Walking the Camino de Santiago

One of the most important Christian pilgrimages of medieval times.

Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago in Spain is one of the most important Christian pilgrimages of medieval times. Legend has it that the bones of St. James, Jesus’s first disciple, are buried at the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Learn More about The Way of Saint James

Our of our very own Vestry members, Jennie Ori, has finished walking the 500 mile path of the Camino de Santiago! She has shared with St. Luke’s her thoughts & musings during this introspective time. She has also shared photos of the friends and acquaintances she met, and scenes along the way during her amazing five week journey.

Posted August 28, 2019

Jennie and friends

I am in Pamplona and will take a day of respite before going on. I love the camino. It is hard walking, but the people: residents, volunteers in the hostels, walkers — all are super kind and welcoming. In some ways I had my mountaintop experience going down into a valley. My friend and I accidentally took the hard road instead of the easy on into Roncesvillas. I have a very weak knee and the descent was very rocky and very steep. About halfway down (2 hours later), I sat on a log and went over backward into a trench. I couldn’t get out. Two young Italian guys (20 and 21), came by and helped me out. Then One offered to carry my backpack (as well as his own) the rest of the way down. The other young man held onto my arm so I wouldn’t slip and fall. They walked slowly with us knowing they were risking getting into the town too late to get a place to sleep. When we arrived (at 9:45 p.m.), they called around for us. There were only 2 beds in a hotel because it was now after 10 — and the hotel wouldn’t let the boys sleep on their air mattress on the floor. In the meanwhile a volunteer from the monastery (with 182 beds for pilgrims) saw what the boys were doing. She opened up (after hours) and let us in, giving us the 4 remaining beds because 4 people hadn’t shown up — and I found out later that several people had been turned away by them. So the boys had a bed as well as us. We paid for the boys in face of their fierce objection. The wanted absolutely nothing for their efforts. They are my camino angels! I think that what strikes me the most is how stereotyped the young are. Just looking at these boys, most would write them off as being feckless and unreliable. How much potential for good we lose in writing off our youth!

Posted August 29, 2019

Camino de Santiago

As I’ve been walking the camino, I think often about the little, pithy statement that St. Luke’s uses — Whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey of faith, there’s a place for you here at St. Luke’s. The same can be said of the walking on the camino. Some have to sometimes take a bus or taxi part of the way, and I admit I’m one — 92 degrees and 70% humidity are not my cup of tea. Some walkers are super-fast — usually the young and sporty ones, and some are slow. If my friend Federico is a hare, and my other friend a turtle, well I’m a snail. I’m often one of the last to get to my destination. But here, as with faith, I believe that if I walk well, the destination will take care of itself.

Posted September 3, 2019

Camino de Santiago
Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Burgos, Spain
Altar in St. Nicholas in Burgos, Spain

Poem by Spanish pet Antonio Machado captures my feelings right now: Caminante, son tus huellas/ el camino y nada mas;/ Caminante, no hay camio,/Se hace el camino,/ y al volver la vista atras/ se ve la senda que nunca/ se ha de volver a pisar./ Caminante, no hay camino/ sino estelas en la mar. I’ll try to translate, but it will do the poem no favors: Walker your foot tracks are the road and nothing more. Walker, there is no road, you make the road, and when you turn to the sight behind you, you see the narrow path which you will never return to walk again. Walker, there is no road except the wake left in the sea.

I went ahead of my friends by bus to Burgos because they aren’t going to stay over. I didn’t want to miss the cathedral and the church of St. Nicholas. Attached is exterior of cathedral. Next picture coming is altar of St. Nicholas made from one piece of, I believe, alabaster. It is a UNESCO heritage site.

Posted September 10, 2019

The Pyrenees
The high plains of Spain
Jennie's walking companion

The last couple of days we have been walking the Maseta == the high plains of Spain. The scenery is cast but monotonous, unlike the Pyrenees which were varied and exciting. As I walked though, I was reminded of the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. The Pyrenees are exciting and interesting and extremely hard walking. The Maseta is flat, boring and an easy walk. Perhaps that is a choice we all make on our walk through life: easy and boring or hard and exciting.

A young German man — about the age of my younger boy — with whom I walked for several days. Even in the boring stretches there is joy.

Posted September 13, 2019

Scenic views from El Camino
A village on the path

I’ve been walking through one small village after another, and I can barely remember any of them, even the ones I stayed over night in. As I walked today, I thought about this in terms of our life walk. How many small events do we walk through — meeting someone for coffee, a day at the beach, dinner with friends, picking up grandkids from school, going to a movie — all the patchwork of things we do which flow into one another, seldom distinctly remembered but which end up being the sum total of our life walk.

