The Camino is neither a hike nor a holiday, but a journey into ourselves through the Gate of the Sheepfold, the Way to Life. (Fr Augusto Losada Lopez, Parish of Santiago Peregrino de Triacastela, Galicia)
So is marriage.
It is the Year of Faith 2013, and my husband and I decide to walk the Way of St James in thanksgiving for 25 years of fidelity to each other, and to God for all His gifts, including our three wonderful children.
We are halfway through our Book of Life. Part I is finished. My spiritual director consoles me: “50 is the old age of youth — but it’s the youth of old age!” We ask the Author, “Quo vadis?” He gives us His answer. And so, together with our younger son, then 21, we set off on our own journey to the West.
We dedicate Part II of our Book to Our Lady, Virgin of the Camino, at her chapel in Leon Cathedral.
The Blessing for Pilgrims reads: “Dear Lord Jesus Christ, bless these children of yours who, for the love of your name, are on a pilgrimage to Compostela. Be for them their companion on the way, their guide at the crossroads, their shelter on the road, their shade in the heat, their light in the darkness, their comfort in weariness and their resolve in intentions. So that through your guidance, they may arrive sound at the end of their road, enriched with grace, and return home healthy and full of worthy virtues.”
The Way reminds us of our journey into ourselves and our vocation
16 days and 310km later, on the feast day of St Anthony of Padua, we arrive in Compostela, “sound at the end of our road, enriched with grace.” We venerate and give thanks to Sant Iago (St James in Galician) and receive his blessing at the Pilgrim’s Mass. The incense from the giant botufumeiro infuses us with the aroma of Christ, and we hug and kneel and cry with joy and relief — and incredulity and sadness that it is suddenly all over.
But we are not quite done yet.
St Catherine of Siena said: “We are pilgrim travellers in this life, with no permanence in time, running on toward our in ending in death… So we need the light of faith in the most Holy Trinity if we would reach our goal without the darkness getting into the way”. We go (by car!) to the real end of the Camino at Finisterra (Land’s End) on Galicia’s Costa da Morte (the Coast of Death).
We see where the medieval pilgrims would have picked up scallop shells from the beach and saw, in them, the rays of the sun setting on their old lives. The next day, when they turned around to “return home healthy and full of worthy virtues,” they saw the rays of the sun rising on a new hope and a new beginning.
We too see and understand.
“Few human joys are as deep and thrilling as those experienced by two people who love one another and have achieved something as the result of a great, shared effort.” Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 13
We cannot wait to write the next few Chapter of our Book knowing that the Good Shepherd watches over us. We believe it will end: “And they all lived joyfully ever after.” Thanks be to God.