12 July 2012

Spiritual wanderlust

In recent months there has been a growing interest in the ancient pilgrimage road to Compostela, Spain, the final resting place of Saint James the Greater, due in no small part to Martin Sheen's The Way:

If you haven't yet seen it, you really showed; it's a very powerful and moving film.

Being one who frequently suffers from a bit of wanderlust, I have often wondered what it might be like to make that pilgrimage across the Spanish countryside. The Way only increased this curiosity.

About the time the film came out a friend gave me Kevin A. Codd's To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim's Journey to Santiago de Compostela, a very interesting book recounting one priest's journey on this holy road and the lessons he learns on the way, both simple and profound, and the people he encounters.

It is a easy book to read and is broken up into short chapters, each describing one day's journey toward Compostela.

Every pilgrimage, however great the distance, is not so much about the final destination and arrival, but about the journey undertaken by the soul towards God.  Every pilgrimage is really meant to help come to a deeper understanding of the final destiny of man, either with God or without him.

After Vatican Council II, there was much talk of the faithful as the "pilgrim people."  Certainly, we are the pilgrim people making our way - please,  God - toward the Lord even as we cry out to him each day, "Let us see your face, O Lord, and we shall be saved" (Psalm 80:4). But, as Father Codd rightly points out, "Once talk of being 'a pilgrim people' replaced being a people who actually walk as pilgrims we rather lost our way" (23).

Within the pages of the book he transcribes a poem he found along the way.  In part, it reads:
Pilgrim, who is it who calls you?
What unseen power attracts you?
Not the peoples of the camino
Nor their rural customs.

It is not history nor culture
Nor the rooster of the Calzada
Nor the palace of Gaudi
Nor the castle of Ponferrada.

All that is seen in passing,
And it is a joy to see it all,
Is still less than the voice that calls
The feeling that is yet so much deeper (76-77).
It is no small feat (pun intended) to actually walk the camino, for the full journey takes some forty days.  Nevertheless, my heart desires one day to walk that road that so many others have walked before me.

In truth, a pilgrimage can be made anywhere, so long as the destination is a sacred place.  You can choose to make a pilgrimage to a nearby shrine, a chapel with Eucharistic adoration, your parish church, or the grave of Father Augustine Tolton or one of the saints.

If we allow ourselves to become spiritual pilgrims if not physical pilgrims, we will learn the truth of that medieval phrase, Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit:
Bidden or unbidden, God is present.  That is exactly what I am coming to understand on this road: Like the star above me, seen or unseen, he is here.  Felt or unfelt, he is with me.  Attended to or not attended to, he is walking with me (142).

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful movie. My son wants to make the pilgrimage.