By Lucy Johnson
In this week’s Gospel, Luke reintroduces us to John the Baptist as a voice crying out in the wilderness. For some reason, I have always been attracted to the concept of “the wilderness.” Perhaps it is because I live in a large metropolitan city, have seven children, and between work and volunteer activities, I have very little time for quiet reflection, much less wilderness. Yet through the years, the concept of spending time in the wilderness has been in the back of my mind.
About 20 years ago, I met a retiring priest who was to going to Spain to walk the Way of St. James, the Camino. I remember thinking, “someday, I might do that.” Walking the Camino would continue to surface through the years. Finally, about five years ago, I decided that when “my baby” goes to college, I would go to Spain and walk the Camino. This fall, my dream became a reality. I left home on September 6 and returned October 24, spending 40 days in the wilderness and another 10 days extra for a biblical 50-day pilgrimage.
On the Camino, I sought out places to stay that were connected with a church, monastery or convent. Those places often offered Mass, an evening reflection and a blessing. On one such occasion, the priest shared three possible reasons why pilgrims might walk the Camino. The first was gratitude. They are grateful for favors received or for the health and ability to be able to walk 500 miles. Perhaps they are grateful for the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.
The second reason might be that they are walking for an intention. They may have a decision to make or are searching for forgiveness. It could be that God has placed this in their hearts, and they don’t really know why they are walking the Camino.
Finally, the Camino de Santiago is also called “the way of the stars.” Pilgrims are called to be stars for one another on the journey.
Before I left, a friend sent me a packet of inspirational quotes and thoughts that she had collected from various people. One is especially applicable for us this Advent.
If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things, if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have time to make the long slow journey across the desert as did the magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel, a star to discover and a being within ourselves to bring to life. May you find peace on the journey, joy as you gaze at the stars and tranquility as new life dawns in you. (author unknown)
We are all pilgrims on a journey. As you travel through Advent, may you be grateful, form an intention, and be a star to others letting your light shine for them.
About the author:
Lucy Johnson lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband, Jeff. She has 7 children, and 8 grandchildren. Past-President of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. (ACCW 2013-2015), Pharmacist, A “Martha” working on her “Mary”.
Lucy! Walking the Camino is on my bucket list – has been ever since the movie “The Way”. Thank you for this article! Makes me want to start training now, but right at this point in my life, it is not possible. Thank you for the inspiration, though, as I continue to dream about future possibility for me.
I’ll keep you in my prayers that some day you will do it. It took me over 15 years to realize my dream. (and I think it’s hard to truly “train” for the Camino so don’t worry about that.)
Thank you for sharing. It gives one to think about during this season of Advent.
Lucy … Congratulations for completing your walk. You are a great inspiration in walking, living and working your faith. And I love the quote. Thank you for doing God’s will and sharing it with us! Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year filled with much love, joy and good health.
I was thinking this could be a great pilgrimage idea.
I agree! When I was walking, I met pilgrims who had done this a number of times and wondered why anyone would walk it more than once. Since I’ve been back, I understand and hope that some day, I can do part of it again. There are many ways to walk the Camino – so a pilgrimage could be as short as a week. I do have a list of more spiritual places to stay – ones that really aren’t on the internet or featured in books, but places that add to the experience.
I’d love to know your special recommendations, Lucy! This pilgrimage speaks to me, and I pray that I’ll be able to do it one day. I recently discovered that I have distant grandfathers who are buried at St. James, so visiting their graves gives it an even greater poignancy to me. God bless and keep you! Kitty Cleveland
Beautifully written and so helpful on this Monday morning! Thank you!