Last weekend I participated in the Sante Fe Pilgrimage, which took place outside McPherson, Kansas, and was a 33-mile walk to the Padilla Cross. This post is not meant to be an in-depth report on it, but just some impressions. I am working on writing up something very detailed for my family to read, and I may share parts of that online as well.
The pilgrimage was wonderful. Painful, but wonderful. I’ve heard the expression of ‘my blisters have blisters’, but I didn’t know that was physically possible 🙂
The whole experience, the whole weekend was great. My father and I went together, which was great, just him and I spending the weekend together. Next year I am going to take some of my boys with me, the older ones, but this time it was a trip with my father.
I got to know some people better that I have talked to on the phone and traded emails with, such as Louis Tofari (Romanitas Press) and Mike Austin (Magnificat Media). It was a pleasure to meet you both in person! I got to know a gentleman named Charlie very well, and enjoyed our conversations. I visited the Angelus Press store/warehouse, which resulted in me spending a bit of money on books. But they were all on my list to buy anyways!
I also got to meet several Society priests, both at Saint Vincent de Paul (in Kansas City, MO, where Dad and I stayed before and after the pilgrimage) and during the pilgrimage itself. All of the priests were wonderful, but the one that made a great impression on me was Father Kenneth Novak! He was tireless, either leading the prayers at the front of the group, or walking in the group itself, checking on us men to see how we were doing, encouraging us to continue on.
The pilgrimage took place overnight, starting at 6:00 pm Friday July 22, and ending around 10:00 am on Saturday July 23. When we started it was 105 degrees (Kansas in the summer!), and it dipped to around 80 degrees about 4:00 am, which I was very thankful for. I usually don’t think of 80 degrees as cool, but in this case it was!
Dad worked as support for most of the pilgrimage. Mr. Tofari mentioned how incredibly important the help staff is, getting food and water set up at the break areas. The breaks were important, as it allowed us to get off our feet, if only for a few minutes, and refill our canteens or water bottles, something that is so important in 100-degree weather. Dad walked the last 6 miles though, so he got to experience the prayer and penance as well.
The pilgrimage was filled with prayer. It was filled with reflections on the Creed, the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary (the whole traditional 15-mystery Rosary) and more. There were people of all ages, from children with boundless energy (though not all children made it 33-miles), young men (many from Saint Mary’s, Kansas), to middle-aged like myself, to old. Everyone set out to show their love for God, to deepen their faith, to do penance. It was beautiful, it was hard. And many of us did not make it the whole 33 miles, but either way, it was great.
While my own pastor used to be in the army, and has told me a story of a forced march where they moved 15 miles in 3 hours in scorching hot weather, I myself have never gone on a long long walk, march, or pilgrimage. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am thankful that I got into much better shape this year, having been challenged by a friend of mine to start running again. In the 4 months before the pilgrimage, I had dropped over 30 pounds, and have now run in a couple of 5K (3.1 mile) races, with another to be run next week.
But running 3.1 miles, and walking 33 miles in very hot weather, are two different things.
There was a van that always tailed the slowest person, and around 6:00 am, I finally had to take that. I had made it about 24 miles, not the whole 33. It was a bit disappointing, as I am very stubborn, and don’t like to admit my own limitations. But I wore out.
I went ahead to help set up the altar at the foot of the Padilla Cross, so I still felt useful! Plus I got to know some other people who also helped set up for Mass.
I am definitely going back next year, and going to take two of my sons, who by then will both be teenagers. It would also be wonderful if Dad comes along again.
Some advice for those who make the pilgrimage in the future, not all of which I followed this time…
1) Bring a canteen or large water bottle. You are going to be very thirsty between the break areas.
2) Salt! Assuming it is hot again (and it will be) you are going to lose a lot of salt walking. Bring trail mix. You are going to need the salt, and the energy, from the food. And the salt will help your muscles not to cramp up, which starts to make a huge different around mile 20.
3) Footwear. My shoes were nice and broken in from my running, but I still got a foot covered in blisters. Bring extra socks. If your socks get wet, you can change them. But you can also just throw on an extra pair of socks, which is important once you start feeling every tiny stone through your shoes.
4) There are things you can do to treat blisters, from things to cover them with to different lotions. Unless you have rough calloused feet, assume you are going to get blisters, and have ways to treat them.
5) Be sure to use the short breaks to treat your feet, as well as get more water and eat some food.
Hopefully next year, with more company and being in even better shape, I will be able to make the entire 33-mile walk, and get the red nail, which is reserved for those who persevere to the end 🙂