Posted September 18, 2019

Toasting with friends
Communal living along El Camino

As I lie on my bunk in a hostel with another American, a young man from Germany, a couple from Hungary and a young woman from Holland, my mind wanders to the communal living style of the camino. We all choose to live in close confines with shared sleeping and bathing after having walked a large portion of the day. Sometimes we cross paths over and over again with walkers we’ve come to know. Other times, it’s a one time encounter. But it doesn’t seem to matter. Judgement calls seem to be suspended, and most people just take others as they find them. And as we meet one another again, we seem to be more concerned about how feet and shins are doing rather than anything else.

The reason this strikes me is because of something my walking partner said to me — that she doesn’t get embarrassed like she did before the camino. I wonder if this is because embarrassment is based in fear of judgement…and on the camino communal living combined with sheer fatigue tends to suspend judgement and, by extension, embarrassment. Don’t know.

And how about our communal life in the church? How can we get to where we are more concerned about how people’s lives are mending rather than judging them for how they are trying to walk their camino.

Posted September 22, 2019

Those on the path
Signpost along the way

I am within 40 miles of Santiago de Compastela. Should be there by Tuesday. The number of walkers has picked up substantially since we hit the 100 kilometer mark (60 miles). In order to get the final certificate, you need to walk these final 60 miles. As I observe some walkers like me who have done 500 miles, others who started at various spots along the way, and those who have just begun the walk, I am struck with the idea that this is a living example of the workers in the vineyard. We will all receive the same certificate regardless of when we started. I am a little baffled as to how some who have walked longer can begrudge the latecomers their due. It is no skin off my nose when another started or how much they walked. My walk is my own choice, and the labor I give the Master is my own choice too. The pay at the end I knew from the beginning and agreed to from the beginning. It has been a great camino!

Posted September 25, 2019

Playing cards
A misty morning

I am one day out from Santiago de Compestella. As I sit here bemoaning the fact that I have lost yet one more adapter, I am struck by the idea of loss, both positive and negative. I have lost underclothes, adapters, a guide book, a shirt, 2 pair of socks and a pen. Irritating, but not devastating. Two days ago, we “lost” one of the young German guys that has been with us on and off (mostly on) since the second day of the camino. That was a very emotional moment. The other young man will go his way once we get to Santiago. That too will be very, very hard. Other walkers have come into my life and left, lost except in my memory of a good walk and conversation.

Still, along with the less enjoyable loss has come joyful loss — loss of weight, loss of daily contact with the news cycle, loss of TV, loss of English at many points, loss of a sense of time and even space, and finally loss of “selfness”.

Scene from a village

As I come closer to the loss of the camino journey, I pray that my losses have added to my surrender to God and will add to the camino that He has in store for me on the rest of my life camino. May I always be able to see that loss on the one hand is gain on the other.

Left out the other side. We lose things on the camino, but we also get from the camino. I have gotten two adapters (one of which I immediately lost), a jacket and a good mystery novel. I have received a camino son, blessings from priests in pilgrim masses, one from a priest walking the camino with my group, one from a woman in the road on her way to a park for a picnic with her family, one from a woman in a store selling crystals and stones, and one from a man behind the bar at a cafe at 6 in the morning. I have received time to slow down and be silent and time to sit with others and laugh, play cards and eat great food. I have received the gift of small things — wild flowers in the prairies, faces designed in sunflowers, a begging hen, a man playing Amazing Grace on a bagpipe, a river passing under a small bridge that leads to a small town of 20 people, vespers chanted in Gregorian Chant, a small village festival, a hot shower, a good bed. “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free, tis a gift to come down where you ought to be…”

The Journey’s End

Peace ...

I am in Santiago de Compestela. It is hard to believe that it is over. It has been a reflective, often quiet, usually fun and satisfying time. It has been 5 weeks of family with people I will probably never hear from again. The camino has reinforced in me a truth I have held for decades…that we encounter God in the cross-section of our lives with the lives of others. The closest I come to knowing Being is to know beings (Paul Tilich).  The reality of this truth has been intensified for me on the camino. The acts of kindness from strangers and occasional acquaintances, and the basic human connection so desperately needed in this broken world are lived out daily on the camino. And this offers up a camino (way) for us all and for the community of the Church. May we all become, as the early Christians were referred to, people of the Way.