Arnoud Krever and his wife traditionally walked their camino Vicarie pro – as a substitute for. This amounts to walking (or cycling) for someone unable to do so himself. Deceased, too old, disabled, a serious illness, too young, these can be the valid reasons. The walker is required to have a relationship with the person he or she walks for. In the eyes of the Catholic Church that person then becomes the pilgrim. And whose are the spiritual or celestial benefits? This is anyone’s guess.
On October 1st 2019 my wife Annet and I entered Santiago in buoyant mood and excellent condition. We came from Tui on the Camino Portugués. Because our time of arrival, three p.m., was too late to get a number for a Compostela, we were permitted to return the next day. In the meantime, a new idea struck us. We had a few days left, so why not walk another camino? A short one, but long enough to acquire a Compostela: from Ourense along the Camino Sanabrés. Fine, but for whose benefit? I suggested walking my twenty-seventh camino for myself. ‘No way’, Annet decided. ‘Your son Arne and his girlfriend Alexandra are expecting a child. You should walk for your grandchild!’ The message was clear.
The next day a young, approximately forty year old, woman studied my pilgrim pass. Acquiring the Compostela Vicario for a 73 year old woman friend with a broken hip presented no problems.
Are there any special rules for unborn children? This was the moment to ask this question. The answer was unexpected. ’Is it a boy or girl?’ asked the lady behind the desk. ‘We don’t know. The parents don’t want to know in advance. Only after its birth.’
‘What is its name going to be?’ the lady asked. ‘That is as yet unknown to the parents. It depends on whether it’s a boy or a girl.’ A moment of silence follows.
‘Then you can’t walk for an unborn child. We must have a name.’
‘But how is it possible that one can walk for an unborn child with a name, but not for unborn children without one? The Church always takes a protective stance towards unborn life. I can’t imagine this is really the rule.’
The lady’s face became expressionless. ‘I shall ask in the back office. I shall return in a few minutes.’ The ‘back office’ is the room of a priest for discussing difficult cases. The consultation did not take long, the woman returned shortly. ‘No, it cannot be done. We need a name to inscribe on the Compostela.’ Arguing was clearly pointless. We left.
Finding a ruse
Our Society of St James’ salon is situated on the first floor of the Pilgrim Bureau. There pilgrims can meet for coffee, company, a willing ear and practical information. We were welcomed by a couple. They listened to our story and shared our thoughts. The man came up with a suggestion: ‘You could name the child Vita Nova. Latin for New Life.’
This seemed a good idea. In the new pilgrim pass I wrote; Vicarie pro, Vita Nova Krever Mether. Adding the two parents’ surnames, which is the custom in Spain. Who knows but this trick will work.
On the second day after leaving Ourense we passed the Monasterio de Oseira. We told the monk stamping our passes what had happened at the Pilgrim Bureau. His reactions was clear. ‘This is no way for the Church to react. Of course you can walk for your unborn grandchild! The name is irrelevant. Vita Nova is fine!’
In support he put the monastery’s stamp under the name Vita Nova and added de acuerdo in writing.
Five days later we again enter the Pilgrim Bureau. Fortunately the lady helping me is not the same as the week before. She is young and still slightly inexperienced, as she starts filling in the distance form. This costs a certain sum and she should have asked us first. I point out her mistake and add that this is no real problem. After that I dictate Vicarie pro Vita Nova Krever Mether to her and point out where she has to write this down. She accepts my directions without comment or discussion. Likewise for rounding off the Compostela. Our mission is accomplished!
Looking back I feel that the Pilgrim Bureau refusal might have been caused by the unfamiliarity of the situation. Were there no instructions? On 19 November 2019 Joakim Arnoud Michael Krever was Born. Joakim is healthy and pospers.
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