Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The pilgrim

Ever since I lived in Spain it has been my dream to walk the third most popular Christian pilgrimage in the world—the Road to Santiago. The Spaniards simply call it the “Camino.” The Camino starts in the Pyrenees in southern France and travels through northern Spain until arriving in the town of Santiago de Compostela. Travelers can begin anywhere on the path, but to earn the official certificate you must walk at least 100km or bike 200km.

Pilgrims wear a shell and carry a passport to mark their travels. Along the road they sleep in hostels and homes specially designated for pilgrims. At any time there are hundreds or thousands of people making this journey.

In 2003 I planned to walk to Santiago in time for an Easter arrival. Due to a family emergency my walking partner had to return to the United States and I spent my spring break instead in Fuengirola, enjoying the beach with great friends. But every year since then my longing to make this pilgrimage has grown greater. I have met many people who have made the journey and each time I am more inspired. I want to spend a week or a month living simply, praying, meeting people on a spiritual and literal journey, accepting the hospitality of others and sharing my love in return. I want to travel the same road that other Christians have traveled for over 1000 years and experience for myself what so many others have experienced.

I want to be a pilgrim.

I know that many life circumstances will keep me from completing the Camino for many years. But that does not have to prevent me from being a pilgrim. This is the first time in my life I have been so disconnected from Catholic life. For the first time in 27 years I am not attending CCD, Catholic school or university, working in a youth group or teaching in a Catholic school. This is the first Lent where there has been no structured Lenten theme laid out before me. To be honest, I miss it.

I am searching for greater faith in God and in myself. I am looking for deeper meaning and purpose. And so this Lent I am dedicating myself to being a pilgrim, right here in a suburb of Sacramento. I can embrace the same principals of simplicity, love, hospitality and prayer in my own life. I can make each day part of my spiritual journey.

In the tradition of pilgrims who could not make a “real” pilgrimage, I will choose the labyrinth as the symbol of my journey. The labyrinth, when done properly, can be a mimi-pilgrimage. Every time I experienced one has had a different impact on me.

For those of who observe Lent, I wish you a blessed journey. And for those who are tired of my more serious posts... the light hearted eringirl will return soon!


  1. Erin, you inspire me! I'm sure you'll be successful on your pilgrimage. Sorry you did not get to walk "el camino" when we were in Spain, but I'm positive you will get your chance someday. Keep up the great work with the blog!

  2. Katie Cullivan SmithFebruary 17, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    Hi, Erin, great blog! This Lenten season, worth a look is
    I really like devotionals, especially those specific to the church seasons.

  3. I never tire of *any* of your posts!!

    I've found a great home at Newman Center across from Sac State. Father George Wanzer from Jesuit is over there, and they're starting up a really awesome post-graduate group...I will not be in Sacramento this weekend, but would love for you to join me if you like at an event or Sunday mass sometime!

    Be well, my friend :)