'The Way' reminds us to make most of every step

info@islandpacket.comOctober 24, 2011 

While Charlie Sheen was "winning," it appears his father and brother, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez were busy filming "The Way," a story of a man who walks the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James.

I'm pretty excited to see this film (http://theway-themovie.com) because I walked the Camino de Santiago (or simply "The Camino") with two friends a few years ago. Long before Emilio Estevez said it on "The View," my friends and I learned that the Camino -- and pilgrimages in general -- are a metaphor for life.

The word "pilgrims" might take you back to re-enacting the first Thanksgiving or make you think of people in drab attire and buckled shoes, but there's more to the label than a Charlie Brown special. A pilgrim is a "person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons." So, a pilgrimage is the journey that person takes. The value of a pilgrimage is that it reminds us that this life is not all there is, that our lives are a journey that will certainly end in death -- we just don't know when. As Pope John Paul II explained in 1986, "We are pilgrims progressing from time to eternity, and our goal is the father himself."

The Camino is a 500-mile trail that begins on the border of France and spans across Spain, ending in Santiago de Compostela, the city where St. James is buried. It's one of the most popular pilgrimage routes in the world, with about 70,000 walking the path each year. My friends and I took about 32 days to walk it, finishing between 12 and 20 miles a day. The days fell into a comfortable routine of waking, walking, eating and getting to know our fellow pilgrims.

One of the mottos of the Camino is "el camino es la meta" or "the way is the goal." With hours each day spent on "the way," one can see how this applies to life. Each step I took toward Santiago wasn't just about the final destination -- it was about what I was experiencing, learning and doing along that path.

The goal was both the destination and to make the most of each step that took me there.

Christ told his disciples, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). Until my pilgrimage, I hadn't given much thought what it meant to say that Christ is "the way." The Camino was full of days that could get long and weary. When the blisters kicked in and you were running low on water, every step required a conscious decision to stay on the path. We were never sure of what to expect, but our goal was simple: the way.

So it is with life. We encounter challenges, boredom, difficult decisions and people but we know that every moment is bringing us closer to the end of this life and the beginning of the next. Just like those hoping to reach Santiago need to stay on the Camino, those hoping to reach heaven have a clear way to follow: the person of Christ.

Alison Griswold is the director of youth ministry at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church. Follow her on Twitter @alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.

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