Camino again?

As soon as we can take a holiday abroad again, I want to walk another part of the Camino pilgrim trail in northern Spain. A few years ago I walked one fifth of the trail. The experience far exceeded my expectations, partly due to the unexpected beauty of the scenery and buildings, partly the food and wine, but mostly because of the people.

I quickly discovered that I was part of a community of ‘pilgrims’. We were travelling in the same direction, all with the same objective - to reach Santiago de Compostela. Everyone was welcome. A stranger might walk alongside and soon we would be deep in conversation. Sometimes we would travel together for a few miles, sometimes for hours. Some people would walk together for days. Stories would be told; the humorous and serious, frivolous and profound. In the telling you learnt more about your friend but also about yourself, your feelings and concerns. There was a deep sense of community, kindness and hope. Each day was an adventure, an opportunity for another new friendship to be made and story to be shared.

I wonder if the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, at Passover, was anything like ours. Reaching their destination, they must have had such a sense of achievement and excitement. For those who arrived to witness the celebration that we now call Palm Sunday, it must have been overwhelming.

But walking the Camino was not always easy. There were dark days when the rain fell, the sky was heavy and the track seemed to be constantly up-hill. There were times, when even in a crowd, you could still feel lonely – especially if you had little grasp of the language. And then there were blisters!

Life can be a magnificent pilgrimage, but it is certainly a journey of hills and valleys, good times and struggles. Palm Sunday was followed by the darkest of days, and yet those dark days made all the difference. Sweating blood in the garden, facing a trial of lies and false accusations, being beaten, spat on and ridiculed, and ultimately being crucified – those dark days changed the world.

Journeying towards Easter Sunday includes joys and sorrows. But there is no doubt about the final destination, it is certain and magnificent, it is resurrection. To me it means forgiveness, freedom and destiny. It means that at the end of the journey there is the possibility of being welcomed home with “Well done good and faithful servant, come and share your master’s happiness.”

For many, journeying through the past year has been more dark than light; at best a determined walk uphill. But the journey has been a powerful teacher. We have learnt the importance of community and how to better look out for one another. We have learnt to adjust our priorities and change our pace. We have learnt that giving time to hear one another’s stories can be one of the kindest things we do.

Hopefully, over time, the most painful memories of the Covid journey will begin to fade. But I hope we don't forget about walking together, into a better future, as a caring community.

Happy Easter,