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.
  • Julie Hagan Bloch

    Good luck, and blessings to you on your journey.
    A bit of pocket-sized wisdom for you: Never be diverted from the truth by what you would like to believe.
    And don’t confuse what you think you ought to believe with what you really do believe, or realize you don’t know, one way or another. And maybe it’s not possible to know, and how to deal with that. Remember, the creator of the universe is not human, and really is beyond human understanding. *Any* human’s understanding. No wonder you are doubting!
    This is a journey that doesn’t necessarily end when you walk the last step on your current physical trek. You are blessed with a heart and a mind. Both are necessary.A
    gain, good luck.

  • Kerry

    I have only walked part of the Camino de Santiago but am so thankful to have gone. I hope to walk the whole way soon. You are an inspiration into listening to God’s voice. Peace be with you.

  • Jackie Loret de Mola

    God Bless you, Rebecca! I have sons your age, 4 as a matter of fact. As a mom of sons stuggling with their Catholic upbrining, I can understand what you are saying. I pray you walk and in the end find the peace, joy, and love of the Eucharist. I long to share that again with my sons. You will be in my prayers as I pray for my sons each day! Enjoy the journey!

  • steven tyler

    i like the journey keep at it YOLO

  • RenegadePilgrim

    You will find that not everyone on the Camino is doing it for religious reasons…for many it is is a cheap vacation or adventure. I found it to be a combination of both…I had religious experiences for sure…but I also spent a lot of time focusing on basic needs…food, water, shelter and “how many blisters do I have on both feet???!!!” Buen Camino!!!

  • Mary Ann

    Greetings Rebecca,
    It was wonderful to stumble upon this terrific website and in particular your journey. As lay-director for the Cursillo in Christianity for Trenton, NJ diocese, it was encouraging to see how Our Lord is still calling folks to the Camino in answer to the deep questions of our heart. Bon Camino Rebecca….go into the deep. Our prayers are with you.

  • Wendy

    You are on the right track Becky. You dialogue with God, and keep on doing it. Faith is always a journey, and organized religion is the best we can do to support each other here on earth. Love to you.

  • Deacon Bob Davis

    But if you make it back in time, we’re looking forward to hearing every detail!

  • Deacon Bob Davis

    Wow, Becky! What a surprise to see this on the Busted Halo page on Facebook! I guess you won’t be making the reunion this year! I’ll be praying for you on your pilgrimage – both the physical one and the spiritual one. Love you!

  • Glenda Beall

    I am looking forward to each of your posts and your thoughts as you travel this journey. Blessings.

  • Pat Filley

    Rebecca, I am following your blog and your adventures. You are a delight to know and what an awesome thing that you can share so much of your life journey with all of us chair travelers. Be safe, I am walking with you in ‘spirit’ and I hope to hear you share some of your adventure when we get to Poughkeepsie in July. Blessings.

  • Carolyn Martone

    This is such a wonderful piece. Thank you for writing it and for sharing this journey. We are all walking with you, my friend.

  • Jennifer Brooks

    We’ll be with you every step of the way… and rooting for you in every possible way! Much love to you, and be safe in your adventures, my friend.

  • Rebecca Gallo

    Thanks to all for your support and encouragement. Greetings from Roncesvalles! I just finished Day 2 of the pilgrimage and feel better than I thought I would. Will attend my first Pilgrim’s mass tonight at 6 at the monastery.

    Hiked five miles into the Pyrenees yesterday to Orrison. Spent 5.5 hours hiking today (12 miles). Am happy to have completed what are said to be the two hardest days. Plenty of wonderful people to meet along the way. Today I’m most thankful for the hiking sticks my friend Kate lent me and for a Frenchman named Michel who slowed his pace for a while today to walk with me. More to come:)

  • John and Kay Paz

    Good luck on your journey. We have a young adult group and are looking to follow your journey together. Please keep the updates coming.our prayers are with you.

  • Joanne DuMound

    Questioning one’s faith and finding answers to those questions only makes our faith stronger. Vaya con Dios, Rebecca. Keep that strength, courage – and the faith. Many will pray for your journey and insight.

  • Liz Zych

    Have fun! Look forward to hearing more about your adventures in the upcoming weeks

  • Patty Phipps

    Good luck, Rebecca! I loved your column here, and your honesty about your experiences in faith, and I pray you will have a fruitful and uplifting (and safe!) journey.

  • Emily

    Love your journey so far, good luck and can’t wait to read more!

  • Elizabeth Anne DiPippo

    This is great! I am so happy to be able to
    “walk with” Rebecca. And I love her writing style! EA

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