One evening, many weeks ago, as I was headed out for dinner after my daily hike, a person, still donning a pack and trekking poles and seeking directions, asked if I was a pilgrim. Without thinking, I answered “Yes, I am.” That question has been haunting me ever since. I’ve been asked several more times “Are you a Pilgrim?” Simply, am I a traveler on a journey to a holy place? Yes, of course. But the question evokes a deeper, more reflective response.
A pilgrimage isn’t just a long walk. It is a journey that, if you are fortunate, becomes a journey of personal spiritual significance. The holy place we are seeking on the Camino isn’t Santiago, the physical destination, it is fidelity with the Almighty, a state of beatitude. A pilgrimage is a journey with a hallowed purpose. Every step along the way has meaning. If lucky and thoughtful, life giving challenges emerge. A pilgrimage is not a vacation; it is a transformational journey. New insights appear. Deeper understanding seems to seep from the rocks of the path, the morning mist, the canopy of the trees and conversations with fellow pilgrims. New and old places in the heart and head are visited. Blessings are received and healing takes place. If really fortunate, past guilts, regrets and transgressions are left at the foot of the cross of our Savior. The blessed pilgrim is free of baggage to know and pursue the will of God. After returning from the pilgrimage, life is seen with different eyes. Nothing will ever be quite the same. Blessed are you pilgrim, because you have discovered that the authentic “Camino” begins when it is completed. At its heart, the journey of each life is a pilgrimage, through unforeseen sacred places that enlarge and enrich the soul. Some pilgrims walk on paths. Others toil at rewarding or thankless jobs. Still others struggle with health issues. All pilgrims are blessed!
During the last month, I’ve met the most beautiful people, inspired by how genuine, open and sencere each one is. We’ve laughed, sang, walked in silence, and even cried together. I’ve often walked alone but never lonely, constantly accompanied by the love of my amazing wife, supported and encouraged by her love and that of my family, friends and fellow pilgrims. Tomorrow I start the journey home but the Camino isn’t over. I’m just taking the next steps. “Are you a pilgrim?” “Yes, I am!”
God’s speed and Buen Camino!
Americans headed to Santiago!
End of the Earth!