Keeping the Camino alive back home

June 19, 2023 in Featured News, News

Brendan McManus SJ, Camino author, walker and pilgrimage leader, worked as a volunteer in the Camino pilgrim reception centre in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, in June 2023. The initiative is called Camino Companions » and is run by the Irish FCJ Sisters, located on the first floor of the main pilgrim office in Santiago where pilgrims get their certificates (compostelas). It is a combination of faith sharing and spiritual direction, with the focus on listening to pilgrims’ extraordinary stories of why they walked, and helping them process and make meaning of the experience. In this article, Brendan offers sound Ignatian principles to help people find God back at home.

A seasoned pilgrim giving back

We are pilgrims in the world and our challenge is to live life as a journey, not buying into the consumer mentality but keeping our hearts open. Back at home we have a tendency to forget this, to drift along on autopilot, but we have a choice about how we live and love. God (or Mystery, or Spirit) is always with us, and can be seen especially when looking back on our experience, hence the importance of reflection, and taking time out to get perspective. The Camino ‘feeling’ or the spiritual dimension is always there, but we have to walk our road of trust as best we can wherever we find ourselves. The ‘Camino will provide’ even back at home!

The challenge is to be ‘awake’ and attentive to the urgings of the Spirit and to follow them. God works in our interior moods and feelings, and we can pick up that same ‘Camino feeling’ (a full heart) to find where God is leading, though we need inner silence and time to listen to our hearts. Our job is to be instruments of love in the world (Camino ‘angels’), to help others and to give something back.

We need to structure our lives to make sure that we have pauses, time-out and reflection built in so that we can remain close to God (putting good habits and structures in place). Just like on the Camino, there will be moments of darkness or suffering which are a ‘testing in the fire’ that allow us to face our demons and humbly find a way forward with God’s help (handing over control and trusting). We need to seek humility, especially letting go of the need to control.

Some Suggestions:

  1. Do this ‘Review of the Day (or ‘Examen’) at the end of each day. This takes about fifteen minutes to review the day and see where the ‘Camino moments’ were or not (Examen: the paradox of reflection »).
  2. First thing in the day meditate or pray for around fifteen minutes; it also works well to simply go for a walk first thing (‘get out of bed and put on the boots’ as one pilgrim said) to orient yourself for the day. Remember that prayer is also listening, so create a space and maybe use nature, poetry or scripture to hear what God is saying to you.
  3. Develop an ‘attitude of gratitude’; a key Camino insight is seeing everything as a gift, lowering expectations and looking for the good in everything. This means giving people the benefit of the doubt, that is, assuming that there is good in everyone.
  4. Take time to discern and work through decisions, especially important ones. You always have a choice about how you deal with events and how you live your life. Especially, don’t make any quick, rushed decisions (An Ignatian framework for making a decision »).
  5. Try to be your ‘best Camino self’ every day, the person God wants you to be, treating others well, having good healthy relationships and having a goal/direction in life. Stop trying to control things. Try to help others whenever you can; be a ‘Camino Angel’.
  6. Think about having a ‘soul friend’, spiritual guide or someone to whom you can talk regularly about things that matter.
  7. Keep a spiritual diary or notebook to record important events and help you reflect on them (Review prayer by keeping a journal »).
  8. Think about doing a spiritual retreat or Camino walk once a year to keep on track. Find a local prayer group, parish, Camino group or retreat centre that can help you.
  9. Keep up some sort of spiritual reading to keep your pilgrim soul alive, read some Camino/pilgrim books including Redemption Road ». Plus Other Camino de Santiago books ».

Click here for the Keeping the Camino alive back home document (PDF) ».