Excerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: I know, I know. At this time of the year, ones thoughts turn to planning a winter holiday, holiday-breaks, but, today, after much thought and study, and yes, even prayer, I feel it’s right to commit to…
…a pilgrimage. And, am I excited? Rhetorical question. Yes, somewhere new, unusual and challenging; and maybe in Spain?
‘Life is a pilgrimage. Each moment is to be lived in depth, because each moment contains God, hidden within it.’ (Banani Ray, Glory of OM: A Journey to Self-Realization)
Pilgrimage provides an opportunity to distance oneself from the regular, busy-ness of twenty-first century living, it gives time for quiet and deep reflection, it enables a greater encounter of God (or nature, or self, or the Source of All, however one defines that/those words) etc.
And so, there are spiritual benefits of awareness, and there are emotional benefits, social benefits as I encounter others along the way, physical benefits in walking as excess fat just drops off and the body is ‘tested’, as well as mental-orientated benefits with time to think, and more; and ponder the fact that (on this particular pilgrimage) thousands of pilgrims (some of whom aren’t religious) have been walking it for centuries. It’s a win-win situation.
I need to commit to it, also, to satisfy a ‘je ne sais quoi’ deep inside.
And I will be a lone walker! I do enjoy company, I really do, and some I’ve read about have walked the Camino is groups and got a lot from it; but for me, it has to be alone.
On this pilgrimage I need to be alone with the Alone.
‘Religion points to that area of human experience where in one way or another man comes upon mystery as a summons to pilgrimage.’ (Frederick Buechner>
Family and friends have suggested doing it for charity – very laudable – but I won’t, I can’t. I hope that doesn’t sound insular, selfish or callous.
You see the pilgrimage I’m thinking of undertaking is usually done out of respect of someone who has passed on, or it’s done ‘for God’, though many do do this pilgrimage for a variety of reasons which are deep and meaningful to themselves, and why not? It is a personal thing, pilgrimage. But, anything involving the collection of money would change the nature of the pilgrimage.
‘Man is a creature who walks in two worlds and traces upon the walls of his cave the wonders and the nightmare experiences of his spiritual pilgrimage.’ (Morris West)
Pilgrimage can be a life-changing, and transformational experience. A time of letting go of the old to let the new come in. Pilgrims don’t just visit a place as tourists might, but they come away inspired and changed by it in some way.
Oh, not for a while. Having researched it, there is a lot to look forward to, to plan for, such as:
- strong walking shoes: check
- rainproof: check
- change of clothes: check
- GPS/Satnav/mobile phone: check
- wooden hiking staff (as in hiking-pole) – think Gandalf: check
- sunscreen and hat/cap: check
- mozzi repellent: check
- jar of Marmite: check
- first-aid kit: check
- whistle and compass: check
- laptop (so I can FB update progress): check
- a good book: check
and lots more!
Conversely, I’ve promised myself that none of that should should be used as an excuse to get in the way of delaying the pilgrimage unnecessarily. Ultimately, the pilgrimage is about ‘being’, and not only doing or only a list of wants. But, maybe it’ll happen next Spring or autumn, because of family and ministry commitments now.
‘Journeys at youth are part of the education; but at maturity, are part of the experience. ‘ (Francis Bacon)
For some time I’ve been inwardly prompted to consider, and so, today, have committed myself, to walk the Camino De Santiago. A pilgrimage route still walked by thousands of Christians, though one doesn’t have to be a Christian or even ‘religious’ to walk it and benefit (which is just as well, because I think I really am a Druidic-Christian. Oh, did I say that out loud?)
Yes, a Celt (that’s me) walking though Celtic country (that’s Spain, well the northern part of it anyway) steeped in tradition, myth and magic. Lovely. You want to hear about some of the stories I’ve read about…oh, but that’s for another occasion.
I would start in southern France, in the quaint village of Saint Jean Pied de Port, and move eastward, enter Spain and cross the northern part of that country ending at Santiago – or maybe, ‘overshooting’ and going further. Thus ending at Finisterrae (literally the end of the world) and then ‘double-back’ to Santiago for the pilgrims’ service.
In all, that should take some five weeks as the journey is over 500miles/800km (and yes, give yourself a pat on the back if you knew the title of this post was a line from a song by The Proclaimers) – but I intend to savour each step of the way, and so will prepare for six weeks.
‘We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.’ (Proust)
There are many books and you-tube videos for encouragement. I have to say, in addition to much research and prayer, I’ve found Cheryl Stayed’s book about her hike across the Pacific Trail ‘Wild’, and the movie ‘The Way’ (starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, about a father walking the Camino in memory of his dear son) informative and would recommend them.
So, What Now…
More prayer, more thinking, more planning…all to an exciting and defined purpose of walking, as a pilgrim, the Camino De Santagio.
‘We don’t think about pilgrimage in this country. We don’t think about meditation. The idea of taking a six-week walk is totally foreign to most Americans. But it’s probably exactly what we need.’ (Emilio Estevez)