Castlebridge woman says the Camino is a physical and mental challenge
Empty your rucksack; you are carrying too much weight!
Empty your interior; leave what exceeds you, leave behind the appearances, the fronts that minimise you.. and discover the greatness that exists in you. Leave aside what you have, to love who you are.
Empty your interior room; only in the opened spaces you will feel the Breeze; only in the echo of the silence you will listen to the Word.
This is what 21 people from Ireland did last month as they joined the Ferns Diocesan Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago from Los Arcos to Burgos. This was the second year of the Ferns Pilgrimage on the Camino, led by Fr. Roger O'Neill and Fr. James Cullen.
Last year a group from Wexford began the Camino from St. Jean Pied de Port (France) to Los Arcos and the journey was resumed this year as they furthered their path along the way to Santiago. A total distance of approximately 150km was covered.
This pilgrimage encompassed obstacles like all pilgrimages do. From the breakdown of our transfer bus; which led to the initial bonding of the group, to the blisters and sores we encountered along the way. These made us aware of our inter-dependence and gratitude of our fellow pilgrims on the way, many of which helped, encouraged and became part of our journey.
On our first night in Los Arcos we were fortunate to enjoy a meal of fine Spanish origins together as a group. This meal set the tone for the rest of the journey across the north of Spain.
Setting out in the fresh early hours of the morning became habit. Finding our own pace became natural. Greeting fellow pilgrims with 'Buen Camino' became instinct.
Daily Mass and pilgrim prayer was our daily unpacking of our interior rucksack. We crossed the vast dry landscape that adorned the Spanish countryside in 30 degree heat for six days, learning to become grateful of cloud cover and shade.
As we walked everyone met people from different countries and walks of life along the path of St. James. A couple from Australia became our Camino neighbours as we met them everyday and grew good friends. French, German, Korean, and Spanish friends were all made along the way by all.
The Spanish culture of celebration in faith, music and food was a huge part of our journey. We witnessed the local religious festivals celebrated in small villages such as Los Arcos and Ages.
The celebration of the Madonna and locally adored saints was characterised by processions of statues and cheerful singing to all hours of the night. The Spanish omelette known as Tortilla de patatas was a welcomed sight by all. This potato and herb filled omelette was a source of much- needed energy along the path.
In the evenings the Menu de Peregrino (Pilgrim's Menu) which consisted of paellas, chorizo stew, mixed salads and bread, local fish and meat dishes with the local Rioja sauce was the fuel for our walking. Bunk beds of all shapes and sizes were our resting places in the local Albergues (Hostels), where people found comfort even in the most uncomfortable surroundings.
On the final day when all pilgrims arrived into our campsite in the surroundings of Burgos there was a sense of achievement of what had been complete, appreciation for what had happened and a sense of fullness in heart. WE MADE IT! Our celebrations, thanksgiving and petitions were offered up in the Cathedral in Burgos where we celebrated Holy Mass that night.
As we slip back into our hectic lives at home in Ireland in anticipation of next years pilgrimage we will try and remember to empty our rucksacks, as we are carrying too much weight.
It was exhilarating, a physical as well as a mental challenge, you just have to keep going, and there is a real sense of achievement at the end of it -- I'll definitely be back next year. Jenny is in the final year at Mater Dei. BUEN CAMINO!