In June I walked a 100 mile portion of the Camino de Santiago. With two friends, Scott and Rob we chose a less traveled path called the Northern Way, in the Basque region of Spain. We began in San Sebastian on the Atlantic coast and walked inland to the city of Bilbao.
The Basque region has its own distinct language and culture with quaint, beautiful towns threading their way along the coast and through the mountains. Known as 'monteverde', the land of the Basque is the green portion of Spain with ample rainfall, lush forests and farmland. It is a place of morning mists which stir the mystic within. After a tough pull up a steep mountain pass, the response when one reaches a summit may be a 'wow', a'thank you' or perhaps 'glory'!
Since the ninth century pilgrims have walked various routes from France, Portugal and Spain to journey to the Cathedral of Saint James. Traditionally people journeyed as penance or for healing. Today as many as 300,000 pilgrims per year walk for profoundly personal reasons, a mix of spiritual, physical and emotional.
The Camino de Santiago (Latin: Peregrinatio Compostellana, "Pilgrimage of Compostela"; Galician: O Camiño de Santiago), known in English as the Way of St James, is a network of pilgrims' ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostleSaint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition holds that the remains of the apostle are buried.
For me this Camino was a coming out. Coming out from the restrictions and fearfulness of our two year journey with this pandemic. Having been a pastor for the first 18 months of the pandemic (until my retirement) I found myself emotionally drained. With me I carried my tiredness and a desire to lift it all up to the Creator who promises to sustain, heal and renew.
The walk was a form of prayer. As I walked and in particular while resting at a Trappist Monastery, I had time to pray. I prayed for family, friends and neighbors in need. I prayed for my fellow pilgrims (you meet wonderful travelers from around the world). I prayed for the healing of my divided nation. I prayed for victims of war and neglect. I prayed for national and world leaders seeking to address the complex and profoundly consequential issues of our day. The list of need was on my lips as I walked.
With me too were prayers of praise and gratitude for the gift of life, the gift of health (to be able to walk), gift of friendship and family. And praise for the the beauty of the natural world.
I was grateful too for the long moments, hours of simply walking in silence. Listening to what was going on within and around me.
To walk the Camino is to be in communion with the Source of all that is life giving, to be in communion with my fellow pilgrims, with Nature and with the person I long to become.
The beauty of the Camino is that it is accessible to all. It is a place of intention and openness. Rather than being any one path or any particular place, it is a place of the heart, a way of being. The Camino is a metaphor for being open to the transformative power of the Spirit.
Where do you sense the Spirit is calling you to be changed, to be transformed, to be renewed?
It is painfully true that we live in a troubled, complicated time. It is true too that we journey not alone. We walk with a Creator who listens, loves, sustains and heals. We walk too in company with one another and with the restorative beauty of nature.
Friends, I wish you well on your pilgrimage. Wherever your path leads. Remember too, that you journey not alone.
Buen Camino ~ Kent Harrop