On the Pilgrim Road
During Holy Week, I was blessed to be able to hike the famous ancient pilgrimage route called the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, (The Way of St. James) which leads to the tomb of the apostle St. James the Greater in northwest Spain. For over a 1,000 years, people have made this pilgrimage to honor God and to discover more about life and themselves.
Accompanying me were two other seminarians and a priest friend who is the secretary to the Cardinal Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. It was a blessing to have daily Mass and great fellowship as we hiked through the rolling hills, dense forests, and lush farmland of Galicia. We covered 113km on foot, arriving in Santiago on a beautiful afternoon, just in time for a celebratory meal and were able to serve Mass in the 800 year old cathedral during the Sacred Triduum.
Below you will find some of my meditations and a few of my favorite photos from the experience:
There and Back Again:
Meditations on the Pilgrim Road
Buen Camino! (Good Journey to You!)
With these words, one is greeted hundreds of times along the Pilgrim's Path to Santiago de Compostela.
The Way of St. James draws thousands of travelers from all walks of life. All have heard the irresistible call of the road in one way or another. I was no different.
The Way has a "way" of stripping away those things that are unnecessary and of reminding us of what is truly important. First, it is packing and unpacking our bags to make sure that they are as light as possible while still containing what we need. Second, it is clothing and hygiene. Fashions need to go, in favor of utility, sturdiness, durability, and quick drying. Thirdly, sleeping conditions and food and meals- simplicity is key here.
In humility, the pilgrim is reminded that he has no true home here on this earth. To surrender control of the aspects of our lives is what is required of us. Any illusions about our skills and preparedness can be stripped away too.
For me, my journey on foot began at Sarria and ended later in Santiago after three full days and two half days of walking, obtaining the Compostela certificate and resting in the spirit of the holiest time of the year.
As a lover of the great outdoors, I've done my fair share of camping and hiking, but I had never covered this much distance before. The challenge was exhilarating!
Beginning on Palm Sunday, I took the path, arriving in the afternoon of Holy Thursday.
Nothing in my life could have prepared me for the mystic nature of the Camino.
I knew that we'd be walking through the countryside, but I was surprised by the beauty of creation that I encountered at every turn. There is a sacredness to the land and its familiar-ness spoke to me in silent words that filled my heart with an indescribable joy and peace.
Whether it was the rushing streams, the sweet smell of eucalyptus forests, or the vibrant colors blooming mountain heather, there were so many sights to behold.
Blisters will come, it will be difficult to fins a bed for the night, you'll run low on water, and the numbering of kilometers will be missing from a majority of signs.
Yet, when you hobble into Santiago with its steeples touching a golden sunrise, falling in adoration to the Creator who watched over you as you journeyed and arrived at the tomb of the apostle, as a friend of His Son, it will all be worth it and you will be forever changed.