In recent years, a number of Regnum Christi members from various countries have started hiking or biking the pilgrimage path of El Camino de Santiago.
Pilgrimages have always been part of Christian tradition. The Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, in Northwestern Spain, was built over the tomb of St. James the Greater (Santiago in Spanish). Thus, it has been a common place of pilgrimage for centuries. We have records of people making longer pilgrimages to this site going back to the 9th century. Today, many start from the French border and travel along a 478 mile (769 km) route through northern Spain that usually takes about a month by foot. Some will do it in stages or start closer to the Cathedral. There are pilgrim hostels along the route, about a day’s journey apart.
This article will focus on three groups who recently walked the Camino: a group including two lay consecrated men from the United States, a father and son duo from Ireland, and some Spanish university students.
Two Consecrated Men
Fernando Suarez and Antonio Maza, Lay Consecrated Men working in the United States, recently accompanied a group during the last ten days of their pilgrimage. The group decided to walk the whole Camino but split it over 3 years to fit it in with their life schedules. They usually walked 16 or 17 miles a day, but one day was longer, at 22 miles.
Fernando explained, “It was harder than I thought. I think that’s part of it: that you never know what’s going to happen until you are there … It was a very challenging experience.”
He knew that he would have a chance to reflect on the beauty of nature over his journey. He was most surprised by the scenic coastline when they walked along the coast for a few days.
Fernando was pleasantly surprised at how the pilgrimage mirrored life with its ups and downs. He felt that as they walked, they all shared the same challenges together, which gave them strength. He even felt the connection to those who were not in his group but coincided with his group’s timing while walking along the Camino.
Fernando and the group ended each day with Mass: it was either at the parish they were passing through or a private Mass with the priest who was in the group.
He was impressed with the simple life the farmers had and noted, “We walked through a lot of simple towns. You see the people working there in the fields. When you get out of more industrial areas and in to the towns, you realize how simple things can be.”
“It’s also an opportunity to give thanks to God for everything you have, for everything you do,” Fernando reflected with gratitude.
Some people walk the Camino for health reasons, but Fernando thinks they all find God in a way.
Towards the end, a number of pilgrimage paths all meet up and he could see how many others were on this journey and how happy everyone was to be at the end.
Robert and Christopher Nugent
Robert Nugent is a Regnum Christi member from Mayo County, Ireland, near Knock, who has taken his ten-year-old son Christopher on the Camino three times. He’d done it on his own three times before that, so he has been there each of the last six years. Each time they have taken slightly different routes. They have even set up a Facebook page to follow their journey called Kids on the Camino De Santiago, and use it as an opportunity to raise money for Let the Children Live, which is a Catholic charity helping kids on the streets and in the shanty towns of Colombia.
Christopher likes talking to the various people who are on pilgrimage along the Camino. He explained how it helped him get through, “When I talk to someone, it makes me walk at their pace and I forget that my feet are hurting.” His dad noted, “It’s interesting to meet people and see how they view this pilgrimage.” They have walked with people from all over the world, and Robert recounted walking with a priest who teaches theology in the Philippines. They met Romanian seminarians who were helping the pilgrims in a certain village, standing most of the day handing out information on Masses in upcoming stops of the Camino.
Robert mentioned the beauty of the rosary and the Mass on the Camino. However, he noted how unfortunately the Camino has been secularized. Robert also noted how walking the Camino was a good bonding experience with his son.
Spanish University Students
Regnum Christi young adults in Spain also walked part of the Camino over 11 days recently. Pablo Nogueira explained his experience to the Spanish RC website, “It is not so much the journey, but to live the Camino de Santiago with a spirituality much more focused on Christ and to make known what it is to be an apostle in Regnum Christi.”
Pablo explained what his experience was like: “I went for the first time last year, and the truth is that it was a very satisfying experience, both for people who know Regnum Christi and for people who do not. An unbeatable opportunity to grow spiritually.”
Many other Regnum Christi members from Canada, the USA, and around the world have made pilgrimages along the Camino de Santiago on their own or in groups, walking or cycling.