Busted Halo

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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December 27th, 2012

This Pilgrim’s Path


Why would a woman with serious doubts about her Catholic faith embark on a 480-mile pilgrimage trail across northern Spain? Maybe I’ll know by the time I finish. For now, the answer to that question is this: I just know it’s something I’m supposed to do. My gut, my intuition, my heart, my God (I use them all interchangeably) has never steered me wrong. From the moment I decided to take this journey, everything has fallen into place — as it usually does when you trust in God.

I will fully admit, however, that I had my doubts — and still do. Doubts not only about my ability to complete this pilgrimage, but also doubts about my faith — or perhaps, more accurately, the religion into which I’d been born. In Catholic elementary school, God played a role similar to a parent or teacher. He had rules for me to follow. There were consequences if I disobeyed. God had things to teach me, which I took to be true because kids believed adults. Still aiming to please adults in high school, I continued to do as my religion instructed — but started to question the reasoning behind it all. In college, the Jesuits were approachable and listened to my questions. They gave me the freedom to explore my religion.

I moved to Boston after college and became involved with a wonderful community at a parish associated with a university. Many of the parishioners who’d attended while in college continued to attend well after graduation — some even driving in from the suburbs to do so. During this time, God became a friend I could talk to, laugh with, and question. My relationship with God became a two-way conversation.

I could no longer be part of a religion that so blatantly ignored a huge problem all the way up the patriarchal chain, only to remain tight-lipped once it was exposed… I wanted no part of it.

Yet here I am, about to embark on a religious pilgrimage. How is that possible? In large part thanks to the women religious I first befriended in college.

It all came crashing down when the Boston Globe broke the clergy sex abuse scandal. My parish was closed for reasons that I never understood. Three weeks into my attendance at a new parish, I walked up to the doors one Sunday to find a note indicating they were on the list of potential churches to be closed in the next round. I said to God, “I can’t do this anymore.”

I was shocked at the lack of response to the scandal. What happened to admitting your sins, asking for forgiveness? I could no longer be part of a religion that so blatantly ignored a huge problem all the way up the patriarchal chain, only to remain tight-lipped once it was exposed.

“Priests are human, too,” I was told. Yes, exactly. They were priests — the ones to whom I was supposed to admit my sins and receive a penance. It seemed a case of, “Do as I say, not as I do,” and I wanted no part of it.

Yet here I am, about to embark on a religious pilgrimage. How is that possible? In large part thanks to the women religious I first befriended in college on two Spring Break Service Trips. They listened to my struggles and let me know that they, too, were struggling with what was going on. They talked me through how I might be able to reconcile it, but also understood that I might not be able to right now — or ever. I continued to attend yearly retreats with them. I worked with female spiritual directors of various orders. I grew closer to God as he patiently helped me along this journey.

I talk to God frequently. I also question him plenty. The most important part? I listen. When I’m unsure what decision to make — small or big — I ask God. And when I listen — to my heart, my gut, my intuition, my God — I never regret it.

I’ve known for 10 years I wanted to walk the Camino. I knew when the time was right I would do it. In January 2011 I had an idea. I’d take some money I’d saved, sell or give away most of what I owned, let my apartment go, and take off for a year of adventures.

“Can I really do this?” I asked God.

“Looks that way, doesn’t it?” God said. (A simple “yes” would have sufficed, but He’s not always that direct.)

One of those adventures was to walk the Camino. I put the idea out to the universe and watched as God sent me sign after sign that I was on the right path. Today, I literally start walking the path. I welcome you to join me on my journey.

[Originally published on May 11, 2012.]

The Author : Rebecca Gallo
Since 2012, Rebecca Gallo has walked the Camino de Santiago three times -- twice on a strict budget, and a third time traveling a little more luxuriously (private rooms with sheets instead of hostels with a sleeping bag). She enjoyed sharing her first journey and subsequent reflections with Busted Halo readers. Other tales of her adventures can be found at RenaissanceRebecca.com.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Kathy O.

    I am 60 years young and I plan to walk the Camino- I am in training now. I am caring for both my parents (ages 86 & 90). I too still have questions about the church. My thoughts and prayers are ith you .

  • Carol Urban

    Wow!! What a journey. So in awe of you. To think I have known you since your birth but not really “known” you. I have watched you grow up. Have always enjoyed our visits at Heidelberg reunions but this is absolutely extraordinary. So proud to know you. You will never know how many lives you will be influencing by this journey with your fantastic journaling and photography. You are such a gift. Looking forward to seeing you next month. Love ya’.

  • Lorrie Schaefer

    My walk was the most prayerful journey of my life. Jesus was present when I was lost or just lonesome. Charged by cows,pelted by rain it was a glorious walk. All is grace and I wish that for you too Rebecca…

  • C Lai

    my prayers with you along the camino. have courage and enjoy the pilgrimage where Santiago awaits at the Portico da Groria.

  • Rebecca Gallo

    Thanks to all for your insights, wisdom, thoughts.
    Lorrie – good luck to you on your camino! There are five women from TX walking and one is turning 70 on the day they get to Santiago. They are in Najera at the moment.
    Renegade – I have found the same to be true. I do ask about religious reasons and some have them, most are spiritual or seekers in some way but not necessarily religious. And I agree – there are days when figuring out what/where to eat and sleep take more time than one would like!

  • Lorrie Schaefer

    Hi Rebecca, A dear friend sent me your website. I will be leaving Sunday to walk el camino for my 75th birthday. With 4 fellow pilgrims,we will start in Sarria on 5-22-12.Pray for us as we will pray for you.

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