The Prayer of La Faba

prayer-of-la-faba“Make sure you stop in the church at O Cebreiro and read the prayer there,” Rick’s e-mail told me. He had gotten ahead of me on the Camino, but would send me daily updates on his progress and things not to miss. I didn’t see this particular e-mail before I arrived in O Cebriero. But I found the Prayer of La Faba easily enough, and knew it was something special. Having been on the Camino for a month now, the words resonated with my experience, and that of most any pilgrim who has walked The Way.

Seven months later, I read that prayer to end one of the meetings of our local chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino.

Although I may have travelled all the roads,
crossed mountains and valleys from East to West, 
if I have not discovered the freedom to be myself,
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have shared all of my possessions
with people of other languages and cultures;
made friends with Pilgrims of a thousand paths,
or shared albergue with saints and princes,
if I am not capable of forgiving my neighbour tomorrow,
I have arrived nowhere. 

Although I may have carried my pack from beginning to end
and waited for every Pilgrim in need of encouragement, 
or given my bed to one who arrived later than I,
given my bottle of water in exchange for nothing;
if upon returning to my home and work, 
I am not able to create brotherhood
or to make happiness, peace and unity,
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have had food and water each day,
and enjoyed a roof and shower every night;
or may have had my injuries well attended,
if I have not discovered in all that the love of God,
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have seen all the monuments
and contemplated the best sunsets;
although I may have learned a greeting in every language;
or tried the clean water from every fountain;
if I have not discovered who is the author
of so much free beauty and so much peace,
I have arrived nowhere.

If from today I do not continue walking on your path,
searching for and living according to what I have learned;
if from today I do not see in every person, friend or foe
a companion on the Camino;
if from today I cannot recognize God,
the God of Jesus of Nazareth
as the one God of my life,
I have arrived nowhere.

I did not, however, read the prayer in its entirely. I left out, “If from today I cannot recognize God, the God of Jesus of Nazareth as the one God of my life.”

I knew most of the people I met on the Camino were not religious — anymore. Many had grown up in a faith they then later chose to leave. I also met a fair number of atheists — some who had grown up as such, others who chose that path later in life. Most everyone had, however, a deeper reason for walking the Camino. It wasn’t just a good way to see Spain or a cheap vacation. It was also something that helped many with bigger decisions in their lives.

A friend describes the Camino as “the most Buddhist of experiences on the most Catholic of trails.” Indeed, if there was a commonality that we all experienced it was that, at some point on our journeys, we were doing a walking meditation, even if we didn’t know it.

When I read that prayer that night in Asheville, I didn’t want to assume that my audience had religious reasons for walking the Camino, either. After all, I live in one of the most liberal cities in the South. I didn’t want the prayer to lose its meaning because of three lines that I didn’t think everyone needed to believe.

I didn’t think much of it until the following day when a fellow returned pilgrim said to me, “You know, I loved that prayer you read. I looked it up on the web and found there were three lines you didn’t read. Did you leave them out on purpose?”

I explained that indeed I had. If there was one thing that became crystal clear to me on the Camino, it was that we could all believe whatever we wanted. God will love us all regardless.

What are examples of times when you want others to believe the same thing you do — not just in religion, but your opinions on other matters? Take time today to listen to a different opinion without trying to argue your own.