Pilgrimage: Walking and Wandering as Spiritual Practice

‘It is good once in a while to feel oneself in the hands of God, and not always eternally slinking around the familiar nooks and corners of a town where one always knows the way out.”

Soren Kierkegaard

“Pilgrimage” is one of the best metaphors for understanding the Christian faith. In 1678 John Bunyan wrote a book called Pilgrim’s Progress (from prison) that for many years was the best-known book in the world—besides the Bible.  It’s no wonder. Jesus himself went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem with his family. And while pilgrimage is in no way “required” of Christians, it is a practice—like fasting and giving and solitude and scripture memory—that can nourish the soul. 

Gerry and I learned more deeply about pilgrimage while visiting our daughter Rachel while she studied in Spain as a university student. While there we attended the “pilgrim mass” in the ancient cathedral in Santiago. There we saw pilgrims who had walked for days and weeks, and sometimes months, on the “Camino” gathered together in worship. Pilgrims read the day’s Bible passage. An Albanian nun led the singing. And people from all around the world—including us!—worshipped together. 

These weeks we are grateful to have the opportunity to “pilgrim” from Porto, Portugal to Santiago Spain on the Camino’s Portuguese route. Along the way (about 175 miles), like those before us, we expect to revel in generous silence, to hear and learn from our fellow pilgrims, to memorize parts of the Bible, and to “shed” the anxiety and worries we carry. And, as we walk, we will pray. We will pray for our fellow pilgrims, we will pray for all of you, and we will pray for us and our family as we continue to learn to live with a new reality in our lives—Parkinson’s Disease—as well as pay attention to the whisper of the Holy Spirit.

In going to Santiago, we are joining Christians of hundreds of places and years. With Rome and Jerusalem, Santiago is a historic pilgrim destination, dating from the 9th century.  Literally named “Santiago” (Saint James) this place is special and much revered, receiving pilgrims who want to honor and learn from James, Jesus’ apostle. 

We would be honored to have you join in this pilgrimage from wherever you are. And we invite you to pray, to be silent, to memorize a Bible passage, and to “shed” and listen with us. We invite you to hear (and say) with us the familiar greeting along the way “Buen Camino”—a good camino to you.

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