account of her journey.
I was impressed by this adventure which took her 42 days to complete. It was only after I started walking myself that I realised that she must have been positively racing to cover the distance in this time. Then I found out a little more about Lady Christabel, racing driver and mountaineer and it was more understandable!
I never gave Gibraltar another thought until I started following the blog of Ana Maria and Robert who decided to walk from Gibraltar to Santiago and on to Finisterre in memory of Robert’s brother, William Gomez, who died of cancer in 2000. They set out in April of this year and having reached Santiago and then Finisterre decided to continue on to A Coruña. Theirs is an epic pilgrimage and they suffered serious physical problems and had to cope with a lot of inclement weather. However the cause was noble because as well as being a memorial to their brother, they were raising money for charity. The fact that they took 77 days to finish on 5 July was a pleasant antidote to my early concerns about Gibraltar being the starting blocks for high speed walking. Robert and Ana Maria’s website http://walkforwilliam2010.blogspot.com/ tells their story and it is an excellent source of information for other pilgrims.
Gibraltarian Robert and Argentinian Ana Maria planned and trained for their journey for a considerable period before they started in April. While they were preparing I got a telephone call which put Gibraltar right on the map for me.
At the time of that conversation neither of us knew that some years later I would be speaking to him on the telephone minutes after the Vatican had announced that the Pope had appointed him the next Bishop of Gibraltar. The Pope, Bishop, his beloved Gibraltar…he was astonished to the point of being speechless. That was a strange phenomenon for one of the best preachers I have ever heard. The reaction of people who know Ralph was interesting. It was as if they couldn’t believe that someone with Ralph’s outstanding qualities could be appointed. I know that says more about people's feelings about the Vatican but “our Ralph” isn’t a politician, or a mover and shaker. He is a man from a humble background, who was attracted to the mission of the Redemptorist Order, and who has a real understanding of the issues and difficulties of ordinary people. Ralph is a man who I have never heard judge or condemn people. He is someone one you would turn to if you had problems. Ralph is easily moved. He is a man of considerable tenderness. A Bishop? Wow. There is hope.
Ralph lived in one room in the Redemptorist House in Clapham for nine years. He now lives in the Bishop’s House. At the end of the evening we looked out as the sun set on the Straights of Gibraltar. He was surrounded by friends. We won’t see him again for a while as he has a new life now. When pilgrims Ana Maria and Robert next return to Gibraltar they will have a new shepherd. I penned the following little message to him:
‘Twas the night of the Nativity Play and the boy who was to be the shepherd was worried. “I don’t want to do it,” he said. “But why not?” his friends asked. After a moment the boy replied, “I’ll give you three reasons. First, everyone will look at me when I get dressed up in those strange clothes. Second, I’m not sure people will like me, and third, there are many others who might have been better in this part.” His friends listened thoughtfully then replied,“You need to be the shepherd and we’ll give you three reasons. First, you’ve been selected for the part by the Director. Second, you’re the best person we know to look after the lambs. Third, if you ever get lonely as the only shepherd in the play we’ll always be here for you.”
Ralph, Priest, Bishop and dear friend we know you have the talent.
We pray that you are also given the grace to be the shepherd your people need.