Final Thoughts from the Camino

Solo en España

On a couple of days during our walk last week, I stayed behind the group for a few hours to write a little bit before hiking out on my own.  This offered me the opportunity to take in some of the culture and vibe of these small Spanish towns without being attached to a large group — something I admittedly enjoyed.

As I’ve mentioned before, the trail of the Camino is lined with scallop shells and yellow arrows, pointing the way for pilgrims toward Santiago.  Each time I reached a point or crossroads where I was unsure of where to go next, I only had to look for these trail markers to know where to go.  How great it would be, I thought to myself as I walked along, if only I had these markers in my life to guide me when I didn’t know where to go, or what decision to make, or path to follow.  Of course, I suppose we do — the Holy Spirit, or that little voice deep inside that is always true but often so very, very quiet.  Why is it so hard to hear sometimes, and why is it always so hard to listen to it?

On the Camino, however, it wasn’t very hard at all.  It was so quiet. And safe. There’s just this peaceful feeling that settles over you when you’re walking this trail along the Spanish countryside that millions of people have walked ahead of you.  It was so quiet at one point that I decided to pray aloud; an Our Father for my dad and a Hail Mary for my mom.  Then I prayed three more Hail Marys for each of my siblings.  And then three more for each of my nieces.  And once again, three more for my two brothers-in-law and my sister-in-law.  I realized I had just prayed an entire decade of the rosary and smiled to myself.

Various thoughts flew through my mind as I crossed the kilometers alone.  I thought about the albergue I’d be staying at that night, looking forward to some sleep, even though my bunk would most likely be next to 20 other bunks, the Spanish air would drift from too hot to too cold at some point in the evening, and undoubtedly once we all finally drifted off to sleep, some Spaniards out there would begin their evening partying until 4 in the morning.

Something that was put in our heads at the beginning of this journey was that it’s not a vacation — it’s a pilgrimage and there’s a difference.  On vacation you’re sipping drinks, on a beach, relaxed, and being taken care of.  On a pilgrimage things are harder, you give up things and sacrifice.  As I was walking though, I realized how incredibly much I was enjoying myself, and how much of a recreation this journey really is for me.  And then I thought of the pilgrims across the centuries, especially from a thousand years ago.  They had to have enjoyed the journey too, and had fun along the way.  There just weren’t that many options back then for fun anyway, and walking  through the countryside surely had to be one of them.

Santiago in their own words

Perhaps I was premature in my assessment yesterday of the students experience of the cathedral.  This morning I asked a few of them to tell me in their own words what the felt.

Bus ride to Madrid

Forty of us are took the nine-hour bus to Madrid yesterday for World Youth Day.  We were in good spirits, everyone was laughing, the sick were healed (for the time being,) and we were finally all off of our feet (and more importantly our blisters.)  The bus driver turned on the radio, and on came John Lennon’s Imagine.  I could feel the energy on the bus swell for a few moments.  Annie, my fellow blogger, who is on her way to meet us in Madrid to make some videos with me, is correct when she writes about the religious experience of music.  It can fill the soul so much as to overflow it sometimes.

Here we come, Madrid.  Take us in.  We pray that WYD shows us something about ourselves and the world we didn’t know about before, that we’ve only just imagined or dreamed.

Highlights from the trail:

swaying trees
town cross
Spanish rooftops
Portomarin church
pilgrim´s rosary
Camino crosses

Feel free to follow on Facebook for updates on our pilgrims throughout World Youth Day.