HomeBeyond the BubbleThe generosity behind a walking stick along the Camino de Santiago

The generosity behind a walking stick along the Camino de Santiago

Fr. Jeremy Heppler, O.S.B., presented his journey along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage at the St. Benedict’s Catholic School for the parishioners of St. Benedict’s Church. It was along this pilgrimage that Fr. Heppler experienced instances of generosity.

The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage that Fr. Heppler attended in Oct. of 2022 consisted of eleven days. It was on the fourth day when he encountered his first major instance of generosity coming across a man he recognized. 

“So I’m walking along with some of the other pilgrims, frankly I think it was a few feet behind them, and low and behold I see a man,” Fr. Heppler said. “And he’s calling me over, waving me over. And I thought… Well, my first thought, quite frankly, was that another vendor was trying to sell me something. My second thought was, wait a second. I recognize that face.”

Fr. Heppler had recognized this man from an EWTN Icons series about the Camino pilgrimage he had watched before coming to the Camino de Santiago. 

The EWTN Icons series covered this man on El Camino, Pt. 7- A Special Mission. This man whittles walking sticks among the Camino de Santiago along the stretch of the pilgrimage from Sarria to Portomarin. 

Once Fr. Heppler realized who this man was, he beelined over there to talk to him. The man insisted that Fr. Heppler took the walking stick he was currently whittling. 

Fr. Heppler was struck by the generosity of this man, giving him this walking stick. He viewed this as the man thanking him for his vocation to the priesthood and religious life. 

“All he wanted to do was just to spend a few moments with me, and he did have a very specific request,” Fr. Heppler said. “He asked that I pray for him as I went on the journey, and especially when I arrived at Santiago de Compostela.” 

Fr. Heppler kept the walking stick with him along the road for the rest of the pilgrimage. He even was lucky enough to be able to bring the walking stick back to Atchison because of the generosity from the six ladies from New Orleans in his group. 

“It just so happened that I spent a lot of time walking with them,” Fr. Heppler said. “Our paces happened to be pretty similar. And so, by the end of the trip I had grown in friendship with them.”

Fr. Heppler then explained how the walking stick felt different compared to walking on dirt than roads. On dirt, the walking stick was a great tool to help with his movements. On roads, the walking stick made an annoying loud sound every time it hit the ground and the repetitive moment caused his shoulder to become sore.

So on a day when Fr. Heppler knew they would be walking on roads most of the day, so he planned to leave the walking stick in the group’s bus for the day. 

“And they [the six ladies] insisted,” Fr. Heppler said. “They absolutely insisted. “Father, we’re not going until you have your walking stick.”

Once the group had arrived at Santiago de Compostela and finished with their pilgrimage, Fr. Heppler was actually planning to leave the walking stick in his hotel room or try to find someone to give it to. 

The walking stick was not an easy fit in Fr. Heppler’s backpack or suitcase, and he did not want to break it in order to fit it into his luggage. 

“But those ladies said, “No, you need this walking stick,” Fr. Heppler said. “So they mailed it to the United States for me. It cost them well over a hundred dollars just to send this little piece of wood, and they did it joyfully. It was just another touch of generosity I experienced during that time period.” 

Fr. Heppler with his walking stick in front of St. Benedict’s Church. -Photo provided by Fr. Heppler

Fr. Heppler’s Camino de Santiago experience was filled with many moving stories beside the walking stick. And these stories from his experience are working to inspire others to either start looking for a pilgrimage, or commit to going on the Camino de Santiago. 

Deacon Charles Welte has wanted to take a pilgrimage on the El Camino for over ten years, and is now looking for a way to make it happen. The stories shared from Fr. Heppler’s presentation sticking with him. 

“What struck me is, you knew it wasn’t just a one time act of generosity on the person’s part, because Father Jeremy had the video account of the other monk who had experienced similar generosity from the same man,” Deacon Welte said. “The people who live along the El Camino are living Christ’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. It just fuels the desire to experience the Camino for myself.”

Fr. Heppler has made his slides from the presentation public for anyone to view.

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