Pilgrims' Potpourri

Reflections on our journey with God

The church at the top of the slum October 25, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 10:06 am

Please understand that I use the word slum because that is what the inhabitants of Kibera use to describe where they live.  
This is the second half of my reflection after visiting the Kibera slum.  At the top of the hill within the Kibera slum is Christ the King Church.  Unlike all the shacks in the slum, The simple church is built on a concrete foundation. The slum properties are all rented but the church owns the small parcel  on which the church is built.  On Sunday morning when we arrived we climbed the hill to the church with hundreds of other people from the slum to celebrate Sunday morning liturgy.  The journey up that hill through the crowded streets littered with garbage and wet  from the recent rain was like no journey I have ever been on.  

The church was jam packed with over 1500 men women and children. They were dressed in the very best clothes they had.  I was amazed that they could keep their clothes  and shoes so clean on the dirt floors in the simple huts in which they lived.   The two hour mass was a celebration marked with vibrant singing, dancing, and signs and symbols that filled the senses and evoked a spirit of community in Christ Jesus   It was quite a role reversal to be in a congregation of thousands of people of color. The nine of us on pilgrimage were the only white faces in the sea of  black.  Yet I never felt separate, alone, or excluded. Rather the assembly extended the warmest welcome and the most gracious hospitality to each of us. 

Unlike so many liturgies, this one was marked by joy, contagious joy overflowing.  It may be because the African people are people of joy but it also may just be that in the midst of such a squalor, The good news of the gospel and the precious gift of the Eucharist finds fertile ground in the open hearts of God’s people.   

How fitting it is that this church is called Christ the King.  Christ the king presides over this slum. Christ the king lives in this slum. Christ the king will one day transform this slum into the city of God. The people of Christians of Kiberawho are model disciples of Jesus  who love him with their whole heart, their whole mind, and with all their strength. That is why they come to church dressed for the banquet. That is why they can go back down that hill and face each day with hope that God’s reign of peace and justice will come.  

Encouraged by their expectant faith, I left Kibera with joy and And hope that little by little God’s rain will rule over my heart and the hearts of all those on the journey. 

Prayer for this day: Lord give me eyes to see what you see for our world. Lord give me ears to listen to the cries of the poor which are your cries. Lord let me never forget that what we see now will be transformed into what you see. Give me the grace to see your holy mountain set up on a hill and work so that every person on this planet may see the view from the mountaintop. Amen. 


The Kibera slum  October 24, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 4:01 am

After today’s visit to the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, it is clear why I saw the flowering Jacaranda tree and the beauty of creation yesterday. The contrast between these two images will  be forever asked in my mind and in my heart. The Kibera slum houses over 400,000 people in an area the size  these people live in makeshift housing constructed mostly of mud corrugated metal.  The average size of a dwelling is 10 ft x 10ft.  The dirt streets and alleyways that connect The housing units are littered with garbage and and the smell of open sewer drains permeates the air. This city within a city includes small businesses of  all  sorts, churches of many denominations, and a number of mosques.   
We had the chance to visit three different families that live in Kibera.   Passing through narrow alleyways filled with people and children playing in mud, we entered the doors of these homes. The inside of these tiny one room huts consisted of four walls covered with material and maybe a small  table in the middle of the room.   There was no other furniture.   The small room housing up to eight family members and is lit by one lightbulb hanging from a wire in the ceiling. In the homes we visited, there was no bed, kitchen or toilet facilities. There are a few public toilets for common use in the city.

There were nine of us who entered these households sometimes having to close and open the door so that each one could enter. Packed in with the families in a small, hot, and dark room we listened to their stories. The mother of each household asked us for specific prayers for their family members.  We prayed for employment, healing of illnesses, release from prison’s, and for marriage is struggling because of the deplorable living conditions faced each day.  

Despite conditions which seem to make life simply unbearable, the people we met we are filled with faith, vibrant and living faith, that gave them a reason to live and a reason to hope.   These people understood better than me or my companions what the gospel message of good news really means especially to the poor and disenfranchised of this world.  

It is late and this day has drained me but also given me a great gift.  I have never seen such poverty, such deplorable living conditions, such reason for hopelessness  in any slum in America or in other places I have traveled.   I have also never seen the power of faith, the power of Christian community, and the power of prayer lift the hearts and minds of so many people to give them a reason to hope.   I will write more about this day in future posts but for now, I end my day with this prayer:

Jesus, you became human and Took on flesh to fully experience our brokenness and the suffering of every human being. The brokenness of each of us and brokenness of our world is evident in the cross carried by  these innocent and good people in this slum and in all the slums of the world.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make the cross a little lighter for our brothers and sisters who suffer in this world. In doing so,like Simon of Cyrene, we are blessed to help you carry your cross.  


