March 22, 2004

The Return

And, what can be said of the need for prayer every day in the life of the pilgrim when he or she returns home? The Camino is a school for life, not a parenthesis within it. One is a pilgrim from the time the Camino is undertaken, but, later at home, one is still a pilgrim. It is not possible to set out on a walk away from God. All of life is a goal, with Him, toward Him, in His presence.

During these five years, we have received many letters, emails, and postcards from pilgrims once they return home. Sometimes, even two years later.

Almost all express their gratefulness for the moments they experienced in the refuge, but they especially tell us of their post-Camino difficulties. They feel alone, not understood, sad. Everything seems difficult and inhumane. They would like to return to the Camino to feel like real men and women.

We tell them that they can return to the refuge for a few days to “digest” their Camino experience in silence and prayer.

We need sites, maybe even the refuges themselves during the low season, where we can welcome people, for a few days, who have returned from Santiago and are dealing with the difficult task of returning to normal life. It can even serve as a place where their significant other, parents, or children who, having stayed home during the Camino, can experience the magnitude of what happened, even if only on a small scale. Many pilgrims are not aware that the most difficult stage of the Camino is the return home because the yellow arrows that showed the way are no longer there. They are there, but the pilgrims do no know where to look or the commotion of the city or “normal” life does not let them see. They do not have available the necessary conditions we spoke of earlier that allow the pores of the spirit to open and allow the grace of God to enter. That is the time when prayer is even more important.

It would also be good to have places in churches in large parishes where pilgrims could get together on a regular basis for times of prayer, reflection, and to share experiences. The grace that they would encounter would help them continue their life Camino. In this way we can help pilgrims who have returned home to discover the truths of the Camino.
  • We are pilgrims, always on the road to a goal.
  • The key to life is to believe in that which is the Source of everything.
  • There are many things that hinder our walking; we have to let go.
  • We are not walking alone in life; many pilgrims are walking with us.
  • Life, people, nature; everything is a gift that we must welcome and nurture.
  • We learn how to be a pilgrim on the Camino, but we can live like pilgrims in our daily life.

The idea is to help them continue to feel like pilgrims, to keep seeing how good it is to live with a light load, that happiness is not in having but in being and giving, to make them see that the truths of the Camino must be put into practice, that home, the workplace, the street, and the places they go to have fun will be their new Camino, that we have to continue to believe in miracles, and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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