The half way point of the Camino is an excellent time for reflection anew on what I am doing here. I have met so many amazing people in the last 4 weeks. Yes, I have been at this for 4 weeks today. Each of those people had a motivation for walking the Camino. Some have reflected on it and are able to express their motives succinctly. Others, when asked, ramble around until they land on something. Some aren't able to express it at all. Some reasons are profound (self-seeking, God-seeking, spiritual searching), others (forgive the judgment) are less so (seemed like fun, had nothing better to do, challenging). Because I am Priest and because I am readily identifiable as a priest, lots of people talk to me about their motivations. I have met an incredible array of life stories and they are, each of them, sacred and have been given to me as a sacred trust, so I will not go into details. But I have been surprised by the depth of grief and loss I have encountered on this road: people who are walking away from broken or ended relationships, people who are grieving lost loved ones, people who have experienced devastating life changes. Perhaps they walk away from the pain and grief and are walking toward a hopeful and brighter future as they carve away the kilometers.
There are others who are experiencing changes that are less grief-filled, but nonetheless involve profound changes: retirement, change of job, new stages in life. Again, these people are walking away from the past and toward the future.
I love the couples walking together. Older couples in their winter years, walking out of deep conviction and remarkable care for each other. Middle aged couples who simply enjoy the adventure of being together. Even young couples still getting to know each other and walking toward an unknown future together. There are even those who I wonder if their relationship can survive the pressures of life together on the Camino.
I marvel at those people who just "woke up one day and decided to walk 500 miles. " And there are a lot of them. They too are probably walking away from some things and toward others. Even if it is not clear to them.
Me? I have talked about the life-long dream that is being fulfilled by this exercise. But of course, there are other levels to consider. There is a part of me that sees this as part of a continous journey of snap hearts towards better health. From my first profound weight loss nearly a decade ago, to better awareness of healthy eating, to a discovery of the enjoyment of physical exercise, I am seeing that I will end this pilgrimages in the best shape of my adult life. I am walking toward health.
The spirituality of the pilgrimage is a walking toward prayer and away from the distractions that keep me from prayer. I still have a lot of alone times on the Camino. Those have become great moments of prayer.
And then there are the vocational realities. This Camino is part of this inter-assignment sabbatical. This has been a year of walking away from Tucson and the remarkable 10 years that made me love that place, that community, those people. It is a year of grieving and letting go.
But it has also been a time of learning and formation for the future; preparation for new realities down the road. I know now that I am headed to an entirely new ministry, new community, new people, new challenges. As I head down the second half of the Camino, I am walking toward the end of my Sabbatical and the new wonders that await me in Antioch, CA.
The Pilgrim Priest
Fr. Bart Hutcherson, OP is a priest of the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in the Western USA. From April 20 - June 1, 2015 he walked from Lourdes, France to Santiago de Compostella, Spain. This page contains observations, images and reflections from the Way of St. James.
Fr. Bartholomew Hutcherson, OP, "The Pilgrim Preacher" is an Itinerant Preacher and member of the Western Dominican Province Preaching Team. He is available for retreats, conferences, and Parish Missions. He offers pilgrimages periodically and shares images and reflections on this website as "virtual pilgrimages."