The Camino de Santiago experience of a Divine Word Missionary
(Part 1 of 5)
By Marlon Bobier Vargas SVD
Frater Marlon Bobier Vargas SVD, who is completing his Cross-Cultural Training Program in Spain, is an enthusiast of sacred and religious places. When he heard that the remains Saint James the Apostle are believed to be kept in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, he jumped at the chance to partake in El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James), a pilgrimage to the site. He shares his journey in this five-part series. We invite you to begin the journey.
El Camino de Santiago is one of the world’s oldest pilgrimage routes, a journey across Northern Spain toward the Cathedral of Santiago in Galicia, where pilgrims can view and venerate the apostle’s tomb.
Like many pilgrims, I entered into the Camino in hopes that the walk would deepen my spiritual growth and transform my life. Along the way, I also met cyclists and hikers who were simply seeking an adventure.
Some individuals journeyed alone while others preferred to journey with a group. I walked with a youth group called Verbo Joven from one of our Divine Word parishes. The group consisted of 26 individuals—18 teenagers, four parents, two priests and two seminarians. While we hiked as one community with a shared goal, each of us had a different and significant reason for partaking in the Camino de Santiago.
The week before I left for the Camino, a confrere visited me in Madrid. As we caught up on each other’s lives, he repeated the following phrase several times: “My brother, do not lose Him.”
His message baffled me as I prepared to leave for the trip. As I pondered his words, more questions began to emerge in my mind:
“My God, am I losing You in my life?”
“Am I walking away from You?”
“Am I happy with the level and quality of my relationship with You, my Lord?”
At that point, I could not answer those questions with any certainty. I happened to begin the Camino on the second anniversary of a special occasion in my life—my profession of vows as a Divine Word Missionary.
I looked back and reflected on the many things that have transpired during the past few years. The Camino signs along the path, showing the distance to Santiago, reminded me of the many crossroads in my vocation journey.
Thinking about my life in Spain—learning another foreign language, adapting to the lifestyle and culture, and understanding the faith life of the people—has helped me become more conscious of my discernment of the religious missionary life and whether it is truly the life that I want to live.
Questions are a natural part of life. During the Camino pilgrimage, each time I saw a sign indicating the distance to the destination, I asked, “How many kilometers left?” I kept asking the same question again and again. I realized that every time I asked the question, I received a different answer. Whenever I saw the sign with the distance, I knew that I was getting closer to my destination.
In Christian life, we also have lots of questions particularly about the quality of our lives and how we see God’s role and involvement in our lives. Sadly, many of us who have confusing and troubling questions might become weak in our faith in God.
The Camino gave me precious time for meditation. Where do we come from? Where are we going? What must we do? I thought of so many life questions that lead me closer to God. When we are overwhelmed with life’s questions, let us be still. God is there waiting for us to be open to His great revelation.
Saint Arnold Janssen said, through meditation, our inner life will be made perfect. This is very hard work and is a task for our whole life. Therefore, let us strive after it unflinchingly through cooperation with divine grace to reach perfection.