Recently, an article by Kris Gage came up on the Medium feed. One of the subtitles really caught my attention: “Travel does not automatically expand you as a human being”. Wow, so true! Observe many people on the Camino, and you will come to the same conclusion. It seems that is all about the “Compostela”, the certificate given to those who walk a minimum of 100 km on the Camino and get their “Camino passport” stamped appropriately along the way to show that they have not done anything but walk (or ride horseback or cycle). Many seem to be having aimless conversations, or worse, they plod along with their earbuds inserted ignoring the human and natural beauty around them. The movie “The Way” starring Martin Sheen, directed by Emilio Estevez, makes this point well. Watch it if you have never been on the Camino.
A pilgrimage undertaken specifically to embark on personal growth in order to bring that growth to bear on all aspects of a pilgrim’s life will take the pilgrim out of everyday life out of the comfort zone and forever change that life by filling it with spiritual strength and prayer. Kris makes that point that this growth can be undertaken within the bounds of your day to day life, and that even travel does not provoke people to try the new things they need to try in order to grow. When you travel without a guide where people can cater to you as a tourist and you are not encouraged by circumstance or personal daring to leave your comfort zone, indeed you truly may not learn the lessons you felt you needed to learn when you embarked upon the trip, or even a pilgrimage to a holy place.
When you read the stories of the lives of the saints, you will see a different result obtained by making pilgrimages, and you will realize that they are not vain consumerism. St. Francis, a HUGE proponent of poverty, who found joy in his everyday existence possibly made a pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago and certainly made them in Italy, and to the MIddle East, always with a purpose in mind. In 2016, I had the privilege to share the Camino with so many happy, prayerful Italians who undertook the Camino precisely to honor their great saint, who has continued to contribute to the sanctity of Christian life all these hundreds of years after his death. Whether he actually went to the Camino is debated, but many of the Italians sought to undertake what St. Francis had done by making the sacrifice of time, money and effort to travel the Camino. (For details on the debate, carried on a a scholarly, respectful manner, by regular people, please see: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/did-st-francis-of-assisi-walk-the-camino.56/ ). His pilgrimage seems to have taken place at some point in the years 1213 to 1215. If they had had the registration at Santiago de Compostela as they have now, tracing his presence on the Camino would not be debated! Whether the tradition is based in fact or not, the application of Franciscan principles of simplicity and purpose certainly would compel a pilgrim to experience a successful pilgrimage.
St. Francis is also not the only noted saint to make a pilgrimage. In future posts, you will find more information about other saints and other pilgrimages when they are pertinent to what you will experience on your pilgrimage to Avila, Burgos and the Camino de Santiago with exercises designed to heighten your connection to God by Art2Pray . If you desire personal growth, then perhaps a pilgrimage where the itinerary prompts you to extra prayer, contemplation and simplicity would be just the boost your spiritual life needed to infuse your day-to-day life with the Holy Spirit. In this way, you will experience more joy and be more open to God’s workings in your life as you live out the learning you obtained on your pilgrimage. Please comment below about any trips or pilgrimages you have taken.