After a lunch of tapas we met outside the Cathedral and then boarded the coach for Fromista. In fact we stopped about 6km from Fromista so that we could walk to the village. The weather had cheered up and there was broken cloud and nice sunshine. So 44 of us decided to walk, put on walking boots, grabbed sticks and set out.
The terrain in that part of northern Spain is quite different from what we had been experiencing so far. The first few days we were in the Pyrenees. Now we were on the Tierra de Campos, a flat landscape marked by huge fields of wheat and other grains, the bread basket of Spain. As we drove through the countryside it was beautiful and as we walked along the Camino we began to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings.
The Camino at that point is alongside the Canal de Castille. It is an ancient canal, quite broad and no longer used for barges but instead is something of a nature reserve. The banks were full of wild flowers; Reed Warblers were singing and other birds could be seen all around us. In the distance were snow capped mountains and on either side of the canal were more fields of wheat.
The walk took us about an hour and a half. Many of those walking had not walked so far for a long time, but we all found the energy and the ability by doing it together. There was a great sense of community and a growing sense of achievement.
We were heading for the romanesque church of St Martin in Fromista. You will remember the story of St Martin of Tours, a soldier who divided his cloak with a beggar. ‘Martin moments’ can come along at any time. We met an Italian pilgrim on the Camino. He had walked 35km that day; his water was used up and he was exhausted The couple from our party walking with him gave him half of their water, they had plenty for him and for themselves. ‘Martin moments’ are real. Our pilgrim friend was sustained for his journey.
When we arrived at Fromista, and after having had a coffee, we went into the beautiful church of St Martin. There was the expected statute of the pilgrim, St James, but other glories as well and especially the stone carvings which formed the capitals – the expected biblical representations, flowers, fruit, but also one of Aesop’s fables ‘The Raven and the Fox’, depictions of the wine harvest and the pressing of the grapes. All life was there – sacred and secular – brought into the house of God and into encounter with Christ.
In the beautiful acoustic we sang the Taize chant ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ . It felt as though the kingdom was breaking in around us.
We left the village and made our way to Leon where we are to spend two nights. After dinner we met for Night Prayer as is our pattern. Sister Joyce reflected on the days journey, on the vocation of all the baptised and also on the flat landscapes through which we often travel in life. She talked about the novel ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce. It is a great book and at its heart is a couple living in a flat landscape. Pilgrimage – even an unlikely one – helped them enter another landscape. Perhaps those of us going through flat lands spiritually, emotionally or in relationship, whether on this pilgrimage or any other journey, will be brought into a new landscape and that life which Jesus gives us in abundance.