By Claire G. Bangasser
“I am the way and the truth and the life."
I am both a Catholic woman and a pilgrim. I have walked the Camino several times and, on the last three occasions, my pilgrimage ended up rather brutally (once a bad back and twice a bad knee).
The Camino works on me pretty much all the time, in varying degrees. At the moment, my Caminoitis is flaring, with so many pilgrims talking of preparations and booking flights on Camino forums.
Something new has come into my life: I hear the word 'Camino' pretty much every time I go to mass these days that I am in Puerto Rico. I think of or hear the word 'Camino' and I feel good all over. Camino, therefore, is not a concept, an experience that I only find walking, on line or on my bookshelves. I now hear it in 'sacred' circumstances and it echoes in the depths of my being, uniting the Way to Compostela and Jesus Christ as the Way.
Of course, pilgrimages have always been about Godde, Jesus Christ, or saints when you are Christian, and about Lord Buddha or Lord Siva when you are a Buddhist or a Hindu. A pilgrimage takes one toward the Ultimate Reality.
The thing is that the Way to St James is a pilgrimage and a movable feast and an athletic 'parcours' and a way of meeting people and a cultural discovery of the countries you happen to walk through (only Spain for a lot a people) and sometimes a religious or spiritual experience. This is why when you get to the Pilgrims' Office in Santiago, you can check one of four possibilities: You walked the Camino for a religious reason, a spiritual reason, tourism or sport.
As a Catholic woman practicing Ignatian spirituality (now with quite a bit of Benedictine influence), I aspire to follow my friend and mentor, Jesus Christ. I am a very slow learner. I change course with great difficulty. You would expect that after all these years of practicing Catholicism, I would have grown more solidly in my faith.
To cut all this short: The Way to St James and Jesus Christ as the Way are now overlapping in my heart and mind more and more. I have always loved the idea of walking along Jesus, laughing and talking with him. Listening to him as well. On many occasions when I think of Jesus, I feel as good as when I think of the Camino. Thus when the two coincide in my heart and mind, my well-being more than doubles.
All this does not stop at the nice feeling. It is also a sort of call, I think, to go further in my longing to follow the one who calls each one of us to follow him. It is not an easy task as I get so often distracted by fun thoughts or brooding angrily.
Yes, it is that time of the year when the Camino asserts itself once again in my life. This time, however, the Camino is also the way Christ invites me to follow. Is it a religious or a spiritual adventure, I could not say. But it sure feels great.
In His name.
Photo: La meseta in the Spring, Camino 2005