12 April | Easter Sunday
In his bestselling book The Pilgrimage, Paulo Coelho makes a profound, personifying statement about the Camino walking him as opposed to him walking the Camino. I concur. Completely. The Camino walked me as well. And at the end of the pilgrimage, attending Mass at San Francisco Church (in lieu of Mass at the Cathedral of St. James during the restoration) on the Feast of St. James in Compostela exponentially enhanced my spiritual experience. When I reflect on that 500-mile victorious journey, I can understand the Camino as a perfect metaphor for not only Lent, but also for life because the pilgrimage taught me several lessons:
My Camino (my walk with God, my Lent, my life) will—and should be—unique.
My Camino is not a race; I must travel at my own pace.
My Camino depends on prayer and wisdom.
My Camino prompts me to learn to be better. Respond better. Love others better. Serve others better.
My Camino is thankful for the relationships in my life.
My Camino emotionally heals and liberates me—and moves me forward—from those who would prefer not to share a relationship space with me.
My Camino is short. I must be gracious, be generous, and be grateful.
Looking back, the time on the Camino does seem short—a blip on the calendar of my past. And yet, I remember those special spaces and times in the thin sphere with God. Toward the end of my journey from St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France, to Compostela, Spain, I remember walking under a street banner announcing the annual July festival celebrating Saint Mary Magdalene. In that misty morning moment, passing under that banner with my eyes to the sky, I smiled to myself thinking about how much Jesus loved Mary Magdalene, enough to choose her to be the first human being to see His resurrected body (see John 20:11-18). And then my mind embraced those moments His real presence accompanied me during my Camino: leading me, teaching me, carrying me, healing me, whispering to me, loving me.
Today begins the glorious Easter season. Today’s readings depict that day when, in Matthew’s gospel, the women of The Way witnessed the angel rolling away the stone, revealing an empty tomb, and telling them Jesus “is not here, for he had been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:6). Then, Jesus meets them while they are on the way to tell the others: “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (28:10). Go tell the others. Isn’t that what Easter is all about? Celebrate and go tell the others!
Braelyn: And just like that, it’s over. Five weeks of traveling along the path, now complete. As you clear the entrance to the plaza, you hear the shouting, laughing, and crying of hundreds of pilgrims congregating and embracing. Some of them haven’t seen one another in weeks; others have slogged alongside them for six hours each day and bunked below them in every albergue. Those who arrived earlier cheer for those entering. The comparison to the thought of entering Heaven’s gates is undeniable.
The pilgrims of 2019 would not experience Mass in the Cathedral, as it was under renovation. Initially, disappointment added a layer to the poignance of the journey’s end. Yet, as with any experience like this, there was beauty in what was present. We attended the pilgrims’ Mass in a small stone chapel, where I got to hear my dear friend speak and deliver a testimony in front of hundreds of other pilgrims. When we were allowed to tour the inside of the Cathedral, I found that the plastic sheeting revealed more than it hid. The sanctuary was transformed into a veiled bride awaiting her bridegroom, as the people of the Church are in reality. As we wait, the LORD renovates our hearts if we allow Him.
LORD willing, those who went last year (and those unable to go at all this year) will go again to this beautiful place, will see the massive swinging thurible and smell its sweet incense. We will attend Mass there. Similarly, we who are in quarantine hope to attend worship together again, with renewed desire and gratitude for what we missed. We have been given something rare. Let us be made new.
Happy Easter and Buen Camino
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.