At 82 years old, Father Marier comes back overwhelmed from Compostela
September 26, 2012
Never did Father Gérard Marier think that he would ever claim to be so “proud” of himself. And for good reason! At 82 years old, he just arrived… still as upright, from a long 300 kilometre walk on the rocky road of Compostela. “In my life, I’ve learned a great deal from books. I did not think you could learn as much from walking, from the movement that is so simple and repetitive of your feet!” he said.
On August 31st, he left with a group from Spiritours, he walked for three weeks, at a rate of at least twenty kilometres per day, from Burgos in Spain up to the Cathedral of Santiago.
On the last day of his pilgrimage, on September 19th, at the end of a long 6 hour walk, Father Marier said that he cried in front of the Cathedral. So overwhelmed by gratitude was he.
“I’ve accomplished something by the grace of God”, he said. Throughout the hike, Father Marier, sometimes apart from the group, prayed to God. Asking Him for the spirit, strength, and energy needed to walk up and down or move forward on the plains of the rocky road.
“I’ve used a large amount of energy on God’s credit card”, stated Father Marier.
We can expect him to, as we know him, devote himself to writing about the story of this pilgrimage, so much was he overcome. “I feel like, in September, I switched over from fall to summer. As if all my inner landscape had changed.”
The Power of Conversion
We can undertake this famous pilgrimage for all sorts of reasons, he said. « For a challenge, to take a different type of holiday, or for out of curiosity. One thing is certain. We do not trust enough in the power of conversion of the Way of St. James. »
But why have you been converted, Father Marier? ”I was converted to a greater tenderness, » he said.
The Way or Camino is a school, he said, where we learn that, fundamentally, man and woman are human beings who start measuring challenges. « With simplicity, but determination … for all to know. »
A man of faith and culture, Gerard Marier having undertaken this pilgrimage was inspired by Monseigneur de Laval (1623-1708) who, at age 80, had snow-shoed from Quebec to Montreal. « I was fascinated. It came back to memory at Easter this year. « And almost impulsively, » young and old of the communauté du Désert raised their hand to say that they would participate in the pilgrimage Spiritours.
For four months, every day, tirelessly, the priest is driven to his pilgrimage. He walked over ten kilometers to Princeville then to Warwick and around the réservoir Beaudet in Victoriaville. He had to trade his eternal sandals for good walking shoes.
To Prove Something – No, for the Experience
But the nature of camino francés had nothing to do with the beautiful trails here, he quickly found out. The path is rocky and there are mountains to climb … and down.
« I’m not going to prove something, but rather want to feel something. »
It reminded me of the words of Saint-Exupéry in « Terre des hommes« : « The earth teaches us more than all the books, because it resists us.”
On his journey, Gérard Marier never forgot to remember that he was walking where, for a thousand years, thousands of pilgrims have passed. « Yes, it is true, it is possible to make such a pilgrimage in Quebec. But it wouldn’t have the profound history of the Way of St. James. And here, the paths are very easy! »
It reassures parents who worry about their children going to Compostela.”There is no danger, even for a single girl. In the Middle Ages it was so dangerous. It is very safe now ».
« Before Rusting! »
After this long hike, he thought about people of his age. « I think people my age do not take enough care of their bodies. We see people entering nursing homes and then in a wheelchair, six months later. I told myself that I must go to Compostela before I rust. »
Although, he admits, not everyone can jump on the trails of Compostela, but Father Marier believes that older people disqualify themselves too quickly, maintain, at their own risk, the cult of the facility.
« I’m wondering if all services for seniors are doing a disservice. Failing to move, this is the fast track to the lounger and to the grave … « , he believes.
He returned to Compostela, admiring the work of God in his old legs. And his feet with the hardened skin found their familiar sandals.