I have wanted to walk the Camino of Santiago de Compostela for almost two decades. For much of the month of June, Chris and I travelled the Camino Frances—the French Way—which has become the most travelled path of the many pilgrim paths that end in the city of St James, Santiago.
The paths that Chris and I walked were created by pilgrim footprints beginning in the 11th century. As the Camino grew in popularity, those paths were tended and expanded by governments that saw the value of pilgrims walking (and stopping) in their town. After some centuries of decline, the Camino has become immensely popular again. Today somewhere around half a million pilgrims travel toward Santiago each year. Chris and I met pilgrims from Argentina, South Africa, Philippines, Russia, Australia, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Brazil, and virtually every European nation, including Hungary and Poland. We found that having a shared purpose and being on the Way together created an expansive space for surprising conversations and encounters, as well as for personal reflection.
It’s a truism that life is like a pilgrimage. We make our way depending on the paths laid by those who travelled before us; we depend on the service and generosity of those who support our efforts along the way; our own personal journey is unique even if the way is shared by thousands of other feet.
But we also make paths when we choose to go in a particular direction. Something that makes the Camino different from other outdoor adventures is that for so many pilgrims there is the stated intention of reflecting on the lives that each of us has imagined living, and also reflecting on the life each of us actually lives. What has changed? What do those changes mean? What might be different in the future? We became aware of how many key passages in the Gospels happen on the road: Jesus and his disciples encountering all manner of people, challenging and being challenged, the call to new purpose and new values. Their Camino was the Way of the Kingdom—lifting up the small, the overlooked; the Way of radical inclusion that was and continues to be so very challenging.
As I walked and reflected and considered where I’ve been and how life has unfolded in the most surprising ways, a few lines from a favorite story kept going through my head:
“Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many pass one way, a road is made.”*
Our life as Christians—as parishioners at St. Andrew’s, and as Christians who are a part of the committed, questioning people following Jesus throughout the centuries—is to commit to walk the Way of Jesus and the Way of the Kingdom, step by step, always in the faithful hope that “where many pass one way, a road is made.” We pray that by walking the Way of Jesus we will indeed make a path that brings us closer to God and closer to each other, changing us, changing the world, and making a road for those who follow us.
*Lu Xun, “My Old Home,” translated by Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang