For the past two Mondays I have been on a Pilgrimage in Spain. I have wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago for many years. After my friend Karen and I celebrated our 50th birthdays by spending three days in a luxurious Spa, we decided to walk the Way of St. James (English Translation) to celebrate our 55th birthdays. Brian researched and bought me a guidebook. Karen and I talked about how we would prepare for a 500 mile walk. In between the plan for the pilgrimage and the actual walking the Way, everything changed. Brian passed away and I began to work full-time (difficult to take off the 30-45 days that are necessary), I remarried (difficult to leave your new husband for that amount of time) and it became apparent that our pilgrimage, if it were to happen, needed to be adjusted. Rather than walk 500 miles residing in hostels with group bunk beds and facilities, carrying everything on our backs; we opted for a tour that included 4-star hotels and quaint inns, gourmet dinners and a bus to carry your belongings. We became known as those people who brought their bus to the Camino! Though we only walked 75 miles, it qualified for the church to grant us our official certificate of completion.
Though some pilgrims stood in judgement, I can tell you that it could not have been a more spiritually fulfilling experience. God granted us all the graces we asked for and so much more. In the guide book I read that by the time the pilgrims arrived at the last 75 miles their hearts were ready to rejoice because the journey prior across the mountains of France and the long desolate places was now replaced with the beauty of flourishing countryside and warm breezes. This is exactly what happened for me the day we began our pilgrimage. Since April 12 (our trip began on May 22), I had been walking a steep and difficult pilgrim road in my own hometown. I was facing tasks that were impossible for me to accomplish including downsizing, selling my home, moving into a new home. Everything was ordered up by God and was definitely humanly impossible. I considered this the first 425 miles of the journey that I had missed. In Spain I caught up with people who had left France on April 21 and one very young man who left on May 2. They told tales of deep mud that you could not get off your boots and added about three pounds to your weighty journey, along with arduous .paths that required concentration and courage to pass. Yet they too were full of joy and confidence in the journey. It appeared that nothing would stop them from arriving at Santiago de Compostela (St. James of the Starry field). The hardships on Pilgrimage are what bring out the strength of God.
In one of the beautiful chapels on the first day of our journey I read this verse from Exodus 23:20: See, I am sending an angel ahead of youto guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Only God knew the way I would end up walking The Way. He along sent angels to cause all the tasks of Texas to be met, and prepare me to feel that a vacation of walking up to 20 miles a day would be a release from the work I left behind. Only God prepared the way for this my pilgrimage. Only God is in charge of the experiences we each have along the way. Each day is full the graces that He provides and they are way beyond any we could ask for. What you learn on a pilgrimage is that God’s graces and guidance is offered each and every day. I hope to live my life as a pilgrimage today and every day until I reach my destination of being fully in God’s grace in heaven.