“SOOOO… How was the CAMINO??” When I have been posed this question over the last few weeks since I’ve been back, I allow myself a long pause before responding. There is so much to say, so much I could relate about all that God did while walking 70 miles with 5 other women over 5 days in Northwestern Spain. It’s hard to know where to begin.
Everyone’s experience on the Camino was highly personal, and so was the way God ministered to each of us on the trail. On Sunday night, the night we all gathered for the first time as a group before setting out on our journey the next morning, we went around and each of us answered the question, “Why are you doing this?” No two responses were alike. I can share some of my takeaways from walking the trail, but if you know someone who went, Lynette, Kathryn, Mona, Jen, or Stephanie, do yourself a favor and ask them what it was like for them. You will certainly be blessed by their stories. And you will undoubtedly laugh too. For my part, I was struck by three particular graces of the Camino and what it provided for our group.
The first is the grace of simplicity. To be able to spend 5 days where my only job was to get from one point to another simply by putting one foot in front of the other, and carry only a very few things with me was an incredible gift. Having purpose and direction, but simplicity in those things opened up an enormous amount of space for awareness of God’s presence. We spent our mornings in silence. We stripped away many of the distractions we normally have in our lives, and as we walked through quiet country lanes, small towns, and eucalyptus forests, God was palpably among us, individually and together.
The second is the grace of waymarking. Many people end their time on the camino, whether it is 5 days or 50, with a tattoo on their body of the shell that appears on most of the waymarkers along the camino. I can understand now the power of this symbol and why someone would want to carry it with them in that way forever. I almost did it myself (but Mom, don’t worry, I didn’t…yet.) Most caminos have regular and trustworthy waymarking, so a map is not really needed. None of us had done this trail before, and so all of us were flying blind to an extent. But when anyone would come to a crossroads, one simply had to look around and each time, without fail, there was the shell (or a spray-painted yellow arrow), showing us the way. Each day I found new meaning in Merton’s prayer: “I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.” I learned new ways to trust God through meditation on waymarking in the spiritual life.
The third is the grace of rhythm. Music is very important to me, and in many parts of this trail, even during the silence of our mornings, walking in the early half-light through the bucolic splendor of Galicia shrouded in mist, I was attuned to the rhythm of my feet, step, step,stepping their way in pursuit of a destination. And then I would be drawn into the music of birds, or wind in trees, or far-off voices, or the rhythm of the steps of others, and I would start to feel a deep gratitude for all things, and be aware of the “sacrament of the present moment” to borrow from Jean-Pierre de Caussade. God played music for me in various forms and created a lovingly-wrought and unexpected mix tape laid on top of the rhythm of walking. I don’t think I would have been able to hear it without the steadiness of a pace, and the hours of each day devoted to it. Rhythm brings out the melody after all, that’s why you need it. It’s true of our spiritual lives as well.
Of course there is more to say. Many more graces were abundantly clear to our group as we walked along, many more encounters with God were had. All of us were sad when it was over. It was protected time, consecrated time. And all of us wanted more.
To that end, we will be doing another Camino pilgrimage in 2019. And in June of 2018, Scott Buresh, Community Minister for Coracle Baltimore will lead a different walking pilgrimage on St. Cuthbert’s way in the UK. Please thinking about joining us on one of these pilgrimages, and let me or Scott (respectively) know if you are interested. We would love to have you along.
God bless you in all the journeys you are on, this day, wherever it finds you. Thank you for being partners and supporters of Coracle, we love to be on the journey with you, always. Psalm 25:4 says “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.” Let this be the prayer we pray together.