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14

In 2014, Assistant Vocations Director,

Fr Nicholas Pearce walked the Camino

de Santiago with a group of young

pilgrims from Australia. Whilst walking

he would send a weekly reflection

back to his parishioners at home,

below are some of his thoughts

along the way.

Camino days generally start early, around

6am; it is important to try and get a good

10 kilometres under your belt before

breakfast and before the heat of the

day sets in. It was these early morning

starts that were my favourite part of the

day, with only the moon to guide you

as you make your way in the quiet of

the morning chill. As the Camino route

takes you westward through the north of

Spain, the sun always rises behind you

and the warmth on the back of your legs

is the first sign to stop and turn around,

so as not to miss another amazing

sunrise that signals the beginning of a

new day and a new opportunity to move

forward, towards not only the goal of

the Camino, but life itself. What struck

me as each new day commenced was

that the simplicity and routine of life on

the Camino quickly became hypnotic,

as the rhythm of your walking, the

slower pace of life, and the simplicity of

relying on only what you can carry on

your back, allows you to focus and pray

with a clarity that is hard to find when

surrounded by the busyness and noise

of ordinary life.

Each new day brings with it new

challenges, new scenery, new people,

new soreness. Each new muscle niggle,

blister or strain was a reminder that both

on the Camino, and in life, we all walk

with our own crosses, some visible to

the eye, and others known only to the

individual. In addition to these solitary

crosses, there were shared sufferings

also, the steep hills, the blazing sun

or the snoring roommate, things that

affected us all. No matter what the

pain, shared or individual, the Camino

reminded me that the suffering only

makes sense when we remember that

Jesus Christ became man for us, and

freely chose to suffer and experience

pain for us, so that our own suffering

would have a purpose. I would often try

to imagine the heat he felt during the

40 days he spent in the desert, being

tempted, but never giving in. I would

often wonder how many blisters he

would have had, after his many journeys

proclaiming the kingdom, and of course

how many nights of broken sleep whilst

sharing a room with 12 snoring apostles

after a long day. As I would readjust my

pack for the hundredth time in a day, I

would think of the weight of the cross he

carried for me; as I stumbled on a rock

on my way down a hill, I would think of

how he picked himself up after each fall

and continued onto Calvary on my behalf.

This would not make my pain any less,

or take away my suffering, but it would

strengthen my resolve, and encourage

me to continue on, remembering that he

did all of this out of love of me and that

although he does not take our suffering

away, he does share in it, and he shows

us through his own suffering, that we too

will triumph if we courageously follow in

his footsteps.

Pilgrims who walk the Camino de

Santiago are encouraged to carry with

them a rock or stone from their home

county – a symbol of their own sinfulness

and the extra weight we all carry around,

as a result of our bad choices. At the

highest point of the Camino, Cruz de

Faro, pilgrims leave their rock behind at

the foot of the ancient cross, a sign of

relinquishing their sinful past and their

preparedness to recommence again

on the journey of holiness. In the days

leading up to this, we stayed with a