Pilgrimage is something that appeals to me more and more these days. I am taken with the idea of making a physical pilgrimage to some beautiful, far-away place, something I have not yet had an opportunity to do. But I am also very much aware of the ongoing interior pilgrimage that is meant to be part of our faith journey whether we ever get to Assisi or the Holy Land or wherever it is we long to go.
For now, I am making a vicarious pilgrimage through the words of friend and fellow author Michael Scaperlanda, the Edwards Family Chair in Law and professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, who is right now walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of St. James). Pilgrims have been walking the Camino for more than 1,000 years. Reading bits and pieces from Michael's journal posted on his blog HERE gives me glimpses of the joys and challenges -- both physical and spiritual -- that he faces as he covers 500 miles in 33 days.
In a post called "A typical day on the Camino," Michael writes:
"In the morning there are those who get up before the lights come on and attempt to pack their packs by flashlight. We leave just before or just after daybreak and eat breakfast at a bar/cafe or food purchased the night before or in one case so far the albergue provided us breakfast. After a day and a half of walking with others, I have walked alone with limited conversation during the day except to exchange pleasantries or to be checked on by others or to check on them. By now, most of us have some ailment - blisters, bad knees, hurting shoulders, chafing.
"I would guess that over half the people doing the Camino came alone and walk alone. Some walking groups have been formed here (like the one I had the first day and a half), there are some couples, some parents and adult children, cousins and friends. Some have come just for a week or two and will complete the journey in future years. Others, as I mentioned, have walked from their houses in Germany and France. During the day, I´ll see people I know several times a day as I pass them or they pass me as we take different breaks. Sometimes there will be a communal picnic of a small group or a small group will gather for coffee or lunch on they way.Michael is no stranger to pilgrimage. He and his wife, Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, wrote a book about the pilgrim experience, The Journey: A Guide for the Modern Pilgrim, which is a joy to read even if you have no plans to pack a knapsack and head for the long and winding pilgrimage road.
"...An hour or two after I start walking, I usually stop to take off my boots and pray morning prayer. Yesterday, I sat beside a Roman road just up from the Roman bridge we crossed, reminding me as I prayed that the pilgrims over the last 1000 years were traveling roads created by the Romans long before. In the afternoon - usually when I am tired in the last 5K, I pray the rosary and offer a decade for each of my four children and for my wife. I have also started offering the day for a different people. Yesterday it was my family of origin, today it was for a group of men and woman who suffer the terrible affliction of addiction. I don´t know who or what will be pressed upon my heart tomorrow."
Check out Michael's ongoing journal from the Camino, by clicking HERE. And then think about the pilgrimages you may be able to make today or tomorrow or next year. Maybe not to Spain or Italy or Jerusalem, but to pilgrim places within your own community or diocese, or maybe even just within your own heart. If there is one thing I'm beginning to learn from my own interior pilgrimage and from friends like Maria and Michael who have shared their pilgrim wisdom, it's that we don't have to travel around the world to find the paths that will lead us -- step by step -- closer to God, closer to home.