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Preparing for a Pilgrimage: The Way of St. James

Updated: May 5, 2022

The Way of St. James

On December 16, 2020, after my friend Anne and I reached a 1000 miles of hiking

for the year, I posted a challenge to all my friends on Facebook to “do your own

challenge in the next year…250 miles? 500? 1000? Maybe join us in May 2022 on

the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain”.

In just a few weeks after my post, I had 16 “women for adventure” signed up to

hike the last 70 miles for this internationally known trail -- 16 months in advance!

(Everyone needed a “carrot” in the midst of the pandemic.) As interest grew, I

decided to commit myself to a second group -- and me doing two 70 mile treks.

After all, I thought, if others on the trail can do the full 500 miles, I can certainly do 140.

A week from today, I board my flight from JFK to Madrid, then on to Compostela to meet my first group. I am so ready…and excited! There is an old Nigerian folk saying that truly fits if you are preparing for a long distant pilgrimage: “The day on which one starts out is not the time to start one’s preparation”. Each one of the 26 women joining this adventure has spent most of the past year training for the challenge of seven days of hiking 70 miles.

This is more than a trip to see Spain. This is a pilgrimage, a journey of a pilgrim to a holy place. Camino de Santiago translates to the “Way of St. James”. James was one of the twelve apostles; following the Jesus’ Ascension to heaven, the apostles divided the world into missionary zones in order to spread the Gospel in an organized fashion. James was assigned the Iberian Peninsula, which we know as Spain and Portugal. Unfortunately, when James journeyed back to Jerusalem from Iberia, King Herod Agrippa beheaded him. James’s disciples built a boat and traveled back to the Iberian Peninsula with James’ body to bury him.

On a dark night in 813, a hermit discovered the burial plot. Upon learning of this, King Alfonso ordered a construction of a church above the tomb to honor James, who is now the patron saint of Spain. Pilgrims, people who travel long distances to a holy place as an act of devotion, have been traveling to the holy site since the ninth century.

When a person gets a call for a spiritual journey, there is no turning back. I’ve always promoted being a traveler versus a tourist. This transformational journey will take us even deeper; to be a pilgrim, if you will. Like Patrick Devaney eloquently says in his book, “Two Million Steps: Band-Aids, Cocktails, and Finding Peace Along Spain’s Camino de Santiago”, “A pilgrim’s journey, unlike traveler’s, never ends, it only deepens”.

I truly look forward to sharing this experience with both new and long-time friends. Please stay tuned for other journal entries from the Camino de Santiago. As I pack only a 30-pound carry-on (for 18 days abroad!) and receive well wishes from family and friends, below are words my dear friend, Carol Roth, sent from a song written by Carol Ahrend, “Go with God”.

“Go with the wind at your back and the sun on your face, with a song in your heart and the promise of grace. Go in Peace and in Truth and let Love lead your way. Go with God”.

Until next month….

Buen Camino!

Sally Bassett

April 29, 2022

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