In 2010 a movie came out from Emilio Estevez called The Way. Not being a big Hollywood production it didn’t really get much traction, but steadily gained a sort-of cult following, due to the powerful story and marvelous on-location sights in France and Spain, not to mention a terrific ‘acting job’ by his father, Martin Sheen, and a few other notable characters one won’t easily forget from other countries. Then it got ‘discovered’ by Christians beyond just the Catholics, and the growth spread to Protestants and others as well. Carol and I got to see this movie in January of 2013, and something happened to us, something rare, in that we BOTH were impacted with the desire to go follow in those steps.
Over the ages literally millions of people have followed this path, this Camino. In the Dark Ages though it began to dwindle, and the troubles of life and cares of this world diminished the Pilgrimage to just a few, and practically none from the USA. Most of us in the US don’t even identify with “Pilgrimage” at all, not knowing its power or meaning, much less its ‘calling.’ I don’t really know how Emilio Estevez discovered it, or how it compelled him to write and make a movie, but I’m beginning to understand why.
In 2013 (and 2015) Carol and I walked the Camino de Santiago, following the path (camino) of St. James, from the Pyrenees Mountains bordering France in the east, to the city of Santiago in western Spain. In 2017 we walked an ancient trail in Ireland, The Wicklow Way, and in Scotland, The Great Glen Way, following a course frequented by William Wallace. This year, 2019, we walked another ancient trail in Ireland, The Dingle Way, part of the larger, longer Kerry Way. To say that these adventures have impacted us is to miss the real import. We have been infected! We have been Blessed! We have been able to encounter God and our faith in new ways, which make us hungry for more.
“Why tell us this?” you may be thinking, as many of you already know about our compulsion. Forward to now…to Christmas time…and to all the gifts you want to give to those you love. The very best gifts are personal ones, and the best personal ones are those that connect our lives, not just add more stuff. Ever since we finished our first Camino we’ve been immersed in stories, pictures, songs, home-made videos and even some pretty good small-time film productions by others with the same experiences, same passions, same ‘infection.’ Facebook is alive with lots of Camino stories, and websites abound. Even Youtube is in the mix, as are many others I’m sure.
The ‘gift’ I’m trying to give you is encouragement to learn, and to experience this Blessing even if you can’t go in person. Check out www.americanpilgrims.org and tour around the site and learn about the Camino. Go to www.youtube.com and search for Camino songs, or Camino films, and enjoy the tour!
Once you enter the Camino ‘Zone’ you will be a bit like St. James was when he walked across Spain telling the folks about the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. Christian ‘missions’ should include so much more that just quoting Scripture; it should include personal testimonies and urging others onward. In fact, once you’ve been on a ‘mission’ yourself….well, it changes you. You get dangerous. The infection wants to spread …
Merry Christmas, and Buen Camino to all!