Friday, June 26, 2009

A travel diary for the spiritual journey

"I realized that a lot of the time when I repent for my sin and go to confession, it is not because I truly want to be clean, rather it is because I don't want to 'stink' any more. I don't want to feel guilty or feel bad. ... It is the difference between 'Bless me, Father, for I did x, y and z' and 'Bless me, Father, for I have broken God's heart.' (p. 70-71)

In Hiking the Camino: 500 Miles with Jesus, Franciscan Fr. Dave Pivonka, T.O.R., has recorded a travel diary for the spiritual journey, one particularly suited for those who have perhaps tired and turned lukewarm on the road, or those who are willing but reluctant to start.

I particularly enjoyed the author's light tone and openness in recounting his Spanish pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, a L O N G walk undertaken to give thanks to God for the tenth anniversary of his priestly ordination. Though the reader can guess many of the spiritual lessons Father will draw from his tales before he explains them, some (like the one I excerpted above, from a funny account of the laundering differences between men and women on the Camino) really struck home, so the book serves as much more than a breezy travelogue. The book did, however, make clear to me that should the possibility of this pilgrimage ever present itself to me -- an unlikely event with four littles at my feet and our one-teacher salary -- I have no desire to make it! Give me a few days at a Benedictine monastery instead. :)

Speaking of which, Father tells of some Benedictine sisters in Leon who care for the pilgrims as they pass through, welcoming them as Christ and opening their community's prayer (as is the Benedictine way). A particularly beautiful part of this story is the "ministry" of one sister who greets each visitor entering the church with a large smile. The sisters also segregate the men and women pilgrims (unusual in lodging on the Camino, apparently) and offer to wash their clothes for them for a small fee.

Some spiritual lessons that merited an asterisk in my notes were:
  • When the walk is hard, keep walking forward to find rest; yet, the journey takes as long as it takes, so it cannot be rushed.
  • Don' t miss the beauty and opportunities on the journey because of pain, but actively unite your pain to Jesus'. Also, understand that others on the journey may indeed be consumed by their pain.
  • Seek Jesus Himself and then His will will become clear.
  • Make meals and Mass together priorities.
As an aside, it occurred to me as I read that, as challenging as this pilgrimage clearly is, the pioneers of our nation's Western Migration had to have even more grit to endure much more, especially in terms of distance and conditions. There were no yellow arrows pointing the way, or lodgings waiting for them each night, or even priests to offer them the sacraments. Most of the time, it was just your family, your wits and your wagonload of possessions, in the whole wide unsettled world. So, a strange effect of this book surely not intended by the author is a renewed admiration for the pioneers. End of digression. :)

This review was written as part of the Catholic Book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Hiking the Camino: 500 Miles with Jesus.