For the first time on my camino, we walked with the same person all day, of course, it was my Belgian friend, Dirk. At the end of the day, we chose this albergue because the guidebook stated that the nominal donation included a shared meal with the other perigrinos (which I´ve always found most interesting), as well as a “pilgrim´s prayer service.” This proved most disappointing, amounting to passing around a bogus candle and stating whatever comments about the Camino you wanted to share, such as why you were doing it. Most others were in German, the rest in Spanish, and one in Italian. Clearly I learned nothing of the wisdom offered by the others, except one.
Peter, who was quite German chose to attempt to speak in broken English, a fact in itself I found a bit interesting. He also did so before me, so it was obviously not for my benefit. His story fascinated me. Distinct from pretty much everyone I´ve met (except the handful I´ve mentioned), who seem to be doing the Camino as a kind of a “mid-life reset,” or (believe it or not) because it looks good on a European resume – something about stick-to-it-iveness.
So Peter simply said he was walking the Camino to thank Jesus “for saving his life,” then passed the candle. Well, you know me well enough to know that this was the hook to draw me in. So I left my Belgian counterpart, and sat next to Peter during the shared meal.
To make a short story long, which I´m inclined to do, Peter was a clinical psychologist in Berlin and came to the mid-life realization that he was just “going through the motions” of living. He felt he did a very good job of guiding people out of their own problems, but in his head and heart and soul, he was lost and felt like he was wasting his life. He served no real purpose. If he wasn´t there helping his patients, someone else would be, so he felt his life was pointless.
Peter resigned his partnership in the medical practice, cancelled his appointments, and quit. His wife left him because she wanted the luxury and prestige he would no longer be able to provide. He spiraled towards the bottom, couldn´t get out of bed, gained about 50kg, and contemplated suicide.
He was cleaning out drawers and closets, not even knowing why, and came across a small card with the picture of Jesus and the Sacred Heart image. Peter said he had no idea where the card had come from, because he was not Catholic, and neither he nor his (ex?)wife had ever been religious. He´d never even given much notice to religion or other “such stuff.” He remembered vividly of how he was drawn to the image. He felt warmth and comfort that he hadn´t felt for years, perhaps ever.
Peter searched on the internet and spoke to people he knew who were religious to find out more about the image, and this Jesus. He started attending Mass and found himself in a much different type of tears – ones of consolation, and love, and salvation.
No one seems to know where the Sacred Heart card came from, but Peter credits it for literally and figuratively saving his life. About a month into his “being saved” from himself, a good friend that he hadn´t seen for years stopped by and told him about the Camino. Peter was at a point that he quickly said¨, “Sure, let´s go!” But his friend told him that he´d need to prepare, both physically and spiritually. And he would need to do it alone.
Peter proceeded to walk every day, buy gear, and knew he was becoming spiritually prepared.
Peter was now walking the Camino as his form of thanksgiving for God having “saved his life.”
Much love to all.