It happened on the eve of my 45th birthday.
This was the moment my Camino crossed from epic to sublime – in that dark corner, by myself, in 20 stolen minutes before our final rendezvous, before we had to say goodbye to our pilgrim’s ultimate destination of Santiago de Compostela as the sun set on our final day of the Camino.
We were blessed with a spectacular journey of a lifetime – so many scenes, moments, people, memories we will cherish…
…When we arrived in Compostela all together, 21 of us hugging, some collapsing to the ground in an unabashed pile of joy and tears;
…when we gathered for the Pilgrim’s Mass the day after and they swung the great botofumario in its larger than life pendulum, incense blessing our burnt out bodies at 75 kph cathedral-high above our heads;
…when the mythical Galician clouds parted just in time to reveal the most picture-perfect sunset at the end of the world;
…when we first set out 9 days prior in the glorious sunshine of Sarria’s fields of gold, the promise of a walk of a lifetime fully ahead of us;
…when we toasted each other over that last supper, the last of 20-some galactic meals we shared;
…when we look back at what we made possible for each other, all we had to overcome, each in our own way;
– for me most personally, to see my parents, my brother, my wife, my 9 year old son overcome and embrace every step of those 118 walking kilometers.
But of all this Camino’s spectacular moments, this is the one that broke me. I do not even know the name of this place – only that I found it because I so desperately wanted a quiet place of solitude in the great cathedral of Santiago. The day’s last pilgrim Mass was still at its peak and the main chapel of the Blessed Sacrament was already closed. I had traversed the cathedral’s full perimeter, I felt my time running out, I was resigned when I found this place on the farthest Western corner facing the great altar behind which lay the relic and tomb of St. James. It was one of the humblest and most unassuming of the countless churches and chapels we encountered all along the Camino. So unspectacular I was the only one there. So unspectacular there was only one light that shone on its cold dark bare stone walls.
It was this light that spoke to me. The same light that was in every one of the churches and chapels we had visited in the Camino, a familiar tender light revealing a new illumination. It is the one light in all the universe that waits so patiently and burns so fervently, wanting nothing more than to be brought out of the walls and edifices of religion – to be brought out into the world to light, to warm its darkest coldest corners. A light that has no use for pieties, devotions and dogma, a light that simply wants to find its presence in my life – in the way I live and love and share and forgive and treat people with truth and kindness, starting with myself. It is a light too many mistake to be religion or to reside mainly in churches and devotions when in truth it is a light that resides above all in the deepest truest self that waits and burns in each and every one of us. If only we give this light in our selves time and space, we would find God in the world, not in empty churches. We are temples of Love, and in our deepest soul there is in each of us this light that wants to set the world on fire.
Thank you for a most blessed Camino.