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Accidental Pilgrim

Pilgrims on the Camino

They are called pelegrinos, the people walking the Camino, the Way, to Santiago de Compostela – pelegrinos, the Spanish word for pilgrims. Why are they walking? The motivations are many. For many, the motivations are mixed, confused.

To get the Compostela in Santiago (the certificate that you have participated in this pilgrimage), you have to have walked at least 100km (or biked 200km). And you have to have done it for religious and/or spiritual reasons. You have to have been on pilgrimage – not just traveling. Not just being a tourist. (So, whatever the motivation, suddenly at the end, wanting the Compostela/certificate, the majority find they were doing it for religious/spiritual reasons after all).

We walked it as a pilgrimage. It mostly seemed to us that we were the minority. But then there would be a Pilgrims Mass and Blessing, and we, up the front, would turn around, and find ourselves in a packed church. These were brother and sister pilgrims.

I spoke to those who were doing it with clear understanding that this was, for them, not a spiritual journey, not a pilgrimage. They thought they were in the minority!

In some places the church made an effort to connect with those walking. The church building would be open, with information and resources in many languages, Taizé music playing, candles to light, a stamp to put in one’s pilgrim’s passport, a person to talk to. Some places had taken great care to appoint a priest who would connect well with those arriving. Or the bishop had organised a religious community to be a presence. There might be a simple gift: a small cross, a hand-coloured star of paper…

People who started with a motivation to get fit – became accidental pilgrims…

People who started with ideas of a cheap holiday with party opportunities – became accidental pilgrims…

People who started just wanting time out – became accidental pilgrims…

People who began with the motivation… – became accidental pilgrims…

And isn’t life like that?! We journey through life with mixed motivations. And then things can happen along the way, and we become accidental pilgrims. Life grows into a sacred journey… And the church, Christians, can be part of helping people of mixed motivation (all of us!) to realise that the journey of life is sacred. We are all accidental pilgrims…

Pilgrims lining up to get their Compostela in Santiago

This is another post in the series on my walking the Camino.

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