In recent weeks I’ve been asked a few times, “Why are you doing this?” or more pointedly, “What’s the point?”. The answer, of course, isn’t that simple. I’ve used a few of the standard reasons such as it’s a journey for my faith, for adventure, or for my health, but these don’t get to the root of the issue, the raison d’être, so to speak for why I would spend months in preparation and a large amount of money and time on something that’s rather vague and slippery such as a pilgrimage. The pilgrimage is something out of the middle ages that people did to earn Catholic points. That’s the old explanation anyway. No one could possibly want to do that! Of course they would, but for me, it’s something that I have to do.
Years ago I was thumbing through a magazine, and I saw a picture of Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico from an aerial perspective. From that minute forward I had to go, and no number of hindrances and barriers would stop me. I drove to New Mexico, but my car broke down as I was nearing Albuquerque. I didn’t make it that time. A year or two later, a friend and I decided to go, and midway through the road trip, he decided he had enough and wanted to go home. I learned a lesson from that; only go on a spiritual quest with someone who shares a passion for the destination, or at least doesn’t have the keys to the vehicle! Finally, on a third attempt, I made it to Chaco Canyon with my young family, and it was the experience of a lifetime, walking through those old rock halls and rooms, hearing dusty echoes from a long forgotten people.
My pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago, and, more specifically, to the tomb of St. James, is very similar. I watched the movie, “The Way”, and from that point on, I have had to go. I cannot find words adequate to describe why I want to go. Yes, it’s a Catholic pilgrimage, and since I am Catholic it means a great deal to walk in the path of my spiritual ancestors and to walk with fellow Catholics I will meet along the way. It is also a challenge for me as I age and find new health challenges. Hiking is my passion. It is also a way for me to spend quality time with my middle son, Dylan. I will be able to use the bit of Spanish I have studied over all these years. All of those things qualify as reasons, but the main reason is I am going because I have to go.
I simply must go, and be there, and experience it, or it would be one of those things that I would always regret. Of course, that’s not an easy answer that people can digest, so when asked, I will probably just trail off, with some inadequate nonsense about it being “part of my faith” as my eyes grow distant looking at the horizon.
Gerry D. White and Trail Buddy, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gerry D. White and Trail Buddy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.