The Camino de Santiago Experience of a Divine Word Missionary
(Part 2 of 5)
By Marlon Bobier Vargas SVD
Frater Marlon Bobier Vargas SVD, who is completing his Cross-Cultural Training Program in Spain, continues his series on El Camino de Santiago. He walked the pilgrims’ route with a group from parishes that he served in Madrid. In Part II, he muses on the baggage that we all carry.
The Camino may not be easy and fun for those who hate walking long distances while carrying a heavy backpack. I can imagine the suffering of those who are impatient when dealing with unexpected and inconvenient situations. These matters are not a bother, though, for pilgrims who long for a Camino experience that is one-of-a-kind, special and indelible on one’s heart.
A meaningful Camino is attainable when a pilgrim pays attention to his or her surroundings, such as signs, people, feelings, thoughts, desires, intuitions, desires and encounters along the way.
My backpack made all the difference in my Camino experience. I was grateful that a friend lent his durable backpack to me. I intentionally brought only basic and essential items: a fleece jacket, hat, toiletries, towel, raincoat, flashlight, sleeping bag, a pair of dry-fit shirts, shorts, socks and undergarments. I did not want my back and shoulders to suffer from the heavy load.
Other pilgrims possessed a variety of backpacks. They carried backpacks that varied in color, size, shapes and brands. Seeing the pilgrims walking in front me with their different and colorful backpack was like watching butterflies. Some backpacks were filled with only important content to help them survive the journey.
Pilgrims often consider their backpacks their best companion because it is with them most of the time. There were, however, some pilgrims who suffered and complained about their bags. There were those who did not properly pack. Along the way, I saw personal items, such as shoes, shirts and sleeping bags, lying on the side of the road.
To me, the backpacks depicted the burdens of life. They represented health issues, family problems, financial responsibilities, relationship conflicts, job concerns, identity crises, and the list goes on. Each of us has concerns, burdens and challenges in our daily lives. Like the pilgrims’ backpacks, we carry the burdens of life on our shoulders. Most of us have experienced that point where we feel that the burden is too cumbersome and we can no longer bear it.
There were some groups that traveled without a backpack. They hired a carrier service to transfer their backpack to the next destination and freed themselves from the burden of carrying a heavy backpack during the walk. Some might say that the ability to carry a loaded backpack on our shoulders shapes and molds a person into a true pilgrim. Others might say that each of us must learn to understand our own limitations.
We need someone, such as our family, relatives and friends, not necessarily to carry our burdens but to assist us. Above all, we must humble ourselves to embrace the truth that we need God in our lives. Let us live out the words of Saint Arnold Janssen, “To humble yourself truly and deeply before God and others is the best way to receive the divine light and help for the future.”