When you walk 6-7 hours each day, alone, the solitary journey elicits deeply rooted memories of people who have passed though the gateway of death. This soulful walking connects one’s life to the earth, footstep by footstep, and this connection releases buried, mostly forgotten, memories. The problem with a religious pilgrimage is God has other unplanned plans in regards to these memories. One can’t be healed of the past if one is DISconnected with it. Pilgrimages mean Reconnecting…with God through remembering the people who have walked in and out of our lives, sometimes welcomed, sometimes surprised, sometimes very unwelcome.
Walking hour after hour surfaces many wonderful memories causing a bittersweet joy, since you deeply miss the person remembered but know they are present with each step. You just KNOW it. However, difficult memories WILL surface that are quite painful when they become conscious…relived. The Camino is not for everyone, especially if you choose the route of repression. Bury the pains of the past…don’t face them, for often they’re just too painful.
I encountered many pilgrims who were forced to face these unpleasant realities that lie deep in the lower regions of the subconscious. Some need serious help to the point of returning home. “Now is the time of salvation,” St. Paul teaches. When the rubber hits the road, or each walking foot connects with Mother Earth, the source of our bodies, this is our moment to TRUST God will carry us through these moments of trial. The basement of our subconscious needs to be cleaned out…aired out….the Light let in. Freedom. Release. New memories. Healed memories. Maybe we are just not ready for the Camino right now. It takes Wisdom to admit this.
The movie, “The Way,” with Martin sheen, which caused the Camino to explode in tourist popularity, is really about the healing of memories. The main character walks with his son’s cremains, spreading them at various places and shrines. His relationship with his son was strained and distant; his untimely death in the Pyrenees did not give this father the time to reconcile and offer forgiveness. But it wasn’t too late. Even after his son died so suddenly, the walk reconnected him with this distant son, forgiveness and healing occurred and a man is freed to walk a new Camino pushing in new directions. His son was alive…and well…
All Souls Day, a time to remember the people who helped to shape our identities and journeys. Some of these people may have inadvertently hurt us, or worse, advertently. Healing and forgiveness CAN happen. NOW. Our faith teachers us that life continues when we breath our last, and those we deeply love and missed are safe and happy…waiting for us to join them. This never ending season of Advent compels us to wait with an openness to gratitude and forgiveness, given AND received.