Onward and Upward: Newman on the Way of St. James

This past May 28 students and young adults from St. Catherine’s backpacked a part of the Way of St. James in Spain. The pilgrimage on this ancient trail was led by Fr. Lukasz and his Dominican friend from Poland, Fr. Dawid Kolodziejczyk. Read a story by one of those young people, John Esquivel, about what this experience was like.

As you may know, we walked 322 km (just about 200 miles) this past May in Spain in what’s called El Camino De Santiago, the pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint James. We walked as little as 13 miles and up to 24 miles during certain days. I can certainly say it’s been an experience like no other for I learned so much about my community and myself by doing this walk. I will not lie to you; this walk is tough as it takes of a lot of perseverance, faith, hope, and endurance to do.

I learned many valuable lessons for life. This is a walk about learning how to adapt to your environment, how to listen to your body and test your limits, how to train your mind to do things it never thought it could do. It taught me how to be comfortable with being by myself, and at the same time with others and how to properly balance it in order for me to be at peace. It taught me how to just keep walking, and walking, and walking. I learned to not complain and not to think about the walk in terms of “how much is left?” or “Is it over soon?” too much, because at the end of the day, you’ll be with your community bonding over experiences and enjoying mass with them in gorgeous churches. Sometimes you will walk alone, and you’ll have time to sort out your problems and pray, sometimes you will walk and not think at all just walk, and sometimes you will be sharing experiences and enjoying other people’s companies. You will undoubtedly meet people from all over the world, and see why they do the Camino.

In the Camino you will be challenged to reach distances you never thought you could and make sacrifices. You will grow closer to God, but the way you will not be the same as others, just follow the signs leading you. There were points where I felt deep helplessness only to see the end goal nearby and seeing hope and how God strengthened me with perseverance, because in the end it will all be fine. Among the most valuable lessons I learned were how to be enduring, persistent, and resilient in the Camino. God will never forsake you. I learned how to smile after the hardest days, because sometimes people need that reassuring smile. I learned how to get inspiration from people, and how to inspire people to keep going and to realize that we cannot make it to the end goal without others. I feel blessed to say we walked thought it all; rain, fog, cold, strong wind, intense sun, thunder, perfect weather etc. I learned to accept myself and my limitations as well as the good qualities that pulled me through the Way. Things in the Camino will sometimes be disappointing, but patience is key to overcome this.

Finally, while the Camino did not change my life, it gave me the tools to change my life, and for that I am most grateful to God. I was really scared to do this walk, thinking I would not be able to do it…yet here I am talking about I walk I did about a month ago. I strongly recommend doing El Camino de Santiago if you seek personal growth and to grow closer to God and others.

Above: visiting St. Teresa’s shrine in Avila

Above: walking through the farmlands of Leon

Above: Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross), the highest point on the Way. At the foot of this cross pilgrims are encouraged to leave little rocks they have been carrying, symbols of their sins and struggles

Above: celebration of daily Eucharist in Samos

Above: singing Taize chants after a long day of backpacking in the mountains of Galicia