Blisters and Blessings

Another Pilgrim Tale

Seriously, you’d have thought we were in a hospital ward, rather than in a hostel for holidaymakers and pilgrims. Creams, bandages, plasters everywhere…Our new Aussie friends were teaching us all about Compeeds, which are gel-based plasters that are more shower-resistant than elastoplasts. Mind, the Aussie ladies certainly were good adverts – they had Compeeds on just about every toe! 

One of the first new French words we learnt was ‘ampoule’ (blister). Nearly every new companion suffered from ‘des ampoules’, due to twisting their toes negotiating des racines (tree roots) and des cailloux – (pebbles/stones) on the steep descents. In my case, I developed them due to the repetitive action of walking along roads.

Blisters can ruin your holiday. We met one lady who’d had to give up the walk because her feet were in too poor a condition to continue. Seasoned walkers can spot a blister as it starts to form, and dress their feet before they get any worse. Whilst we enjoyed the privacy of those nights when we stayed in guest houses, there were benefits, too, of staying in the communal gites where there was a great sense of camaraderie. As pilgrims, we supported one another. It was amazing how much better we felt after a long chat over a hearty meal, often speaking French.         


One hot afternoon, after a beautiful but gruelling descent, we sat down to rest and were joined by a young American lady who turned out to be a church pastor taking a sabbatical. It turned out that Jodie was a pilgrim in much the same way as us. The walk was a holiday and a physical challenge. But it provided her with a way to recuperate from the long months of lockdown and hassle that was her daily life. This was enabling her to listen as God was speaking to her, giving her fresh vision for the future.


Jane and I began each day with a brief prayer that we’d receive a blessing, and be a blessing, to someone else.

Jodie enjoyed one of our biscuits and appreciated a pilgrim poem sent to us by our friend Julia. She ‘blessed’ me with a Compeed perfectly suited to the new blister I’d acquired on my right foot. And then she went on her way.

The next day, after we’d eaten the food we’d brought, we paused outside a church, exhausted by the fierce midday heat. A group of children was there and a boy, aged about 11, gave us a whole bag of crisps. And on our final day, a fit young man passed us and saw that Jane’s legs had become blotchy. He’d had the same problem himself and took off his enormous rucksack to produce a tube of soothing cream. Blessings indeed…

How wonderful to be following such an ancient tradition! Imagine standing at the roadside at the approach to Jerusalem in 900 BC just before a major festival. Bands of pilgrims would have passed by, cheerfully singing the ‘Songs of Ascents’ featured in Psalms 120-134. They encouraged one another with words such as:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
    and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
    I will say, “Peace be within you.” 

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
    I will seek your prosperity
. (Psalm 122 vs 6-9)

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