One is searching: Reflections at 400 miles

As I cross the 400-mile mark, I’ve been reflecting on Idle’s idea that on a pilgrimage one is searching.  Certainly, the Three Magi were searching for the baby Jesus.  What are other people searching for as they walk the Camino?

One of the surprising aspects of walking the Camino has been the number of young people doing it.  I fully expected the world-weary wizened cynics like myself.  We’re here in force.  However, I did not expect to see the hundreds of young people from all over the world in their twenties with their backpacks on, walking the Camino either alone or in small groups of friends.

At first, I assumed that most were here on a lark, out for a few days of fun.  That is probably true for some of them, particularly those who are walking for a week or so.  However, there is a large number of young people who are clearly walking the entire Camino as part of their spiritual formation.

A few days ago, we stopped mid-morning at a café for water and to rest our feet for a bit.  At the next table over there was a young German guy flirting with a young Spanish woman.  I watched them banter back and forth.  English was their common language, so I listened in as I drank my water.  The conversation was light and amusing—exactly what you’d expect from two twenty-somethings getting to know each other.  Eventually, I decided it was time to leave and I headed out, leaving the two young people to their fun.  

As I staggered on to my next stop, the German guy booked passed me (that happens a lot) with a heavy pack and a light step.  Perhaps his flirting had not resulted in the outcome that he’d hoped?

At the next town, the local parish had turned their church into a place for pilgrims to pray and meditate.  Soft music was playing.  They’d helpfully provided bibles in most major languages.  They had also created a prayer space designed for people of all faiths.  The welcome and hospitality were generous.

As I made my way around the nave, I saw someone in the first pew of the church deep in prayer.  Not wanting to intrude, I kept my distance.  To my surprise, it was the young German guy I’d seen not so long ago flirting at the café.   He prayed for about fifteen minutes and got up, hoisted on his backpack and walked down the center aisle.

We smiled and in hushed tones wished each other a Buen Camino.  

He’s turned up in several churches along the Camino, most recently at the Cathedral in León.  

I’m not sure what my German friend is searching for, but I hope he finds it.

Thank you to everyone who has generously supported my walk with a gift to Episcopal Relief & Development.  If you haven’t yet done so and would like to make a donation, you can do so by clicking “Support my Journey!”

Fundraising is $73,292/75k and walk progress is 416.1/500 mi

Published by Rob Radtke

President & CEO, Episcopal Relief & Development, husband, father, friend, traveler, reader, New Yorker.

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