Hoofprints of the Stag

Hoofprints of the Stag

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 10: In German Switzerland

I am writing this post from a hostel in Solothurn, which is the first major German speaking city in Switzerland after crossing the Jura mountains. There were a few German towns before that, but Solothurn is the biggest one we've seen so far. Since I last posted, so much has happened and it's hard to know where to begin or what to talk about. Ed and I stayed at a hotel right after the Ballon d'Alsace and made our way in the morning. We got a pretty late start, and we didn't have a particular goal for that day, but just to go as far as we could. We had an exciting incident involving wild animals at 4 AM, so we left really early the next day.

We were about 6 km from the last French town, so that day would be our last in France. Up to that point, things had gone pretty well and we've been looking forward to more of that. There are aome things we do each day as part of our pilgrimage. We pray the Rosary for all the intentions of our pilgrimage (including those sent to us at pathtoromeprayers@gmail.com. Also, we observe an hour of silence each day for each of us to reflect on our own. Usually this is the part where Ed gets way way ahead of me. The hours of silence are not as bad as I though they would be, but it gives us a little window into the loneliness the previous authors experienced since they did it on their own. I am glad Ed is with me. I guess that's always been a given since this whole thing was his idea in the first place.

As such, Ed and I have been talking a lot. We have had theological discussions, which have been thought provoking, but we have also made lots of references to movies and TV shows, not to mention Strong Bad and Homestar Runner. One of the traditions we've started and modified is to tell each other one good memory and one bad memory and one optional hope for the future. The good memories are great fun, and they usually lead to further reminiscing. We have heard some of the tales before, but it is fun to hear them again. By the way, those of you who know me know that I can tell some pretty long stories. But I can assure you that Ed's stories are even longer. The bad memories are a little more difficult because evn the worst ones can be learned from and thus turned positive in a way. It's been a good way not only to learn about each other, but to learn about ourselves. 

Now you might be saying currently, "But Luke, I've read this far in the post and you haven't actually told me anything you've done in the last 4 days." You would be right, but one must keep in mind that when Belloc wrote his book, he would often skip over large sections of his travels with random tangents, some of which are utter nonsense. 

I did post some pictures the other day to tide you over. But let's see. Ed and I have met quite a few charming people despite the fact that we look and probably smell disgusting. I don't imagine that salt stains on my t-shirt will ever become fashionable. We have walked through many charming villages in the countryside, and the last two days were fraught with much climbing of the ridges of the Jura mountains, which we finally left behind today. On our way down from Weissenstein, we got caught in quite the thunderstorm, which dampened our clothes but not our spirit, and we finally made it to the hostel where we are now, even after both our electronic devices died and we couldn't remember the name of the hostel we'd booked online. 

Oh, yeah. One of the other cool things I've been trying to do is to sing Gregorian chant in as many of these beautiful churches as possible. My favorite one so far was the church in the tiny town of St. Ursanne. 

We've had a couple rough half days. I say half days because usually if one half is bad, the other half has tended to be good, or sometimes simply a good ending can make a bad day worth it. 

It's late and I have to go to sleep, but I wanted to leave you with one last cool memory from this trip. Ed and I wound up watching the US vs. Germany match with a German young lady we happened to meet in Porrentruy. She spoke English well, and we talked for a good long time. The US lost the match, but they still made it to the next round. She also showed us the local Catholic Church (St. Pierre), which I also sang in. Before we left she even gave us some token gifts, which we accepted gratefully.  

Okay, if you are still dissatisfied with the lack of detail in these posts, remember that Ed and I do plan on writing a book when we're done and we can't give it ALL away, right?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

End of Day 6

After leaving Epinal, we had quite the adventurous day, and though we didn't get very far, in the end it was all worth it.

That morning we had gone to the Basilica of St. Maurice. The Mass was quite like a regular Mass except of course for the fact that it was in French and in a beautiful church. But also, there were some Baptisms and First Communions that day. I decided to add those children to our intention list for the pilgrimage. Before leaving Epinal, I made sure to take a picture of the basilica from the same angle as Belloc sketched so many years ago. 

On our way out of the town, we passed by the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial. Knowing we would never have a chance to go here again, we decided to take this detour and pay our repects. We wound up meeting a retired military officer who shared much of his life with us and was very interested in our own journey. At about 3, the flag was to be taken down and folded. A gentleman and his 3 year old son came by as the usually do to help take it down. On our way over to the flag pole, the officer told us about Dick Clark's older brother Brandon who was buried there, Wells Lewis, son of Nobel Prize winning author Sinclair Lewis, and another guy whose name escapes me at the moment. Charles something. The officer allowed Ed and I to fold the flag but it was three year old Aaron who gave us the instructions. We felt quite honored. 

The officer told us about a shortcut out of the cemetery that would keep us off the main road. Unfortunately, we made an error and went the wrong way and proceeded into a maze of forest. Deciding that we did not want to go all the way back, we pressed on, hoping to eventually emerge from the forest at Arches. After wandering the woods for a while, we finally made it to Arches, where we found a place to sleep just inside the woods. 