The flowering Jacaranda tree October 22, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 10:47 am

This morning after spending two days in airports and on planes, we finally got outside. Creation greeted us with a vibrant Display of tropical flowers and trees of all kinds in magnificent bloom.  What a wake up call and hearty welcome from this continent of Africa and its Beautiful people.  I feel like I am in the garden of Eden and yet I know, that this garden is under siege by pollution, greed, and human recklessness.    

Each day we are asked to reflect on how God is speaking to us in this moment and in this time.  Today I hear God saying ‘see I made all this and you that every part of my creation wii live in harmony and at peace.’ With St. Francis I can name all creation from the smallest insect to the largest tree my brother and sister.   Maybe this is God’s way of introducing me to what was intended from the very beginning and prepare me for what I will see and experience throughout the rest of this journey.  

Prayer for today: thank you creator of every living thing and off the natural resources that give us life. May I see your loving hand and every moment and also see the possibilities that you breathe into creation each day.  May I be an instrument for the restoration of your garden of creation.  


Reflection on Traveling Lightly October 20, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 8:48 pm

“Then Jesus went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.” ( Mark 6:6-9)

Tomorrow,  I start the journey to Africa.  My small suitcase and carry on are packed and waiting patiently by the front door.  I tried to follow the instructions by Maryknoll to pack lightly, but how hard that it is.   I keep adding one more thing and then remove it, realizing  I really do not need it.  What a wonderful metaphor for life.  We come into this world with nothing but the God’s grace and the loving care of our parents. As little children we are more attracted to the boxes things come in than what is in the box. Remember that first delivery of a new refrigerator!  I spent weeks in that box until finally it just fell apart from overuse.

Things change as we age. We accumulate more and more stuff and soon we need bigger storage To contain it all.   It is so refreshing to embark on a 17 day journey  with one little suitcase and a carry-on bag    It still falls far short of Jesus’packing instructions.

Maybe I have something to learn when I touch down in Nairobi. People of the Third World have few things and little to store so just maybe they can hear Jesus’s words and follow with expectant faith that God will provide just what they need.

Prayer  for today:     Increase my mustard seed faith so that it flourishes tall and strong like the great cedar of Lebanon



Journey to Africa October 16, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 4:45 pm

October 16, 2016

Greeetings pilgrims, peregrinos and all the seekers who are on the journey.   It has been five years since we walked the Camino Santiago de Compostela.  Now I prepare to embark on a different camino or way.  On Thursday I leave for Africa.   My wife is not going on this camino because she did not want to subject her body to all the immunizations necessary for such a venture. The goal of this Camino sponsored by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is to learn more about the people of Kenya and Tanzania and explore how we are linked to our sisters and brothers in East Africa in the bonds of global solidarity.  We will meet people fro the city slums of Nairobi to the rural villages of Tanzania and listen to ther stories of hope and challenge.  During this pilgrimage I will try to blog whenever there is time and access to the Internet.  Please keep the people in these beautiful lands in your prayers and know that I carry all of you who have journeyed with me in my heart.

Peace, Amani, Salama

Deacon Ed



The Way of a Pilgrim- to pray without ceasing October 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 1:17 am

