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Rebecca Gallo is walking the 480-mile pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago despite, or maybe because of, the doubts she has about faith. Journey with her along this ancient path.

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May 31st, 2012

My Day-By-Day Spiritual Journey

 
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Cathedral of Burgos in northern Spain.

At the parish hostel I stayed at in Tosantos (population: 20) we all went up to the third floor chapel after our shared meal. The hospitalerios (a volunteer who runs the hostel) led us in a prayer service that included readings, blessings, songs, and prayer in French, German, English, Spanish, and Italian (representative of the countries from which the nine of us pilgrims had come). He then had a message to share with us: The Camino is not so much about the outward physical journey as the inward journey of our hearts. He encouraged us to take this message with us along The Way. Having just passed the half-way mark on my journey along the Camino, I thought now would be a time to reflect on that inward journey.

As I mentioned in my first Busted Halo blog post, my spiritual journey has had a few bumps along the way. I got to Saint Jean Pied-de-Port to start my Camino wondering if this journey would help me come to any realizations about my shaky connection to my Catholic faith. So far I’ve realized this: I am just where God wants me to be. He’s okay with where I am. So am I. It’s quite simple really. I don’t have to make any grand decisions.

Seeking community

My journey here on the Camino is one I take day-by-day. I get up each morning when my body wakes me. I stretch for 20 minutes, write three pages in my journal, pack, eat breakfast, fill my water bottles, and I’m off. “How far are you going today?” other pilgrims will ask. “I’m not sure. I’ll just see how I feel.” I have a plan — an Excel spread sheet listing the towns I’d like to finish in each day, their distance (in both kilometers and miles) from the previous town. But it’s merely an idea. One of my favorite expressions is the one that says, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.” I’ve made God laugh plenty in my short life.

So it is, too, that my spiritual journey is a day-by-day one at this point. I have an idea of where I’d like to be someday: part of a community of individuals who have a wide variety of opinions and beliefs but who share common ideas similar to mine. That love is really what makes the world go round. That sometimes (often?) there is no clear right and wrong. That there is no one way to live a life, but that we are surely all here to learn from each other. That everyone has gifts to share with the world. This will be a community that believes in helping others — not just those in our community, but elsewhere in our world. We will physically gather together often, sharing our thoughts and joys and problems, offering our love, prayers, and support. There will be leaders, but they will be guides or facilitators rather than dictators. When their time has come to take another role, they will do so and let others take their turn.

I have caught glimpses of this life. I have, for a time, been part of communities like these. As an Americorps VISTA with Massachusetts Campus Compact, as part of a liberal Catholic parish in Boston, which was forced to close, in various Unitarian communities I’ve looked into, and at Joyfuly Jobless conferences for the self-employed. I am confident I will find what I’m looking for again.

Closed churches

A view from Rebecca's walk along the Camino.

As I’ve walked the Camino, I’ve been surprised at how many churches are locked up and unable to be accessed by pilgrims. The pilgrims that started their walk further back in France tell me that all the churches in France were open during the day. Many pilgrims, as we walk by another locked church, tell me they, too, are surprised by how hard it is to find an open one while on this pilgrimage. At first I wanted to take it as a sign — a sign that I don’t belong in a church. That I don’t belong in a Catholic church. Or the Catholic faith for that matter. Indeed, what was it that I wanted from these places? A quiet haven? A place to sit? A place to reflect? I don’t need a church building for any of that — I find all of this in nature, of which there is plenty on this journey. I certainly wasn’t looking to step into church to talk to God. He’s the voice in my head, my intuition, my gut feeling. I can talk and listen to him anytime (and do).

So maybe closed churches were a sign that it’s not the building that I need. When I spoke earlier of the “community” I am seeking, there was nothing there about a physical building. Jesus told Peter about the rock on which the church will be built. A pilgrim I met from Texas reminded me Jesus wasn’t necessarily talking about a physical building on a physical rock. A “church” can be any community of people. Our communities need solid foundations. I believe we can determine what foundations we want those to be and then find or build a church/community based on those.

The foundations of my beliefs remain strong. The community of which I was part (the Catholic Church), however, might not be the right one for me anymore. I’m not sure. But right now the message is clear for me: to simply take each day as it comes.

 
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The Author : Rebecca Gallo
In the spring of 2012, Rebecca Gallo spent six weeks walking the Camino to Santiago. Rebecca writes about putting into practice the lessons she learned on that journey. She's continuing her spiritual journey -- looking for deeper meaning, asking questions of all she's believed before, and finding answers in the people she meets and the experiences she has along the way.
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  • Rebecca Gallo

    Thank you all for your comments. Jane, I will look at that site upon my return (the computer I’m on here doesn’t have the ability to view it due to flash player problems it says).

