These days, you can encounter just about anyone walking the Camino de Santiago. Although the practice originated as a Christian pilgrimage in the ninth century, the pool of participants has expanded well beyond practicing Catholics in recent decades….
This makes one group that just completed El Camino somewhat remarkable, at least in contemporary times: three U.S. bishops, with no entourage and no agenda, other than prayerfully journeying together on the ancient Way of St. James.
The bishops in question — Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico — walked about 200 miles over the course of two and a half weeks, reaching their destination on Sept. 1. As Bishop Wall told the Register via a video interview with all three bishops, they were somewhat of an “unusual group.”
But although some travelers were surprised to encounter a trio of bishops on the road, the three are no strangers to El Camino, which perhaps could be called “Los Caminos,” given that it actually refers to a network of different walking routes crisscrossing Spain, Portugal and France, all leading to Santiago de Compostela — and the tomb of the apostle St. James the Greater.
For Archbishop Coakley and Bishop Wall, this was the fifth portion of the pilgrimage they’ve completed together. By walking the middle portion of the Camino Frances, or “The French Way,” they’ve now finished all 500 miles of the popular route.
Bishop Conley joined them in 2012 for the last stretch of the Camino Frances and has also completed another leg on his own, while Archbishop Coakley and Bishop Wall have also done the Camino Portuguese and the Camino Primitivo, the original route that starts near the northern coast of Spain.
Adding up the mileage from their five journeys, Archbishop Coakley and Bishop Wall have now walked 840 Camino miles together….
Archbishop Coakley notes that, in his own archdiocese, there are plans to turn the soon-to-be dedicated Shrine of Blessed Stanley Rather into a place of pilgrimage. Father Rother was a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City who was killed in 1981 in Guatemala, making him the first officially confirmed U.S.-born martyr.
For his part, Bishop Conley pointed to the Three Hearts Pilgrimage, a two-day, 35-mile trek to Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in eastern Oklahoma. Bishop Conley said this pilgrimage, which starts this year on Oct. 20, is especially popular for fathers to make with their sons.
Finally, Bishop Wall pointed to the Santuario de Chimayó in northern New Mexico, a place that has been described as “the Lourdes of America” due to the “holy dirt” believed to have healing powers found at the shrine.
Chimayó attracts 300,000 pilgrims annually, most visiting during Holy Week, and some walking the 90 miles from Albuquerque.
The above comes from a Sept. 12 story in the National Catholic Register.
That’s an honest picture of the Camino: largely urban and ugly and heavily commercialized. Not worth the time nor effort nor expense. Way overrated. You want to walk a long distance? Do it in the U.S. where you can find forests, mountains and beautiful natural hiking trails.
The point is that it is a pilgrimage, not just a long walk or hike.
The Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, is a network of pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the Apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, where tradition holds that the remains of that Apostle are buried. One could make a pilgrimage to the Mission in Carmel where Saint Junipero Serra is buried, to name one example. But, the John Muir Trail, as beautiful as it is, is not the same as walking a pilgrimage. While all physical exercises are good, spiritual exercises bring spiritual rewards.
You can make any hike a pilgrimage. You don’t have to end up at an officially designated holy site for it to be a pilgrimage. Walking the Pacific Coast Trail or the Appalachian Trail can be a pilgrimage. Hiking in the Rocky Mountains can be a pilgrimage. Heck, even driving and car camping can be a pilgrimage; you don’t have to walk. Bring a rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours, a crucifix, and pray while you walk or drive and where you camp. You can make any journey a pilgrimage by doing it for the Lord and to get away from your regular routine.
I hear you. And agree. But, there’s a difference between arriving at a church and receiving and praying before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, or at the tomb of a Saint, and praying privately in the glory of God’s beautiful creation. (It’s one of the main reasons we are to attend Mass every Sunday.) Both are good, but, unless you’re a priest, you won’t receive the eternal Food for the Journey. The Pacific Coast Trail does reveal some of the glory of God for sure. Having spent a little time in Appalachia, one would have more to “offer up” there, with its humidity and bugs.
If you plan it right, there’s always a Catholic church nearby. We’re in civilization, not on the moon.
Where’s the Catholic church on the John Muir Trail or even nearby?
Hiking and backpacking don’t “always” put one near a Catholic church. (But, one can plan for Sunday Mass.) And, for a pilgrimage, there might be a difference between going to the Church of Saint James the Apostle and a random, even modernist, church. I’m surprised The Camino is drawing so many negative comments. These bishops and others are doing good things for their souls by their pilgrimages.
And, I’m not always so sure we’re in civilization. I’m in California. But, that’s another topic.
And take some holy water, especially Epiphany Water, with you and bless the areas while you are at it. If you have a lot of holy water a sprayer is great to use.
Or a Super Soaker?
A lady I know used some Holy Water on an area near her house where some occultists had performed a ceremony the day before. I think she had a sprayer. She scratched out the weird marks they had made in the dirt.
No Super Soakers at the mass, though; they are strictly for private use
Urban, ugly and heavily commercialized would be things to offer up as you walk.
Do you go to a Novus Ordo Mass and offer up the bad music and homilies and general irreverence or do you go to a TLM?
May God bless these men. Though none are likely to get “red hats,” at least one got a red bandana.
Bishop Conley had better be careful. He might be mistaken for a gang member with that red bandana, and the blue bandanas won’t like it. (Laughter.) Oh! if I am not mistaken, he has a blue shirt on too, so he is okay (neutral).
Oops! after reading all the posts under the article I confused the El Camino’s in the other countries with the El Camino in California. Sorry for the mix up. It is the California El Camino which has some gang territory along the way. Don’t know about the others.