A message from the Vice-President, Father Anthony Casamento:
Hiking the Camino de Santiago was one of those things I’d heard about once. Something that for some reason stuck with me and as a result ended up on my 'bucket list'. Something I’d get around to doing one day, when I had the time. Well that time arrived two weeks ago, when 34 staff and friends of ACU landed in Madrid to begin the journey to Santiago.
The Camino de Santiago consists of a number of ancient trails, with many different starting points. The route favoured by the vast majority of people is what’s known as the Camino Frances, a journey which begins in the foothills of the French side of the Pyrenees. For our band of ACU pilgrims, the journey started some 125km from Santiago in the small town on Sarria. And what a journey it was.
Staff and friends of ACU recently hiked the Camino de Santiago.
It was journey of many types: physically, psychologically, emotionally and metaphorically. A journey of introspection and reflection. A journey where some in our group lost themselves, and some people found themselves. Many in our group talked about the Camino being a ‘wake up’ journey. That they woke up to what was really important in their lives… and what wasn’t.
A journey of challenging simplicity, to life and the daily living of it. How far will I walk today? When will I stop? Where will I eat and what will I eat? It’s a journey of uncertainty, never really knowing what’s over the next hill or around the next bend. A journey that kicks you out of your comfort zone(s) and connects you with growth, determination and resilience. A journey that can stretch your capabilities way beyond what you thought you were capable of, and tests your patience to the limit.
And then there’s the beauty. Beauty in the scenery, in the sunsets and the sunrises; in the moments that take your breath away, in the paths that wind their way across miles and miles of open countryside: endless fields of corn and wheat, grape vines and sunflowers, seemingly stretching out to infinity, and through dense woodland too. Through quaint, ancient, picturesque villages, delightful towns and sprawling cities.
And the incredible beauty of people. In the warmth, compassion and kindness of complete strangers, many of whom don’t speak a language you understand but who share a common language of connectedness. Lots of people, hundreds of thousands in fact, from many different countries and from all walks of life, who set out to complete some or all of the Camino de Santiago every year. For some it’s a pilgrimage – the path of St James – for some it’s a challenge, and for others it’s an adventure. Of course, it’s also all three, and probably more, for lots of people. As well as an outer physical journey it’s also an inner, psychological and spiritual journey.
Along the way our ACU pilgrims met and talked with many people who were captivated by the challenge of completing a hike but only wanted to do it the once. And then others who came back again and again and again. Not only because they loved to walk, but because of the experiential nature of the journey. The many aspects they got pleasure from and the sense of achievement and fulfilment that resulted both from the planning and completion. It was often shared that it’s not about ‘the’ Camino but about your Camino. It’s about what it means to each individual and that there are many, many lessons along the way… if you’re open to learning that is.
Perhaps hiking the Camino de Santiago is something you might want to add to your one day list? Whether it’s on there or not, don’t leave the things you’d love to do until it’s too late.