We had our first rainy day yesterday. We seemed to be stuck try to get to and out of Remiremont, a town which became a byword for us. We were in a dispirited state when we left, and then later it began to rain for the first time since we had begun our journey. For some reason, the rain really lifted our spirits and we sang and talked merrily in the rain for the remainder of the day. I sang the John Denver song, "Poems, Prayers, and Promises" among others.

I enjoyed falling asleep to the sound of raindrops on the outside of the tent after a long days arduous journey. 

Today, we climbed the Ballon d'Alsace, which is a little peak in the southern part of the Vosges Mountains we have been hiking through. At the top there was a little park with a swing set we were promptly told to get off of. I was sad about that. Ed and I saw the epic statue of St. Joan of Arc at the top and then ran into a group of older hikers, one of whom had seen us in Remiremont the day before. We had to assure them we weren't Mormons. I guess when there are a pair of young male Americans wandering through Europe, they tend to be Mormon missionaries. I hadn't even mentioned that I was from Salt Lake City. They said they were Catholic, and so we asked them to pray for us. We have also added them to our prayer list. 

After a discouraging descent, we decided to stop at a cozy inn where I have just composed this blog post. Keep us in your prayers and know that you are in ours. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

End of Day 3

It's hard to believe I've only been walking for three days. I guess I've been gone for five with the flying, taking the train, the bus to finally end up in Toul. 

Things were actually a little rocky leading up to Thursday, some monetary, some lingual, and most wifi related, but for some reason, the morning we left for Toul from Nancy, everything clicked. 

One thing that has stuck out on this trip is having to use a foreign language. I took French in high school and reviewed a tiny bit before I left, but I was not prepared for having to think on my feet as I talked, and I never realized how difficult it is to listen and understand quickly. Now, I already have a lot of trouble talking to strangers (anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I generally let other people do the talking). So now we throw a new language into the mix and it is utterly terrifying. I had a lot of trouble starting out asking for help and communicating with our host at the first place we stayed, and I became very discouraged. But since then, I have been able to speak pretty well and be understood and to understand. I lament the fact that we will soon leave France and enter countries where French is not the dominant language. 

Aside from dealing with language, the rest of the trip has gone very well. We have had exceptional weather and have found places to eat and sleep without much trouble. So it turns out that the stereotype about French people walking around with baguettes is pretty true. We too buy a couple baguettes in the morning to eat on the road. Quite wonderful. Also, wine is wonderfully cheap. 

Tonight, in Epinal, there is a music festival going on that Ed and I went to. It was nice to walk around town without our packs for a while. Since tomorrow is Sunday, we treated ourselves to an actual hotel room, and then we're going to Mass at the Basilica of St. Maurice. 

Things have gone wonderfully so far, and there are many little things I haven't mentioned here for brevity's sake, but please continue to pray for us and please send us any prayer requests you have to pathtoromeprayers@gmail.com. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Day 2

So it looks like it's going to be a bit harder to blog about this trip than I thought. It is quite difficult to find places with free wifi, and when we do, there is very little time to write something of substance because the keyboard on this iPod is very small. 

But at any rate, Ed and I are finishing up our second day on our Path to Rome. I am very sore. One thing we have discovered is that Ed is clearly faster than me, so he gets ahead of me quite often. Another thing we have discovered is that my French skills are not that great, though they have been quickly improving. Interestingly enough, we have found that for some reason, Ed tends to understand what people are saying even when I can't. This has led to our invention of three way translation, in which the French person speaks, Ed translates it for me, and I speak in French to the guy. Ed listens and I speak. Or Ed entend, et je parle. 

We began at Toul yesterday and made it all the way to Flavigny even though we had started pretty late. And today we made it to Charmes. Tomorrow we will stay in Epinal and go to Mass there in Sunday. Sorry for no pictures. The blogger app is kind of annoying that way. You can see some pictures on my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

At the Airport: A Reflection

Okay, so this post was composed yesterday morning, but because of annoying wifi, I couldn't post till today. I am in Paris! Actually, now I am in Toul, where we are starting. But her is the post from two days ago. 

Right now, I am at Portland International Airport waiting for my flight to Paris. As I wait, I am thinking about the last few weeks leading up to this point. It has been a whirlwind of excitement to say the least. I spent my time cleaning and setting up my classroom and office, but I also spent time with friends in Salt Lake, and in particular going to the wedding of two of my teacher friends. During my day in Portland, I saw many old friends and sang in a Latin Mass said by my old spiritual director from Portland, among many other things. 

What this means is that I did not get as much of the extra things done for this trip as I had planned. As I prepare to leave this morning, it's a little disappointing to think of. I did not finish my Little Office of the Pilgrim. Though I did get my prayer translated into German properly, I did not finish the translation to Italian or French, nor did I print out holy cards with the German prayer, and I am already almost out of the English prayer cards. I hope that those to whom I gave them are fervently praying, wink, wink. Also, I was not able to pick up some last minute supplies nor finish a few of the books that I wanted to. I did not make any list of poems, though perhaps I may find a poem app. I do have various prayers on my phone at least. 

