By Deacon Mike Seibert
Connecting Faith and Life
Why do I want to walk the Camino de Santiago? Everyone must answer that question before going because there will likely be times when you “hit the wall” and feel like quitting. You gotta be ready to remind yourself, “Why am I doing this?!”
It sounded like an epic adventure, and I felt the call of adventure. But I wanted it to be more of a pilgrimage than a hike. So, in prayer, I came up with these reasons:
First – I want to be a saint. On one hand, that may sound like a prideful thing; but like Fr. Larry Richards says, “you can be a saint or you can go to hell!” Therefore, it should be the goal of each of us to be a saint; but we don’t normally explicitly state it.
Second – I wanted to experience the deep Catholic roots in northern Spain and let it stretch my own understanding of the Faith.
Third – I want to be intentional about talking to people – to learn from them and to help them think on a deeper level.
Each day, I would pray for God to give me a Divine Appointment; that is, to come across someone with whom I can pray or encourage or challenge somehow – basically, “God help me to recognize when You send someone my way and give me the words you want them to know.”
It’s easy to start conversations on the Camino because people don’t really have anything else to do! And the conversation starters are built-in. Where are you from? Where did you start? How far are you going?
Then it gets interesting; explicitly asking questions to get them thinking on a deeper level – or simply asking questions of curiosity to glean whatever they have to share. After all, if God sent them, there must be some topic we’re supposed to touch.
The fourth question I always asked was, why are you walking? Unfortunately, it seemed that most people were doing it to prove they could do it – maybe for a sense of self-worth or independence. Some purely do it for adventure – like walking the Appalachian Trail. Few people were really on a pilgrimage, so most didn’t care about the churches and the Faith. I think God needed me to see just how devoid of Faith our culture has become.
Like the young lady from Germany who had no faith and didn’t believe that anyone could really Love enough to be trusted. Digging, it was apparent that she had been abused as a child and her father’s actions taught her not to trust anyone. We talked for a few hours; I was sad when we parted, hoping that our brief encounter could restore her to hope in love.
Amicie, the secretary of a Catholic church in Paris, who organizes and sings choral liturgical music.
Jean Baptiste, newly married young man from France who was one of eight kids and felt called to his faith because of the sacrifices he saw his parents made to raise them in the Faith.
The best experience for me was a young lady from France whom we met on the second day; I didn’t think she could speak English so I never said more than ‘Buen Camino’.
But on day 13, God put her right in my path and she spoke in English! I accepted this as my appointment for the day.
She may be the only person who explicitly said she was walking for spiritual reasons, and to seek answers for a couple of big life questions. She was raised Catholic, which gave me some courage to be more bold than with most others. We only got to talk about 10-15 minutes because I reached my stop and she was going another 11 miles. But I was able to offer some questions and ideas, and we ended by stepping to the side of the trail and praying for God to reveal His amazing plan for her life and answers to her life questions before the Camino is over. I doubt our paths will cross again – unless God has another divine appointment for us.