The Way of a Pilgrim is the title of a small book written in the nineteenth century that describes a pilgrim’s walk across Russia searching for a way to practice St. Paul’s advice that Christians should “pray without ceasing.”(1 Thessalonians 5:17). My wife, Karen, and I recently completed the Camino Santiago de Compostela, a Christian pilgrim route that has been walked by countless people for over 1,000 years. The Camino, in English, the way of St. James, is a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where, according to legend, the remains of the Apostle James are buried. Our route, the Camino France, took us on a 495 mile journey from St. John Pied-de -Port in southern France to the Cathedral. Like the Russian’s pilgrimage, the exterior journey was a portal for a more profound interior journey, a journey of the heart and spirit.
In its document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, the second Vatican Council reminds us that “on earth” we follow the Lord “as pilgrims in a strange land.” On the path to Santiago, the meaning of that phrase came to life in a way it never had before. We left a somewhat routine life at home where we are known by the roles we play, the jobs we perform, and the relationships we have formed. On the Camino, with our belongings in our backpacks, we were known only as peregrinos, pilgrims on the way to Santiago. We were in a strange land, walking side by side with peregrinos from all over Europe, speaking different languages, but united in the daily hardships and joys of an arduous walk and a common destiny.
The daily walk of 12 to18 miles began in early morning’s darkness and ended with a mid-afternoon arrival at an albergue. An albergue is a hostel that offers pilgrims very basic overnight accommodations, usually in dormitory style. One of the highlights of each day was gathering at a café with other pilgrims to share a meal, Spanish wine, and commiserate about our various aches and pains! These meals were like United Nations meetings, yet despite the language barriers, we made lasting friendships. We became particularly close to a young Italian who had cystic fibrosis. He had a very severe cough and difficulty breathing but was determined to finish the Camino. When asked why he was on this pilgrimage, he remarked that he needed to do this to find himself. Catholic by tradition, something deep inside called him to walk this ancient path. So many other young people expressed similar sentiments. It is remarkable that in a world that seems to have lost its spiritual center, thousands of pilgrims seek that center walking alone on a remote path in Spain. Whenever we saw this young man, his frail frame weighed down by a heavy pack, we drew strength from his energetic and persevering spirit, and prayed he would find himself and, in finding his true self, discover God once again.
Our simple work each day was to follow the scallop shell markers and yellow arrows that mark the path. Day by day, as our feet connected with the earth, we became more grounded and in communion with the soil, the living creatures around us and with God. Although our bodies were tired, our spirits were refreshed on the sacred ground which bore the footprints of so many pilgrims before us. If time permitted and a computer was available, we blogged about the myriad of ways God blessed each day. Step after step the soles of our boots wore thin but our inner beings grew in humble awareness of God’s amazing grace.
It is impossible to fully describe the profound impact this pilgrimage continues to have on our lives. The images, experiences and people we met on the Camino permeate our consciousness. Recently, while climbing an Adirondack mountain, I relived our first day’s strenuous climb from a picturesque country village in France over the rugged Pyrenees and into the Basque region of Spain. A powerful wind forced us to hold on to each other for safety. Watching the mountain sheep steadfastly grazing on the summit in this wind, we considered crawling, like our sister goats, through the mountain pass to avoid being tossed about. At the summit, the valley below us was mysteriously blanketed in an enormous white cloud. It was a mystical moment on the mountaintop; we had left the planet and entered the heavenly realm.
About 150 miles from Santiago the path makes a steep ascent to the highest point on the Camino, Cruz de Ferro. A simple iron cross stands atop a weathered pole surrounded by thousands of rocks deposited there by pilgrims. We climbed the rock pile and placed the small rocks we had carried from home on the pile. The rocks represented all the people we held in prayer on the Camino. Those rocks held their suffering, dashed dreams, death, the brokenness we all feel and the brokenness of our world. We were once again on Calvary with the Lord who was broken on the cross for us.
In one of the hundreds of churches that dot the Camino route, a large poster with a smiling face of Jesus welcomes pilgrims with these words: “Yo Soy El Camino,” translated “I am the Camino.” When we finally reached Santiago, we began to understand the meaning of those words. The joy we experienced entering the Cathedral with hundreds of pilgrims to celebrate mass was overwhelming. At the end of the liturgy, an enormous incense burner, the botafumeiro, was hoisted high above the dirty and tired pilgrims by six attendants who began to swing the burner higher and higher until it seemed as if it would touch the ceiling. The incense filled the sacred space; its fragrance was a balm for our weary bodies. We were finally home, but the Camino did not end at the cathedral.
The Camino is the pathway to Santiago. The real Camino is the journey we make each day. Each human person is on a Camino. We are all on the Way. Jesus is our Way. When our eyes are open to see the Lord in the intimate details of our daily lives, revealing God’s goodness in the tiniest flower, the canopy of stars and each face on the street, we will have learned what the Russian pilgrim set out to learn- To pray without ceasing! Buen Camino, Blessed Journey!


The Lighthouse at the end of the World June 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — karedsol @ 11:12 am

Finisterrae´s lighthouse is positioned at the western most end of the island and sits on a lone rocky point. Weather in this part of the world is often a thick, foggy mist which covers the moutains and valleys. There are times when one can barely see the houses that dot the country side and the little villages. We have spent some time sitting on the rocks at the end of the world. Surrounded by water, some gulls and rocks, when the fog comes in, this place is almost surreal. This kind of weather and lonesome spot on some rocks surrounded by the vast Atlantic ocean makes one realize just how small we are and brings us to the center of our existential condition. We are very tiny beings trying to find ourselves and are often in a kind of fog. Things are hidden; meaning is obscured; identifying landmarks is a difficult task at best. The lighthouse perched high on a rock is the one dependable marker in the landscape. Its light guides the mariners who work the seas, providing a point of reference and a safehaven in the dark mist. For Christians, Jesus is the Lighthouse; the one on whom we depend to find our way in this world; the one whose light never dims but shines on the path that leads from the end of the world to the beginning of new life. What a great blessing it is to know the Eternal Light and to trust that while on our Caminos, when the way becomes obscure, the fog sets in and we cannot see our hands before us, the Eternal Light leads us safely home. A favorite prayer by John Henry Neuman captures the essence of this reflection.  We share it with you for your own contemplation.

Lead, Kindly Light

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path; but now,
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

May the Lord´s light shine on your paths wherever they take you.