Gifts on the Way

Today’s post is by Kimberly Borin, Ed.D.

The Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James, is an ancient pilgrimage, started in the ninth century and traveled by millions of people from all over the world. The Camino begins in France, Spain, or Portugal and all roads lead to the final destination of Santiago de Compostela, where a magnificent cathedral, houses the tomb of Saint James. I recently had the good fortune to walk on The Camino Portuguese with the community of pilgrims, steeped in seeking and walking towards hope. Along the way, The Camino’s sacred footpaths offered me gifts of story, gratitude, freedom, and a glimpse of the many faces of Love.

People begin The Camino for a variety of reasons. Pilgrims begin in France to complete the approximately 500-mile journey, others in Spain or Portugal. They walk, run, bike, or ride horses to complete the sacred journey, for reasons known or unknown. Along the way, I heard narratives, prayers, and wishes for those traveling. Their words arrived at just the right time. These stories became answered prayers offering the surprise gift of hope for my own journey.

The Camino is a series of paths, roads, sidewalks, and trails of varying landscapes and terrains. To be safe, travelers look down to be vigilant about their footing and look up for other travelers and the yellow directional Camino arrows. The horizon constantly calls as well, as beautiful hillsides, mountains, beaches, forests, and country vistas are revealed.  Walking on The Camino requires balanced attention, and awareness. These mindful moments offered the gift of deep gratitude for my journey as a fellow traveler.

These stories and moments of gratefulness were enhanced by the interesting collections of items left by journeyers. Coins are left in walls, notes of prayer are tucked between bricks, and piles of small rocks called, “stones of burden” are left by religious icons. In seeing the piles of stones left by others I felt compassion for the suffering, pain, or questions they carried. I too brought a small stone, heavy with question, and left it at the base of a cross. There was a relief in letting go of my small stone. In placing it within the pile, I had been given the gift of freedom.

The stories, the gratitude, and the freedom were decorated by the faces of Love everywhere. The Camino draws a variety of people from many geographies, cultures, religions, and reasons for seeking. It was an awe-inspiring scene to see people traveling together, sharing in the human journey, and coming to the square of the Santiago de Compostela, grateful for having arrived safely.  In the square before the great cathedral, travelers of all types are crying, embracing one another, congratulating one another, and even kneeling to kiss the granite ground. There is something about the journey, the risk, and the hardship, that creates compassion, love, and companionship. Seeing this offered me yet another glimpse of the many faces of Love. Surely Saint James himself and all those who travel these many roads towards the Compostela the field of stars, are granted a more beautiful image of Love and gifts on The Way.

To learn more about The Camino de Santiago you may want to check out:– The official website of the Pilgrim’s reception office.


August 08, 2018 by Kimberly Ann Borin
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