the trees and along the fences of Pamplona’s park comes to mind for a brief few seconds: what a perfect image of all that we human beings do to ourselves! How silly we are! The waste that collects in our hearts in the form of animosity, vengeful feelings, unrighteous anger, cantankerousness; all of it is in itself a normal byproduct of living. Our great stupidity is that we don’t just dump it. Foolishly, rather than letting it go, letting it fall away from us so that the earth and wind and sun might quietly turn it into harmless dust, we seal it in bags, let it ferment within us, and even display it proudly for all to see. And the poor world suffers under the burden of so much merde. It is so ridiculous, but it also is so sad because the consequences are so disastrous for life. We are burying our world in our fermenting merde.
A more keen insight I’ve not heard in quite some time. And during this time of Lent a most appropriate one.
— 3 —
I’ve begun to seriously consider walking the Camino de Santiago as a pilgrim.
— 4 —
An surprise that came about due to my interest in the movie The Way was hearing the reasons given by Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez for making it in the first place. I’ve read a few interviews they’ve both given, but am going to quote from one I read earlier this week:
TPC: You been quoted as saying that The Way is a pro-people, pro-life film. What precisely do you mean by that?
Emilio: If you look at the products, or the widgets, coming out of Hollywood these days, they are filled with violence and profanity. This film really runs counter to that. This movie is not anti-anything. This film celebrates life. In many ways, a lot of films don’t these days. This is an industry that tends to make movies for 16-year-old boys, and in many ways it’s a reflection of the juvenile nature of the men who run these studios.
TPC: The idea of a spiritual journey is prevalent in this movie, which combines a very human, communal sense of faith with some very institutionally religious Catholic elements. Was that purposeful, and, if so, what is the take-away message?
Emilio: Well, I like to say that none of characters in this film go out purposefully looking for God, but I do think that God finds them. I think that allows the film to be less preachy. I think a lot of times when you make a so-called faith-based film, you run the risk of turning people off. With this film, I wanted to be all-inclusive; I wanted it to be the type of film anyone could see themselves enjoying.
I think that maybe the real theme of the film at the end of the day is that we are all wonderfully and beautifully imperfect, wonderfully and perfectly broken, and that is the way God is allowed in. God loves us in our brokenness, in our imperfections. He doesn’t want us to be perfect; He wants us to be who we are. That is where I believe all the characters arrive at the end of the movie, being okay being exactly who they are and being comfortable in their own skin.
Who knew that the kid from the Brat Pack of my youth would grow up so seemingly unjaded by his experience? Though his father returned to the Catholic Church, Emilio remains somewhat of an agnostic, and together they created something beautiful.
— 5 —
I’ve been waiting to see The Way since I first heard about it about a year ago. It never came to my city as the release was fairly limited. The DVD/Blu-Ray was released on Tuesday and I bought a copy on my way home from work that night. After our parish’s fish fry tonight I plan on sitting myself on the couch under a blanket, with either a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of bourbon at the ready, and watch this film. Buen Camino!