There’s something about dreaming and thinking about an event, that when the day arrives it feels unreal, impossible, amazing, uncanny, startling.
My daughter Grace (29) and I walked through downtown Portland a couple weeks back to attend the St James’ Mass and receive our shells for our journey together. Grace will join me for 10 days on the Camino. As she said, “Dad, from you I received a love for travel and a love for backpacking, so I want to come join you to experience those with you again.” Grace is a healer. We have had some challenging times with both of these, so, she wants to experience healing. As in life we get hurt in relationships and healed in new relationships, so we can be hurt in experiences and healed in new experiences. So, we are heading for healing.
The walk itself was this wonderful adventure in and of itself. You’d have to meet Grace to understand, she is a gift to be with. We had this great conversation about life, experiences, people, and food as we walked. We stopped at Whole Foods and grabbed a simple dinner. We ate sitting on the booth chairs in the cafeteria there. We laughed, joked, bantered, and just enjoyed one another. I’m thankful for her rich, deep, joyful personality, her spiritual breadth, her heart for people. She’s an inspiration.
The mass began with this rich, beautiful, melodic voice singing acapella over the 150+ people gathered in St Mary’s Cathedral. The homily caught my heart as the priest described pilgrimage as a means to “discover the treasure within you so that you might have a gift to share with others.” In this pilgrim journey we learn to let things go, dropping ‘things’ along the way. Not so much our possessions, he said, although perhaps those as well, but more the “baggage that we have carried through life.” In this way, this pilgrim journey becomes a kind of death that allows us to make room for life.
He could not have been more aligned with the needs of my own heart than to thus speak! I sat there thinking back to the many, many, many journal entries of me speaking and listening to God and the frequency with which I encounter my own need to “let go.”
Once I would have said I am very good at this, letting stuff go, but now I know better. I am better at letting go of things, like old clothes I don’t want to wear any longer, than of the precious substance of my heart, those places and actions in which I find my identity and life. Letting go of these is hard. I am terrible of letting go of the things I “do” in order to gain love and affirmation of others. I like holding onto the actions that I end up doing because of how they make me “feel.” When I hand over things and then don’t see action, man it is hard to just let it go. Dying — that is the hard work that I am doing now. Dying. Releasing points of identity and finding life in relationship to God anew. Sounds pious? Trust me, it is hardly that. It is just hard work. Like a desert hike without water…
After worship we went to the courtyard to each receive our scallop shell. I will be carrying that shell the 500 miles to Santiago de Compostela. Part of this ceremony is hearing read the “Beatitudes of the Pilgrim” which has many “blessings” read over us. One read by this petite woman, with a quiet, sincere voice, “Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you search for the truth hand make of your Camino a life, and of your life a Camino, after Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Her words penetrated my heart. “Yes, yes, yes,” I resonated, deep within, “I want to live out being a pilgrim and continue to live as a pilgrim.”
Pictured here are the 12 of us pilgrims (and a couple other leaders) who received the shell at this ceremony all of us leaving on our “camino” walk within the next month.
We spoke with this one couple who said what many have told me: “It was the most significant experience of my life.”
Today — August 8th — this Camino adventure begins, not only for me, but for the entire Westside Congregation. We are “in this” together as we make this life a Camino.