Becoming a Pilgrim on the Camino

April 29, 2014
Faith Walter
Faith Walter

They say the Camino has a way of summoning you, and for the past few months I’ve felt the pull to get out on the trail once more. In early April, I traveled from Santiago to León, Spain, and started walking back toward home. I looked forward to getting some alone time, feeling the satisfaction of putting a lot of miles under my feet, and meeting new pilgrim friends. It turns out I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve heard the Camino can be a “mind-clearing” journey, and that was certainly the case for me in the beginning. I had set some “thinking goals” to think and pray about while I was on the trail. The first day, I was surprised because so many other thoughts wanted to come to the surface, and it was really hard to clamp them down and stay focused! So for the first couple days I let my mind work through all the clutter that was there, and after that it was easier to pray purposefully.

There were several important, sacred moments during this Camino. This path on the way to the town Rabanal del Camino was like hallowed ground. It was a kilometer or two of wooded trail, lined by a fence in which other pilgrims through the years had inserted twig crosses. It was so quiet and secluded, and walking along, surrounded by hundreds of these crosses, I could sense the presence of the Lord and the footfalls of so many pilgrims who’d gone before.

Another sacred moment, and one that I’d been looking forward to for a while, was seeing the Cruz de Ferro. In recent times, pilgrims have brought stones from home to leave at the foot of the cross. The stones represent burdens, prayers, people, or thankfulness. For me, my stone represented the years and years of paperwork we’ve gone through to open up Pilgrim House.

at the crossWhen we arrived at the Cruz, we saw pilgrims taking turns, walking up to the cross, carefully placing down their stones, and pausing for a moment. Some pilgrims were really emotional; others were joyful. I was in this latter camp, as I left all that paperwork there at the cross, and I felt cleansed – from bureaucracy (for now)!

They say the Camino has a way of bringing life down to the basics. Where am I going today? Where will I sleep tonight? What will I eat and will there be enough water when I need it?

Before I left for the Camino, I was anxious about this getting-down-to-basics thing. I like having things comfortable and in control, and getting back out on the Camino meant I was leaving these very essential things up to the every day. I had to get my daily bread daily, so to speak. It was a bit nerve-wracking to anticipate, but so freeing to actually live out, even if it was only for five days.

I found that the Camino (and the Lord) really do provide food, water, beds, and friends. As fellow pilgrim Julian kept saying – even as he put cream on his 15 bedbug bites – “It’s a privilege to walk the Camino! Today is the best day ever!”

As we enter our busiest time – opening up Pilgrim House in just a few weeks – I hope I can keep remembering to take each day as it comes, and trust God for each step in the journey still to come.