God pushed us to the limits of our endurance and then gave us such a beautiful consolation. It happened again yesterday! Day four is about when everyone’s particular weaknesses become acute. Some had festering blisters; two knees had blown out, and in all my hikes across the Sierras and Mt. Kilimanjaro, my feet had never felt such an agony. “What on earth is wrong with my feet?” I wondered. But come to think of it I’d never hiked 13 hours straight before. We got to the village of Burcegos and I nearly collapsed, but we were told that all the three albergues were full. We would have to continue on to the next village. 90 minutes later we staggered into La Mesa to be greeted by Conchita (the names means “cockelshell,” the emblem of St. James and his pilgrims). She and her husband Jose welcomed us into their farmstead home. Fresh beds, hot showers, and the homespun hospitality of the small farm family welcomed us. Again, after we had dropped our packs in the family bedrooms, a large table set for 15 awaited us. Warm milk from their cows, blueberry jam from their fields, and fresh bread from their oven appeared on the rough plank table. More than food, Conchita lavished simple motherly goodness upon us. After a sound sleep in her home, an early Mass at the local church (Conchita had the key) we were off to the next village.
Why is this Camino so agonizing in the heat of the day and then so comforting in the cool of the night? Day by day the God of this Camino sets in bold relief the rhythm of all our days: He pushes us to our limits, then gives us blessed relief. In this way he leads us through life’s pilgrimage to our final comfort. Without doubt, life is a pilgrimage, and each of us is making our way to a destination. Our lives are ordered, and the agonies only serve this order, moving us forward to our final end.