Am I a good pilgrim ? No more than I could possibly describe myself as “a good man”.
The Pilgrimage to Santiago is no kind of magical nor mythical odyssey that will automatically provide any sort of moral nor spiritual advancement in life.
The Camino is a TOUGH path, made of several weeks or months of sweat-filled toil, pain, disappointment, hardship, and constant struggle against doubt, fatigue, and oneself.
It is a Crucible where the Self is tested and revealed, and where you can make or lose a friend in an instant ; but it’s also a pathway where your innermost needs and the depths of your toughness will emerge, no matter the consequences.
NONE of my pilgrimages so far have ever been in comfortable nor easy conditions, and this year will be no exception — not a single pilgrimage of mine has been anything other than a sacrifice ; and this will be, and already has been, the most difficult pilgrimage I will ever have attempted.
There’s still a part of me, as I think there is in all pilgrims, “true” or otherwise, that would like to slip into the easier world of the “tourigrino” experience, into the straightforward 5-6 weeks of a more leisurely social Camino, with no real worries about whatever — except that the one time that I actually attempted it, all of my money was stolen anyway, so I was back at the usual ground zero pilgrim life that seems to be my lot … Ultreia (Carry On) e Sus Eia (and away with you) …
One makes jokes and criticisms about one’s fellow pilgrims along the Way, even simply as a means to relieve one’s own tension, but at the end of the day we are ALL of us imperfect pilgrims, and there’s not a “true pilgrim” among us.
Every rich man and pauper, every “purist” and every bus-pilgrim, every devout Catholic and every self-seeking tourist-pilgrim, we are all of us just as much “true pilgrims” as fakes, because none of us has any better right to the Way than any other, and because we are ALL of us headed towards Santiago.
The hands down BEST Camino advice that has ever been given me was in a little booklet distributed back in the 90s by the legendary mademoiselle Warcollier, Founder of the Paris Association and Archivist of the Camino (and Editor of the modern edition of the Codex Callixtinus) — “La seule chose importante c’est d’arriver à Saint-Jacques” — “The only important thing is to reach Santiago”.
No matter any of our own imperfections — that is the perfect advice for ANY pilgrim.
No matter how, no matter the hardships, no matter how others will look at you, criticise you, misunderstand you, think you’re mad, attempt to discourage you, hinder you, laugh at you, or simply disdain you — the only true pilgrim Way is to the end of the Way. Let nothing and nobody prevent that, and you’ll be as true a pilgrim as any other.
I am advancing my departure date from early August to the end of July — and to the four winds with the consequences !!!
That is my Camino.