18 March | The Third Wednesday of Lent
One phrase unites all those who choose to hike the Camino de Santiago: I remember. Whether trekking down slick stone that seems more like run-off than trail or hearing the joyful sound of a hiker’s or cyclist’s salutation, “Buen Camino!” the Way of Saint James is wrapped in the gift of memory. These holy, storied places invite our senses to inhale O Cebreiro’s mountain air, gaze upon Michelangelo’s Crucifixion at the Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Redonda in Logroño, or stand on the edge of Finisterre’s ocean-side cliffs. The light, the air, the time, the hike—all of it opens our minds, our intellects, and our intentions.
When we weave ourselves into the rhythm of the Camino—we can experience an authentic creativity: in verse, in song, in image, in beauty. Through these forms we can tell our stories about God working in our lives. Just like Moses instructs the people of Israel, we, too, must never forget: “Take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
What kinds of memories can we create with family and friends this Lenten season we can pass on to the next generation?
(The artwork above is from my hotel room in Léon.)
As we spend our very unexpected Lent in quarantine, the Lord reminded me of my three June days in Léon, fittingly falling during the feast of Corpus Christi. I had to bus there due to a respiratory infection, and I ended up staying in a small (but quite nice) hotel room alone for those days. I ventured out only a few times, only for Mass, feast procession, and to tour the Cathedral museum. Looking back now, I should maybe not have gone out at all, but I would have hated to miss the beautiful city. Those three days were some of the most fervent times of prayer I’ve ever experienced. I felt myself using the suffering to lift up others in my life. I listened to talks by Alice Von Hildebrand and other Catholic speakers to enrich my mind. I wrote postcards and prayed my rosary, and took hot baths in a tiny tub, praying that the fever would subside. I thanked God for the American women who helped me book a hotel room in a city where there seemed to be no single beds.
Now, during this unprecedented time of exile, I find myself also remembering the parts of myself I encountered during the Camino, and I don’t particularly like it. I find myself grappling with self-righteousness, anger, resentment, fear, and the wish to run away from those dear to me. I see my heart hardening in an ironic twist, as people I’ve prayed for (because their faith or mindset differs from mine) exhibiting much more genuine faith than I can muster. I’m faced with my utter ability to control things, and I quarantine myself in an altogether different way. All I can do during this season is to ask for those who have faith to pray for me. Those who I journeyed the Camino with me know I need it.
About this Blog
The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage through Spain, ending at the spot said to contain the relics of Saint James the Apostle. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims travel this route each year.