Last night we stayed at the Spanish town of Sarria, known as the “last” place you can start the Camino and still get a compostela (certificate of completion). Pilgrims are required to walk at least 100 kilometers of the Camino. We were told that because of that reality, we would see quite an increase in pilgrims on the Camino starting today.
For various reasons, many people start their Camino at Sarria. (Not surprisingly, Sarria is the city with the greatest number of pilgrim albergues.) Additionally, we were told that this is where school groups (high school walkers) often start their Camino, and it is wise not to schedule to finish your Camino in Santiago on a Friday (which is of course is exactly what we are doing).
As in any aspect of life, there are judgments about where people start their Camino (as well as what they carry, where they stay, the time of year they travel, etc.). But I love what John Brierley, the author of the most well known English language guide to the Camino, says about this:
Note for “seasoned” pilgrims who commenced (for example) in St. Jean Pied de Port or further back in Le Puy, Geneva, Budapest? Beware of signs of irritation at the intrusion of new pilgrims on “my” camino — remember that many of the new arrivals may be nervous starting out and the last thing they need is aloofness built on a false sense of superiority. None of us can know the inner motivation or outer circumstances of another. A loving pilgrim welcomes all they meet along the path with an open mind and open heart…without judgement of any kind. (A Pilgrim’s Gide to the Camino de Santiago, John Brierley, p. 246.)
I was thinking about this, when just before the 100 kilometer marker, I saw this grafitti: “Jesus wouldn’t start in Sarria.” This idea, tongue in cheek of course, is in complete opposition to Brierley’s pilgrim concept and (I think) the spirit of the Camino. It is like saying “Jesus wouldn’t eat too many carbs,” or “Jesus would never get a ‘C’ in math, ” or “Jesus wouldn’t [you fill in your judgmental comment].” By the way, if it isn’t already obvious, Jesus never walked the Camino.
I, of course, have my OWN judgement about THIS judgement—and it is not a positive one. What is true, however sadly, is that I also have many of my own unspoken judgements about people and situations in life. I am not proud of this, and I know that just because my judgments are unspoken does not mean that they do not have an effect on others. It actually wouldn’t surprise me that my unspoken judgements have harmed many relationships in my life. So, I really do want to embrace the individual and open nature of each person’s Camino and of each person’s life. I think it is part of what I am here to learn.
I also do know what Jesus really said and did—not about Sarria—but in his own life. He told his followers, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, NRSV) I will leave the meaning of that thought for others to ponder, but for me, this idea has an immense bearing on my life, on my Camino.
All in all, it was a really good day and you might check Lena’s Facebook page to hear about the amazing high schoolers we had the chance to walk with. These two young women from an international high school outside Paris, France made our day a real joy.
It is hard to believe there are only four more days of this walk. A certain sadness is starting to set in for both of us. So for tonight we rejoice in another tomorrow when we GET TO walk 15 miles!