BY: PEGGY MATTSON
A pilgrimage is said to be a retreat into the soul as well as an outer journey. Fr. Mike
Galbraith and I walked the French Way of the Camino de Santiago starting in Pamplona
Spain, where we met up with Shelly Tradel, Bernadette Franulovich and my sister, Mary
who started in St. Jean Pied de Port.
We traversed 428 of the 500 miles, like so many other pilgrims over the centuries, to
pray at the tomb of the Apostle, St. James the Greater, Patron of Pilgrims and Patron of
Spain. Our 35 day journey started the day after Pentecost and we celebrated many liturgical feasts of the Church along the way, including Corpus Christi, Holy Trinity, the Birth of John the Baptist, Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Sacred Heart of Mary.
We saw our faith displayed in the beautiful architecture, statues, art, and stained-glass
windows. The Cathedral in Leon has 125 stained glass windows that beautifully illuminate the Old and New Testament bible stories.
We made our trek in the season of wildflowers and spring planting and blooming. We saw many locals tending their family gardens. The parables came alive in the many vineyards, fields of red poppies, and fig trees we passed. We heard the tiny whispering sound of God in the chorus of song birds, frogs in the ponds and wetlands, and Cuckoo birds calling. We saw lightning and heard the rolling thunder that followed. We felt the pouring rain and hot sun and were comforted by cool mountain breezes.
We walked in the footsteps of St. James, who continues to point the way in landmarks
and statues in every town and village church along the Way. We walked in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bridget of Sweden, and St. Pope John Paul II.
We experienced the Gospels alive, “who is my mother, brother and sister.” We are
all God’s children, one family. On the trail everyone calls each other by first name with
the same last name, “Peregrino”, the Spanish word for pilgrim. We are all on the same
pilgrimage of life together. It is customary that pilgrims greet each other along the Way with, ‘Buen Camino,’ blessing each other’s journey. As we passed through villages and towns the local folks also greeted us with ‘Buenos Dias’ and ‘Buen Camino,’ blessing us on our way. Blessings were given and received dozens of times each day.
We prayed the mysteries of the rosary, walked the Way of the Cross and celebrated daily mass and daily prayer. Each step became a prayer and each breath a gratitude for life.
We rejoiced in the glory of God’s
Some days we could choose an alternate route, the road less traveled, and were twice blessed even though it was a little longer. If we were lost or needed directions we always encountered an angel to direct us.
Each pilgrim carries a scallop shell and the trail is marked by scallop shells and yellow arrows and sometimes we needed to really search for them, all pointing the way to Santiago.
At one of the pilgrim masses we attended we were told to keep the Soul of the Way in our hearts as we journey home and to be witnesses of the Good News and to continue on the epic journey of life sharing the Gospel. There is a Beatitudes for Pilgrims and one of the statements is, “Blessed are you pilgrim if you search for the truth and make of the ‘camino’ a life and of your life a ‘Way’ in search of the one who is the Way, The Truth and the Life.” Buen Camino!