The Camino de Santiago Experience of a Divine Word Missionary
(Part 4 of 5)
By Marlon Bobier Vargas SVD
Frater Marlon Bobier Vargas SVD gets closer to the end of his pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago. The routes of El Camino de Santiago are many with the longest one stretching 780 km (500 miles) from France to Western Spain. As Marlon continues his voyage, he ponders the connections he has made along the way of the pilgrimage and life.
Considering the madness in our world, it is not surprising that many pilgrims take part in the Camino, seeking spiritual enlightenment. The firsthand testimonies that I heard from fellow pilgrims, as well as the stories that I read on blogs about the Camino experience, made me believe more deeply that the pilgrim’s desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of God.
To attain such an experience, one has to slow down and be patient. The Camino de Santiago is not a speed race that forces one to walk rapidly. It is not a long-distance tournament that makes one greater than the person who took longer to walk the path. While pace and rhythm are two important aspects of the Camino pilgrimage, what matters most is reaching the destination with memorable and meaningful encounters with others along the path.
The Camino gave me time to detach and disconnect from the busyness of the world. I intentionally avoided getting information about the things happening in the world and contacted only a few individuals while on the journey. It was a struggle not to look at social media during the journey.
There were many times when I was tempted to post photos of the beautiful scenery. However, I wanted to give myself the opportunity to look internally and be with God. Ironically, the more I detached and disconnected myself from people, the more I felt their closeness and connection.
My family, close friends, Divine Word community, mentors and other significant people filled my mind and heart. I spent time remembering and understanding the meaning and purpose of their presence in my life. Through God’s grace, I once again reassessed the level and quality of my relationships with the people in my life and how I meaningfully partake in growing, maturing, deepening my relationships and understanding my communion with significant people in my life.
Along the Camino journey, pilgrims greeted one another with the phrase “buen camino,” which literally means “good path.” It’s generally understood as “good luck and happy traveling.” Camino pilgrims come from different places, backgrounds, ethnicities, languages and cultures. The exchange of the greeting buen camino is a concrete act of recognizing and sharing presence with fellow pilgrims.
It may be taken as a simple gesture of greeting another person, but it also could lead to a new and deep connection. It’s the first step toward friendship where two or more people open themselves and become their best selves.
The greeting, when extended from the heart, could be followed by one’s sharing of identity, relationship, purpose and meaning in life. My interactions and conversations with fellow pilgrims have reminded me that each of us has crossroads in our lives. Sometimes, we share the same journey. Sometimes, we journey alone. There are times when we voyage as strangers with other strangers. The one thing we all have in common is our longing to make our journey a meaningful one.
Saint Arnold Janssen wrote, “Happy the person whose eyes of the spirit God opened so that he/she recognizes: ‘I have a Master above me. I have to serve Him and I will serve Him,’ and then arranges his/her life accordingly.” We are invited to open our eyes to the presence of others and their needs. Let it be a source of joy in our mission. Buen camino!