One of the main things I got from this section of the Camino was a definition for the term ‘Faith Journey’. In some ways I got this definition through spiritual experiences and in another way through my physical experiences. In all pilgrimages there is a beginning, the journey itself and the arrival at the destination. It was upon reflecting on this that I realised this is our Faith Journey. We have our baptism, the beginning of us belonging to God’s Family. After this we begin our Journey, the journey of life. In life we try to walk towards God. Sometimes we will stumble on the pebbles and rocks that litter the ground, other times we will have straight ground, with nothing obstructing our path towards God. Finally we have our arrival at our destination. Our desired destination, both after a pilgrimage and our lives, is God and what he has to give is. It is this link between our earthly lives and pilgrimage that I have found the meaning of our Faith Journey.
Today’s experience really captured what my faith means to me. One thing that I learnt today was that when going through troubling times in our lives we have God who is able to help guide us in the right direction. This was important to me as even though I felt like I couldn’t finish or my knees were going to give way at any point, just remembering why I was on the Cammino really helped me to learn more. Even though we all are on our own faith journeys we were all able to connect with one another to reach our goal (Monte Cassino) through the power of God, but ultimately in all different ways we were able to discover God throughout our pilgrimage. After the long walk, walking into the Monte Cassino, a Benedictine community, was an amazing experience. Being in Salvado House, has made me able to connect with the monastery as Dom Salvado was a Benedictine Monk. Being able to go inside the monastery gave me a slight experience of what these Monks experience.
Today was a life changing and a beautiful day. It was amazing to see the connections through the olive trees that have a connection with the Benediction Monks and through that connection we have at school through the Olive Grove that links back to us as a school community.
Even though there were moments today where discomfort, pain and mental doubt took hold of me. The spiritual connection to the Benedictine Monks while walking strengthened and clarified the meaning of pilgrimage and faith, Every step, every smell, every sound, every painful moment was worth it in getting to our end destination – which was breathtaking and touched me deep in my soul. It was the best experience to be part of.
Something that resonated for me today was the idea of lineage. Orientating our focus towards St Benedict led me to grow into a deeper understanding of the person of Dom Salvado. A person who followed the rule of St Benedict, and both of whom ultimately focused on the same Christ that I do today. The Saints of our faith are just common people like you and I who are striving for a deeper connection to God. You don’t have to be anything special except keep God within your midst. That’s what all the saints do. On pilgrimage we pray with our feet, we join into communion within the footsteps of our ancestors in walking towards God.
This pilgrimage reminded me of the way we connect with others through experiences on the journey. A memorial I saw along the side of the road made me think of a family, unknown to me and most who walk past, who helped to remind me of the sacrifices of a loved one during the bitter campaign to take back St Benedict’s monastery in the last world war. I also prayed for that ‘unknown’ soldier. The pain I felt was nothing compared to the pain they felt.
As we walked today the connections to Dom Salvado and the Benedictine community of New Norcia were ever present – the Benedictine crosses on the way markers, the Olive trees, the statues of St Benedict and the beautiful monastery of Monte Cassino built high on the hill. Having chatted easily along the way we walked the last section of our pilgrimage in silence and I was struck by the connections through the ages – St Benedict … Salvado … the Benedictine Community of New Norcia … Holy Cross … myself … all sharing a common faith story.