Saturday, May 25, 2013

What we are doing/ what are we doing??

As you likely know, Rachel and I are hiking the Camino de Santiago, or the Chemin de Saint-Jacques, as it is known in France. The many routes of the pilgrimage end in Santiago de Compostuela, Spain. Along the way, pilgrims rest at hostels spaced out for every night. Some towns have been hosting pilgrims for hundreds of years. 
On the first day of the trail, especially as my feet grew sore, I found myself asking... why are we doing this? We flew thousands of miles to Paris, and then took a train to our starting point in central France that covered a greater distance than we will actually walk during the next month (about 500 km). We are walking a trail that was at its height in the 11th and 12th centuries, all because of Jesus' disciple, James, who purportedly failed at evangelizing Spain and returned to Jerusalem. Soon after, he was beheaded by Herod, and his followers sent his bones to Spain in 44 AD. (In a stone boat, and apparently they only took a week to arrive.) Fast forward 250-300 years, and the Church decided to create a pilgrimage destination out of the place his bones were buried, partly to claim Spain from the Moors for Christendom. 

After reviewing the strange history of the Camino (some old bones? A stone boat? Anyone else incredulous?), it seems a little crazy to walk 6 or more hours a day for a month or more because of a saint who was co-opted by the church-state to essentially bless the Crusades. 

On top of that, Rachel and I actually don't expect to reach the destination, Santiago de Compostuela. So, why again?

It's a nice walk. Really, it passes through some beautiful countryside. And thousands of people from around the world (mostly Europe) hike the Camino every year. Many of them do the pilgrimage as a spiritual quest, though not all. 
For me, walking is both a physical and a spiritual exercise. It creates the space and rhythm for a kind of prayer, and it attunes my mind to my body. I usually don't have a lot of patience for prayer, and I don't like working out that much either. I do like walking, though, so I hope a month of it will make me stronger, and by that I mean both my legs and my soul! Maybe this ancient walk will help me to better carry some questions about where I'm going, how to travel through life more simply and with greater trust, and how to embrace both the gifts and risks I sense God preparing me for. 

And I hope that writing about it all will bring a sense of clarity in this work of walking. I'm grateful for the presence of family and friends who share courage and light. I hope I can use this blog to share a little of the journey with you! 

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