Posts Tagged pilgrims

NEW! – The Race Before Us on YouTube

MY CAMINO – the Video (The Camino de Santiago)

[Editor’s Note: I have still not posted fully the entire trip from southern France to Santiago, Spain, but there is now a video slideshow of the trip.  The slideshow features just 15% of my 2,000 photographs taken over 30 days on the Camino de Santiago.  Accompanied by the music of Steven Curtis Chapman, James Taylor, Alison Krauss and Gordon Lightfoot, the photographs move chronologically until the trip along the Camino ends at the Cathedral de Santiago and at the “end of the earth” at Muxia and Finisterre.]



MY CAMINO - THY CAMINO:  The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

MY CAMINO – THY CAMINO: The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

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THY CAMINO: Pilgrims, Pilgrimages, and Indulgences

If you walk the Camino de Santiago, you will be referred to as a “pilgrim” or, in Spanish, a “peregrino.” You need to pick up a “Pilgrim Passport” in St. Jean (or from one of the many confraternity associations around the world), which document provides access to the various “albergues” (“pilgrim hostels”) set up along the way to Santiago. In most towns and villages along the Camino various bars, cafes, and restaurants offer a “pilgrim meal” at dinnertime, which consists of a starter, entrée, dessert, bread, water & wine for a modest price (usually 9 or 10 euros). And, when you finish the Camino in the city of Santiago, the evidence that you have completed the trip and are entitled to receive a “Compostela” is your pilgrim passport, which has been stamped at 30 to 50 (or more sites) you stayed at or visited on the Way. The point here is that the idea of being a pilgrim or being on a pilgrimage is at the very core of attempting to walk the Camino de Santiago.


Historically and generally speaking, a “pilgrim” is thought to be someone on a religious or spiritual journey – typically an actual, physical journey. Most undertake some spiritual journey in their lifetime (examining the “big questions” of life, like – why am I here?), which can be thought of as a pilgrimage, but it is more common traditionally to think of pilgrimage as a physical movement involving a spiritual motivation. Think of the “American Pilgrims” – a religious group seeking to preserve their interpretation of proper worship, who travelled to Holland and then to “Plymouth Rock.” Thomas Merton said: “The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out of the inner journey. The inner journey is the interpretation of the meaning and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.”

In a very real sense, God sent Abraham on a pilgrimage. Christians and Jews have undertaken pilgrimages to the “Holy Land” (Jerusalem) for thousands of years. Other religious orders emphasize pilgrimage – one of the five major tenets of Islam is that Muslims are to journey to Mecca (the “Hajj”) at least once in their lifetime.

Originally (in medieval times), the individuals on “the Way” were out for much more than a physical challenge or a walk of spiritual discovery. One resource says, “A major motivation [for medieval pilgrims] was orandi causa – in order to pray, to seek forgiveness, to fulfill a vow, or to petition St. James for a certain blessing, such as healing.” Another source says, “in any case, the gaining of the plenary indulgence became a dominant motivation for the pilgrimage.”


To understand the historical Camino then we probably need to understand what is meant by “gaining a plenary indulgence.” What is an “indulgence” (or a “plenary indulgence”) and why would someone want (or need) an indulgence? I grew up in a Congregational Church in Connecticut. For the last 28 years I’ve attended a Lutheran Church. Neither of those denominations to my knowledge discussed or provided indulgences. The historian in me recalls that one of Martin Luther’s major criticisms of the “church” included the idea and the practices relating to indulgences. In my next “Thy Camino” post, therefore, I will explore this idea of indulgences and how it fits into a life of faith and what it means for the modern-day “peregrino” on the Camino de Santiago.


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