Called to the Camino
A Reflection by Pilgrim/Parishioner Frances Inafuku
Sometime around November of last year, 2011, I was called to walk the Camino Santiago de Compostela, also known as St. James’ Way. It’s hard to explain exactly how this all happened, but somehow, little by little, all the pieces fell into place. There I was, after six months of training and preparation, on Thursday, May 24th, 2012, in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, the beginning of the Camino Frances, readying myself for the climb over the Pyrenees into the very heart of Spain.
To say I had no idea of what I was doing or where I was going is an understatement! All I was armed with was the advice of a seasoned Camino walker and friend, Harry Kelsey, a few guidebooks and maps, paid accommodations through a travel agency, and a much too heavy backpack – along, of course, with my firm belief that God, for some reason, had called me there.
It was understood, however, that in order to get to the final destination of Santiago de Compostela where the holy relics of our dear St. James lie, I had to walk over 500 miles, and I had little over a month in which to do it. That meant walking anywhere between 10 to 18 miles a day through all kinds of terrain and weather. And, as I anticipated, walking those daunting miles, I remember thinking – one step at a time, one day at a time, one town at a time and one prayer at a time.
So following the yellow arrow and distinctive shell which were to become my constant companions, as well as pilgrims from all over the world, I began my first ascent into the infamous Pyrenees on Friday, May 25th, 2012.From there I went through the towns and villages of Roncesvalle, Akerreta, Pamplona, Puente La Reina, Estella, Los Arcos, Logrono, Najera, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Belorado, Atapuerca, Burgos, Hornillos del Camino, Castrojeriz, Fromista, Carrion de los Condes, Calzadilla de la Cueza, Sahagun, Burgo Ranero, Mansilla de las Mulas, Leon, Villadangos, Astorga, Rabanal del Camino, Molinaseca, Villafranco del Bierzo, Herrerias de Valcarce, O Cebreiro, Triacastela, Sarria, Portomarin, Palas de Rei, Melide, Arzua and Rua just to name a few. I feel compelled to name each place because they have left their indelible mark on my soul in ways I am still uncovering; the people, the land, the traditions, the animals, the food, the churches, the history – even the water.
When asked to write this reflection, I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult, but now I realize it’s because the Camino became a part of me – a very personal part. It’s hard to describe, like the air we breathe but cannot touch or see. I can only tell you I saw God’s awesome creative presence time and time again, from the overpowering wind in the Pyrenees, to the show of lightening and thunder in the heavens – artistry only the greatest of love can produce. Jesus’ presence was in the beauty of the rolling fields of wheat and the crops of grapes growing in the rich Spanish rioja soil; the very core of our faith, bread and wine, so vital to our lives in more ways than one. Everywhere I looked it was there around me, humbling me and filling me with tremendous joy and gratitude. And I cannot forget the Holy Spirit who would nudge me along and keep me going when I would feel like I just could not go on; the gentle breeze on my face in the scorching heat; the will to dig deep and take one more step and one more after that. You see I was never really alone. I got lesson after lesson in life, to persevere and keep going even in the harshest of times, all the while marveling at the simple stunning beauty of what God has created out of love, both physically and spiritually, the visible and invisible, This beauty unfolded before my very eyes on the Camino, something amazing and unforgettable, ending yet beginning at the same time in the mystical city of Santiago de Compostela on June 30th, 2012.
In closing, thank you for allowing me to share this journey with you. All of us are called in different ways, but for those called to the Camino I say, rejoice and be glad and as I frequently said under my breath: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen. Alleluia!
Praise be to God, who is Creator of all.
I am still in wondrous awe.