I list these failures because what I have been thinking about this morning is how most of that stuff doesn't really matter. They are things that would be nice, but in a way, not being able to do those things means I have to put more of my reliance on God. It's a humbling sort of thing, and I think I'm being prepared for a trip filled with many opportunities for humility. I have to give my pilgrimage over to God rather than trying to have a lot of control over it. 

But in the meantime, I grow increasingly more excited as I think about what I am about to do. It is very easy to make Lord of the Rings references and comparisons (and indeed that is a very exciting prospect), but what is even more thrilling is that I am actually embarking on a real journey made by a real man, not a fictitious invention. I enjoy learning about Elvish, but French and Chinese and Greek fascinate me more because they have their origins in the real world. 

On the other hand, the fact that one man can create so complex a thing is truly remarkable. I love Elvish precisely because it was invented. A new world can be created by one man, and we all may share in it. This is how I feel when I read Belloc; I feel that he has created this thing that I may partake in. When I read the chronicle of his Path to Rome, I feel that I am there with him. And now I am taking part in an even more real sense, and those who read about Ed and me will also be participating with us. This is why writing the prayer and giving out the cards is so important to me. I want people to be a part of our journey through prayer. They pray for us and we pray for them. Ed and I are more like emissaries than individual travelers. We go on behalf of those we temporarily leave. 

It is amazing what being on a plane will do to my ability to muse. If I do not keep this post in check, I may go on and on. My ability to type on the keyboard of this iPod Touch is greatly improving. 

I am going to bring this post to a close, but I am certain that I will begin another on my subsequent flight. I go from Portland to Philadelphia, and from there to Paris. Someone asked me what flight carrier I have. It is US Airways, which I think this person looked down upon. At any rate, I am very sad that I don't get any Delta Cookies. Humility, humility, humility. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Two Weeks Away: Prayers and Requests

My flight to Paris is a little over two weeks away.  I fly from Portland to Paris on the morning of Tuesday June 17.  From Paris, Ed and I will take the train to Toul where our journey will begin.  If you missed it in the first post of this blog, here is a Google map of our route (roughly): Google Map of the Path to Rome.  In the meantime, I am making my preparations.  I am pretty confident in the way of physical preparation and supplies, but I am the least confident in my language skills, which I have failed to practice for the last several weeks.  Ed is already in Europe, currently in London if I'm not mistaken.  He'll be in Paris before me, so he'll have to fare on his own language-wise until I get there.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, prayer will be an important aspect of the pilgrimage.  As such, I have acquired a little journal/notebook in which to write Ed's and my prayer intentions as well as the intentions of others.  Because many of you will not be able to see us personally before we leave, I have created an e-mail address for the purpose of enabling others to send us prayer requests.  Any prayer requests sent to this e-mail address will be prayed for by Ed and me for the duration of our pilgrimage, and any time we stop in a church, we will make a point to pray for the intentions in our booklet.

The e-mail address for prayer requests is: pathtoromeprayers@gmail.com

Also, I have designed my holy card and am waiting on a few leads as to where I might get them printed.  I actually had a student give me a graduation party invite on a card made at Walgreen's comparable to what I'd like to have done for our holy cards.  Maybe it will be as simple as that.  I've decided that Sts. Peter and Paul will be the saints featured on our holy card.  The picture on the right is the one I've chosen.

In the meantime, here is the prayer that I composed to be on the back of the holy card.  It is designed as a prayer specifically for us.  I drew from various sources, but I wanted to have a prayer for this specific trip.  Here is the text:

Lord, you who called your servant Abraham out of Ur 
and who watched over him during all his wanderings, 
you who guided your people through the desert 
in their journey to the Promised Land, 
you who sent the Archangel Raphael to guide the youth Tobias, 
you who guided the Holy Family on their flight to Egypt, 
we ask you to watch over your servants Edward and Luke, 
who for your greater honor and glory, make a pilgrimage to Rome.  
Be for them a companion on their journey, 
a help as they go forward, a respite in fatigue, 
a shadow in the heat, a shelter from the rain and the cold, 
a light in the darkness, a consolation in the midst of dejection,
 and a joy in the midst of sorrow, 
so that, as they follow the way to their journey’s end, 
they may also be led to the path to holiness they so earnestly seek to follow, 
and that, under your guidance, they may reach safely the end of their pilgrimage 
with a fervent hope in reaching their final destination with you in heaven.   
We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, and Protector of Christians, pray for us.
St. Joseph, our guide and guardian, pray for us.
Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us.

I intend to translate the prayer into French, German, and Italian so that we can give the holy cards to those we meet along the way.  I'll have to run it by those more well versed in these languages once I translate them.

I should be posting a little bit more in the weeks to come.  Some people have asked for more information on my friend Ed since they don't know him, so I'll have to enlighten people in this arena.  Also, some people have requested to receive e-mail updates when I make a post.  In the sidebar above my picture, there is now a place where you can enter your e-mail address to receive a notification when my blog us updated.  While you wait for the next update in the meantime, please send your prayer requests to pathtoromeprayers@gmail.com so I can get them down in the prayer journal.

Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us!