In scripture we find our identity in 1Peter 2:9-11 as “purchased people,” called “out of darkness and into the light” and as pilgrims passing through toward our eternal destination. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul, 12 Having your conversation good among the Gentiles. (Douay-Rheims)
Pope John Paul II echoed St. Augustine on our journey as pilgrims on this earth:
Moreover, as regards the present time in which we are pilgrims on earth, we sing the “Alleluia” as a consolation to fortify ourselves through life; the “Alleluia” which we pronounce now is like the song of the wayfarer; in walking on this exhausting way we tend toward that homeland in which is rest, in which, with all the present concerns having disappeared, there will only be the “Alleluia.”
To be a pilgrim –for a few days or months–that is, to follow a physical path on pilgrimage, is to manifest in body and mind the reality of our spiritual task. We Christians have on this earth “no lasting home” for we are traveling spiritually toward that “everlasting city.”
The avatar for this blog is the stylized cockle shell that is the symbol of the the Camino de Santiago. The Camino- “The Way” –is a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James the Greater in Santiago de Compostela in the province of Galicia in northwestern Spain.
I mentioned in the ABOUT page that the pilgrimage captivated me–such that words fall flat when I attempt to describe the emotion…Perhaps it piqued your interest?
Santiago is from “santo Iago” or St. James. St. James is one of the chosen three Apostles present at the Transfiguration of Christ. After the Resurrection, St. James evangelized in Spain. Later, he returned to Jerusalem where Herod beheaded him. His disciples took his body back to Spain.
In the ninth century his body was rediscovered, a cathedral built to house his tomb, and pilgrims began to stream across Europe in pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.The pilgrimage begins at numerous points in Europe and converges in the Pyrenees at the Basque village of Roncesvalles (or Jaca) then treks west for 400 miles across northern Spain to Santiago, near the Atlantic coast. Along the way you will tred sacred ground, may visit a Eucharistic miracle at O’Cebriero, can visit astounding Romanesque churches and cathedrals, kneel in the woods at lonely crosses of wood or stone or iron, smile at endearing local shrines and meet delightful people (and dogs!)
See map here.
With Rome and Jerusalem, The Camino is one of the most popular pilgrimages in all history.
In the year 2005 over 90,000 pilgrims made their way to Santiago–and that is only the number who sought the “Compostelana”, an official certificate given to those who complete a certain distance of the pilgrimage. Many make the journey for adventure, or as a test of physical endurance. Many follow the shell signs for hundreds of miles for the sheer joy of hiking -no matter. Despite themselves, very many who begin as adventurers end as seekers after all.
A Google search for “Camino de Santiago” will pull up a wealth of exciting accounts of people from all walks of life -believers and non-believers-who have made the Camino.
I wrote an article about my own pilgrimage for Crisis magazine; you can find it here.