Next week I leave on a pilgrimage. I’m flying to Madrid, Spain, to join my daughter, Sarah, on the Camino del Norte. It’s one of 12 ancient pilgrimage routes through the Spanish countryside, towns, and cities, with all paths leading to Santiago de Compostela, a city in the region of Galicia, in northwestern Spain. St. James, one of Jesus’ disciples, is said to have been buried within the cathedral there.
A pilgrimage is meant to be spirit-renewing. May it be so! Pilgrimage also is a powerful metaphor for every journey with the purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler. Any journey can become a spiritual exercise, an act of devotion, a journey of risk and renewal.
In my preparatory reading, I have been touched by Linus Mundy’s simple steps for “A Guided Prayer-Walk,” which can be undertaken while walking the Camino in Spain or simply while strolling with your soul around the block. I urge you to try this wherever you can!
Step 1: Look up – remember that my journey is a journey with God.
Guide my feet, O God. Direct me along your path. Teach me to walk more by faith, less by sight. May my walk be to walk toward you, but even more importantly, a walk with you. Amen.
Step 2: Look down – remember that my journey is grounded in the world I live in.
Lord, let me realize that while I know I need to “look up,” I also need to “look down” here on earth, lest I stumble and fall. There can be…no real relationship with this magnificent planet, until I abide with it a while and call it home. I remain a stranger passing through, until I decide for myself not just to pass through, but to dig down and dig in. Amen.
Step 3: Look back – remember that a journey toward something is a journey away from something else. As I walk ahead, I notice the footprints I’ve left behind, back where I’ve been.
God, keep me mindful of yesterday, but don’t let me live there only. Jesus taught, “Today has enough cares of its own.” Help me to remember times I thought I was all alone and suddenly found you there alongside me. Help me too, to know that whatever it is back there behind me on the trail – even if it’s gaining on me – we can handle it together if it should catch up with us. Amen.
Step 4: Look around – I am on holy ground now.
What have I been waiting for? I know mystic Julian’s prayer, “and all will be well, and all will be well, and all will be very, very well,” but now I want to pray, “and all IS well and all IS well and all is very, very well.” What makes it so? The company I keep and the Company I keep. Walk with me Lord, all the way home. Amen.
Step 5: Look ahead – the end takes us back to the beginning. And leaves us refreshed. Join me in praying with Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.
Which step speaks to you this day?
-written by Rev. Ann Palmerton