Living Theology - Justine's Journey
On the first night of the Camino, Mass took place in Ignaciano's conversion room in Loyola. The leader of the Camino, Father Jose Luis, shared about the beginning of Ignaciano's conversion, which was a process. As Ignaciano lay bedridden in this room reading books about the life of Christ and stories of saints, "God found him." As the pilgrimage began, many questions emerged for me. Could I handle the 120 mile walk and summer heat in Spain? Would my grandma, who is 101 years old and in hospice, still be alive when I finished the Camino? What aspects of my life should I pray about during the Camino? Hearing the words "God found him," I desired to surrender knowing the answers to my questions and allow God to take control.
As the pilgrimage progressed, the experience of simplicity allowed me to be present to the people, landscape, and prayer. I found refraining from texting, internet, and social media freeing. During our walks through the wheat fields and grape vineyards, I savored the magnificence of the fruit of the earth and the deep conversations with fellow pilgrims. The spiritual conversations gave me insights to the beauty and pain in my life and God's grace in my companion's life. These interactions reminded me of the companionship of Ignaciano, Pedro Claver, and Francisco Xavier who were bound together by their love for Jesus Christ. Every evening there was a Eucharistic celebration, followed by dinner. In the breaking of the bread, we shared our gratitude for the experience and offered the prayers in our hearts, JST community, family, and friends.
It was a powerful experience praying in the cave in Manresa where Ignaciano wrote the Spiritual Exercises. Being in the space, I entered into Ignaciano's humanity as he lived in the cave, struggled with scruples, and felt lost. I contemplated a carving on the wall of Jesus carrying the cross. I later learned that the image was Ignaciano, who carried a cross around Manresa. This image conveyed for me Ignaciano's conviction to follow in Jesus' footsteps. Being immersed in Ignaciano's world and culture during the Camino, I reflected on my own identity and context and the ways I carry the cross.
Our final walk began in La Storta and ended in Rome. Unlike the serene walks in the countryside of Spain, I found this walk more difficult with trash littering the ground and the sounds of cars rushing by. On this walk I pondered a phrase Father Jose Luis repeated throughout the Camino, "Try to learn how to be a pilgrim for life." As I return to the reality of my daily life and all the noise that accompanies it, I desire to integrate the simplicity and companionship of a pilgrim in my life. As my journey continues, I hope that I allow "God to find me" in my ongoing process of conversion.