By the time you read this I will be in Spain, hopefully travelling safely on a walking pilgrimage to the city of Santiago in the northwest part of the country. In the process of preparing for this journey I discovered I am a pilgrim, although I had not realized it. You’re a pilgrim too and it’s time for you to recognize it as well.
In January 2021 I began monthly zoom meetings with a spiritual mentor, a man named Mark who lives in Austin, Texas, studied for the Jesuit priesthood, but whom God called to the path of a brilliant PhD scientist. Mark and I connected as I was struggling to understand why my prayers seemed so ineffective and how I could find a closer walk with God. Mark has been an immeasurable help and he always closed our meetings and his emails with “Buen Camino”.
I had high school Spanish so I understood “buen”, but “camino” was new to me, so I did some research. Turns out the translation can be some version of “Right Path” or “Good journey”. Further research led to the discovery that this is a phrase spoken daily on an ancient pilgrimage to the Spanish City of Santiago where the bones of Saint James, brother of Jesus, are believed to be buried. The “Camino de Santiago” has been a path travelled by pilgrims since 1000 CE. Seekers have travelled different routes to Santiago, searching for a variety of things: spiritual healing, wisdom, insight, connectivity, or sometimes just a chance to unplug from the busyness of the world and reconnect with a slower lifestyle.
I have my own reason for walking the Camino as do my three friends who are joining me. It’s not a “bucket list” thing. It’s a spiritual journey and I hope I will find what I seek. But in my preparation for the Camino I have made an early discovery. I am a pilgrim.
I’m not talking about the black coat, top hat wearing people we trot out for Thanksgiving. I’m talking about being a traveler in life. Encountering challenges. Setbacks. Joys. Exultant views and harrowing adversities. Wiktionary defines it like this: A pilgrim (from the Latin peregrinus) is a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journey (often on foot) to some place of special significance … In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world.
I have unknowingly been on a pilgrimage that I was not awake to. Like your journey, there have been obstacles on my pilgrimage. Times of celebration and times of mourning. Sore feet and bad weather and sunshine. This is all to be expected on a pilgrimage. I have lived what M. Scott Peck wrote in his opening lines of The Road Less Travelled: “Life is difficult”.
You too are a pilgrim. As you journey on your pilgrimage, greet fellow travelers with a cheery “Buen Camino” and remember although life is difficult, it is also beautiful. Both are part of the pilgrim’s path.