Today is St. Gregory’s Day, that impressive governor of Rome who became a monk who became a pope. “I tried to escape the world as a monastic,” he tells us, “but God sent me back to the gritty reality of Rome, to make my way as best I could with the other pilgrims.”
Every day I make a little pilgrimage, and I’m glad I do. Usually it’s on two wheels—my very fast road bike—and often it’s across an orange bridge that spans a Golden Gate. Sometimes it’s foggy and cold, and sometimes it’s warm and sunny, as it was this morning. Working up the first steep hill to the bridge, I passed an older man toiling with his own pedals. Within a minute he was back up to me, calling out “good morning!”
“You caught me,” I laughed. And we began chatting about how the mind automatically sends endorphins to the legs when someone passes him on a bike.
“Where are you headed?” he asked me. “Oh, just to Hawk Hill and back. How about yourself?” I’m headed for Paradise,” he said matter-of-factly. “Paradise” for Bay Area cyclists is a 35-mile route on Paradise Road through Sausalito and Tiburon and back. It turns out he was a competitive cyclist in former times, and also a merchant marine captain on the big ships. “On one ship I had seven labor unions to work with,” he sighed. “But in one port of call I met a French priest, a marine chaplain, who convinced me to do the Camino with him in Spain.” My new friend has since walked the Camino five more times, working out his sins, regaining peace of mind, slowing down, and making new friends. “I’m hoping St. James will get me into heaven,” he said.
We rode together up to and over the Bridge. Then he turned south for Paradise and I headed north to Hawk Hill. “Goodbye, pilgrim,” he waved. “I hope we will meet again.” I hope we will all meet again, all of us on this beautiful planet, someday in Paradise.
The above comes from a September 3 posting on the blog of Father Joseph Illo, pastor of Star of the Sea parish in San Francisco.