My Camino de Santiago
By far the most common question asked during the Camino experience is “Why am I doing this?”
My answer to this question is not unique, but it is personal.
I originally planned to do this in 2013 but was asked to move parish (Young) at the end of that year. I decided to defer the Camino until I had settled in my new parish of South Woden in Canberra. So now as I enter my 33rd year of priesthood, I thought the timing was right to accept all the challenges that the Camino involves – spiritual, physical, relational and financial.
Spiritual: The Camino offers me the chance to review the last 33 years of ministry without the necessary distractions that are part of parish life. I think it is important to unclutter my head and heart and so clear space for the Lord to continue to lead me on His journey.
Physical: I have always loved to travel and am not afraid to face a fair challenge on my body while I think it can handle it. As I get older I figure the body will be forced to face challenges I might not choose, so I am taking advantage of this time in my life to walk the 800 plus kilometres on this sacred journey in the footsteps of multitudes of pilgrims who have passed this way over the centuries. The physical will lead me through the historical, mystical, mythological and legendary encounter with St James.
Relational: People travel this path for all sorts of reasons and their individual stories motivate and fascinate me. They energise and intrigue me. They teach and humble me. I need such people and their stories to add to my own. This has also been a serious time for me to bring others’ stories with me and deposit any of their pain and sorrow at the Cross along the way.
Financial: Planning and maintaining the Camino experience has a cost. I spent a couple of years preparing-saving, researching, attending seminars, talking with previous pilgrims for example. I was generously supported by Kathmandu in the research and purchase of the right equipment, and their staff were so wise with their advice.
By a twist of fate and a blessing, the airlines lost my backpack stocked with 9kgs of everything I needed for the Camino. It turned up back in Australia three weeks after I had started my journey. I had to replace everything the day after I took my first steps. The blessing was I climbed the hardest part of the pilgrimage through the Pyrenees carrying nothing. Another story, but a happy ending.
For me the Camino is a living metaphor for life. It requires faith, hope and love, “and the most important of these is love.”
I am on track to finish the Camino 33 days after I started – one day for each year of Our Lord’s life and also one day for each year of my priesthood.