By Sister Anita Fearday, ASC
I often have thought of life as a pilgrimage, especially when I am in touch with a yearning, a hunger, a desire for something more in life.
For 70 years, I have been on the way to a more abundant life, but I have not yet reached the pot of gold of John 10, 10 (“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”)
As I mark my 70 years of life and 50 years as a Sister, I want to consider my life as a pilgrim thus far, and focus on the last leg of my journey.
What better way to do this than to make a month-long pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James in Spain?
A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey or search, an opportunity to step out of the busyness of life into a world of quiet and reflection. I thought of making a 30-day retreat, but opted for this given my love of travel and physical exercise and my family’s gift of a trip. This pilgrimage will give me the chance to walk through some of the issues on my mind and simply ‘be’ rather than ‘do,’ which is how I usually operate.
A pilgrimage can be a highly sociable activity, allowing me to enjoy the company of fellow travelers. Other days, I may choose to journey inwardly. On this trek, I hope to reconnect with the cultural heritage of Spain, as well as the natural world.
The mark of a real pilgrim is flexibility, and while my 40 years as a missionary in Bolivia has prepared me for living in uncertainty, I have discovered that good can come from adversity. Hardships along the way will be as much a part of my pilgrimage as the joy that comes from reaching my destination.
And why go to Spain for the pilgrimage? We Adorers of the Blood of Christ have Sisters there and the language of Spanish unites us. Our Spanish Sisters and we North American Adorers started the mission in Bolivia where I’ve been for four decades.
The Way of St. James was one of the Middle Ages’ most important Christian pilgrimages, along with those to Rome and Jerusalem.
Legend holds that St. James’ remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain, where he was buried in what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela.
Last year, more than 200,000 pilgrims traveled by car, bicycle, horse, and foot over various routes to the tomb.
I plan to walk the French route, which stretches nearly 500 miles from St. Jean-Pied-du Port in France to Santiago in northwest Spain. I will start however, in Pamplona, around the middle of April, and not do the Pyrenees Mountains, since I recently hiked 60 miles in the mountainous Pre-Incan trail in Bolivia.
With the coming of the New Year and the pledges and promises we make to ourselves to live more thoughtfully, healthfully and with purpose, what journey or adventure will you pursue in 2017?