Walked 25 km today, about 15 miles, which is a pretty good distance and pace for me. Started out in Calzada de los Hermanillos, and was treated to a spectacular view of the setting moon in the west and rising sun in the east, flanked by the Spanish Pyrenees to the north. This was my second day walking the Via Trajana (or Via Romana), and it has really been a great couple of days. The vast stretches of remote country, with no noise and very few peregrinos, offers the sense of solitude that I so desperately seek on this pilgrimage.
June 21, 2015, Mansilla de las Mulas
Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:12)
My expressed purpose for walking the Camino de Santiago was to “listen to the voice of God”. Most everyone that you meet on the Way has a “purpose” for walking. For some, it’s the adventure of discovering a new travel destination, for others it’s to meet new people, and still for some it’s a time to re-connect to their faith, and for others it’s a time to think about life. Some pilgrims walk the Camino as a tribute to a loved one who has passed on, or to reflect on a new transition in life. And lastly, some pilgrims make the decision to walk at the last minute, with virtually no preparation or real thought on why they are walking. There are many reasons for walking the Camino. But it seems to me, that no matter the expressed reason, or lack of purpose, almost all pilgrims come away from the Camino with a new way of seeing their lives, and if they are attentive to it, they hear the voice of God speaking to them.
We fill up our lives with so much noise and so many distractions that it can be almost impossible for God’s voice to be heard. That’s a problem to my way of thinking; if we are children of God, we owe it to our Father in heaven to listen to his voice. That can only happen if we make time and space to listen to Him. The Camino provides that opportunity.
As I reflect on my Camino pilgrimage, I think of the many opportunities there were to listen to the voice of God. I certainly heard his voice in my fellow peregrinos, sharing meals with them, sharing life stories, and learning about their home countries and cultures. I’ve already written in a previous blog, Make Time for Friends, about some of the special peregrinos that we met on The Way.
Another place where I definitely heard the voice of God was on La Meseta. The Meseta is a high, arid plateau in the middle of the Camino, about 150 miles across – it stretches roughly from Burgos to just beyond León. The Meseta is characterized by its wide open vistas, its remoteness, and is dominated by agricultural landscapes. For some pilgrims, the Meseta is boring, a monotonous walk through agricultural landscapes for days upon days. It’s aptly called this “mental” phase of the Camino (the first phase being physical, the third spiritual).
For myself, the Meseta was the stretch of the Camino where I could best listen to the voice of God, precisely because of its wide open vistas and remoteness. It’s easy to lose yourself in those wide open spaces, to lose track of time, to turn your thoughts inward, and to reflect on God’s presence in our lives. The monotony of the Meseta prepares the pilgrim for the spiritual blessings of the last third of The Way.
There were many other places and experiences along the Camino where I heard the voice of God. The Pilgrim’s Masses and Blessings at most villages, and the Gregorian chants in Rabinál come to mind. But the Meseta was where it really all came together, and I had the time and space to really listen, and I will forever be thankful for that opportunity.