    Yes, it sounds a bit like utopia. And you’re right – many of us struggle with the black and white of the Catholic faith when we live in a world of so many shades of gray. I’m a bit more (maybe a lot more) open-minded than I feel is acceptable in the Catholic community. I’ll leave it at that for now and continue my searching.

    Thank you, too, John for pointing out the “things you won’t get elsewhere.” I’d like to write a more thoughtful response, but feel like I’m still processing it all. In the meantime, thank you to all for taking the time to respond.

  • Jane K

    http://www.catholicscomehome.org/top-ten-reasons.php

    Maybe you will find some inspiratin here. I hope so. :-)

  • Mary Ann

    Half way Home!
    When sincere men and women seek Truth, it is always He Who finds them. I found it in the Cursillo in Chritianity which so perfectly fit your description of community it brought tears to my eyes when i read this post, Rebecca. This is what Jesus intended. To be “in community” with each other and Him. If you read the history of this movement(Cursillo) and its founder, a young man named Eduardo Bonnin, you will see where the Camino led a youth group(Catholic action) 70 years ago…the road is transcendental…the road is spiritual…He walks with you. i will fast and pray for your success.
    DeColores!
    mary ann

  • John

    It’s an incredible journey you’re on. I feel that your journey will come to fruition when you learn that the Catholic Church is meant to serve its members, not the other way round (“was man made for Sabbath or was the Sabbath made for man?”).

    However, there are things in the church that you won’t get anywhere else – a rock solid theological foundation, a heritage that traces its way all the way back to St Peter (whom Jesus himself handed the keys of heaven to), and a global organisation that stands against injustice (war, abortion, capital punishment) and against iniquity (promiscuity, greed).

    That doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Anything with people in it is going to be flawed. But you can empower you to help it in the ways that it’s designed to, without making yourself a slave of the machine.

  • Deacon Bob

    Whew! So many things I’d like to talk about with you! I look forward to some fascinating discussions next month! Meantime, continue to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit – but make sure it’s the Holy Spirit prompting you!

  • Jane K

    Rebecca, I too have been following your journey with interest and great hope that you will grow personally and spiritually. I am concerned though that the “community” you are seeking seems to be a sort of uptopia…”that there is often no right or wrong or one way to live a life” kind of sounds like you are being pulled by the tide of moral relativism that today’s culture is pulling us in. The Catholic Faith is often very black and white….The Catholic Faith takes stands…on things like abortion, and end of life issues and on issues that pertain to sexuality and marriage. These stands make people uncomfortable- because we are conditioned to believe in the “live and let live” mantra…we might not personally do something – but we’re uncomfortable with telling someone else that they cannot do that. As someone that grew up Catholic- I too struggled at your age to determine what faith Community was right for me. My advice to you is Don’t stress too much over what you don’t understand or necessarily agree with in the Catholic Faith…at your age and state of life- you are bound to be at odds with some of the Doctrines of the Church. That’s ok. Try to look at the wonderful things that the Catholic Church has historically accomplished…and on the ways that the Church continues to enrich people’s lives. The Catholic Framework provides a roadmap on how to live…it’s the “ideal” so to speak…but as a seasoned traveler you know that sometimes…we can deviate from the route slightly – when we need or want to- but we can find our way back and ultimately still arrive at our desired destination. J.R. Tolken said it best…”All those that wander are not lost”. If you have a chance to download some lectures by Matthew Kelly (how to create the Best Version of Yourself is awesome) or any of the Word on Fire series by Father Robert Barron…or visit Catholicscomehome.org – you may find yourself inspired and reignite the fire and realization that our Faith is beautiful at it’s core…and was passed onto us by Jesus. Busted Halo also has some great inspirational tools for you too. May God keep you aware of his presence in your life always and may you continue to find joy on this journey. Peace- Jane

  • PATRICIA

    PRAISE GOD, YOU ARE ON THE JOURNEY. CONTINUE TO REFLECT AND LET GOD SPEAK TO YOUR HEART. YOU ARE IN MY PRAYERS,

  • Yvonne

    Peace and great joy to you!! Every moment is perfect…so wonderful you are stepping out in faith knowing that you are the church! May the light of complete faith continue to shine upon you…

  • Garnette Arledge

    Half Way! What a great place to be poised. As a survivor of spiritual community, I can only say that for me, now, communion is invisible. Communion with saints, the community of God and me, all inside. Blessed by your Camino. Thank you

  • Christy

    Rebecca, I love that you are sharing your journey! I really look forward to your posts. You are an inspiration!

  • Patricia

    Rebecca, as your fellow pilgrim mentioned Church is not a place but the community or people we are all part of one body and all equally important to each other. I hope you find your community but I have a feeling that when you least expect it that it will find you.He has a way of leading us just to where we need to be. I have found that looking back there moments, events and people who are signs and gifts just for us. From your comments you have been truly blessed. May you blessings continue as you journey. Again, thank you for sharing your journey, safe travels.

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