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Like the Old Stone Church bandana affixed to my pack, I carry your prayers as a reminder of who I am, and as a way to sustain my sensitivity and compassion for you even though we are an ocean apart.

Every day I swing a 20-pound pack over my shoulders. Its filled mostly with water to hydrate me for a long day of walking, I’ve got a small first aid kit in my pack, too. I also carry a few other things like a change of socks, a raincoat, and Nordic walking poles to help me up the steep climbs of Spain’s coastal mountains and to maneuver down rocky river beds into valleys and across small streams. But I carry something far more meaningful than my back pack. 

The most important thing I carry each day are the prayers that people have asked me to pray as I hike the Camino de Santiago del Norte. Your prayers are precious to me because you have entrusted them to me. You’ve shared your deep concerns, worries, and desires, and asked that I hold them in my heart and lift them to God each day as I walk the Camino. Like children who carry water cupped in their hands, I carry your concerns in prayer to God each day. And it is a privilege,

In some ways my daily prayers are like the Old Stone Church bandana affixed to my pack: they are with me every day; their presence reminds me of who I am as I walk; and they allow me to remember you always while sustaining my sensitivity and compassion for you even though we are an ocean apart.

Sometimes I pray them silently before the day begins. Sometimes I invite Beth to join me by saying “Lord, have mercy” with me after each prayer. Those times remind me of the “prayers of the people” which we say in church every Sunday back at the Old Stone Church in Cleveland.

Sometimes I lift prayers while I am walking. Other times, I stop into an old church and pray them where prayers have been lifted for hundreds of years, as in the 800 year old Church of the Franciscan Fathers in Aviles or as I did before the 15th Century altar piece in the 16th Century San Roque Chapel in Navia today.

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The 15th Century altar piece in the 16th Century Chapel de Roque in Navia.

This may sound a little funny to you but, in some ways, carrying the prayers of others along the Camino de Santiago – up the sides of mountains, along steep embankments, across the waters we ford, through the rain and mud, makes me feel a little like Denzel Washington’s character in the post-apocalyptic movie, Book of Eli, who carries the words of scripture with him on his journey, or like the characters in Led Zeppelin’s song, No Quarter:

They carry the news that must get through, oh,
They choose a path where no one goes . . .

I am also deeply aware, and deeply appreciative, that as I carry the prayers of others, that many of you are carrying Beth and me in your prayers. We feel the strength of your prayers lifting us each and every day. When things get particularly challenging we gather strength from your prayers. Like the day we had to climb, back to back, a 350-meter incline, and then shortly after, a 180-meter incline – the equivalent of five football fields on a sharp incline of stones and rocks in the high temperatures of a Spanish heat wave with very few switch backs to give us relief. We stopped and rested often, drank lots of water, and took time to catch our breath! But we also drew spiritual sustenance from the great well of your good thoughts and prayers which allowed us to keep moving upwards even when our legs felt like rubber.

Perhaps my prayers for you will allow you to “keep going” in the face of whatever mountains are confronting you today.

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When we know that people are praying for us it can give us a spiritual strength to keep going no matter what mountains confront us.

When it comes down to it, prayer itself is a Camino. Prayer is our journey together with God. It is the ongoing conversation we have with the Divine. As we travel the path of prayer together, it shapes us as the church into the image of God. It empowers us as a people, opens us to deeper relationship with God and one another in the great community of faith, and it teaches us to be still and to listen as one, and to know and to trust that it is God who carries us all. Always.

For those of you who have entrusted me with your very personal prayers, and those additional prayers I have added since beginning the Camino, please know that I carry them as close to me as I carry my essential water for the journey. You are with me in my good thoughts and in my spirit. It is my honor and my privilege to be lifting you to God in prayer with every step I take.

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Buen Camino. Vaya Con Dios!
Mark

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Comments
  1. Donald Oglesby says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey, our thoughts and prayers for you and Beth. Don & Judy

  2. Liz says:

    The pictures are absolutely beautiful! My feet hurt just reading about how much walking you’ve done. You know with a Led Zepplin reference, I’ll show this to Casey, he’ll love it! Stay safe. Don’t stay thirsty my friend. Miss you! ❤️

  3. Ruth Finley says:

    May God Bless and Protect you both.

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