A small group of senior youth from St. Margaret’s Anglican will be walking the Camino in the spring, documenting their experience along the way. In this issue, we’re introducing who they are and why they’re going. And, when they get back, we’ll run a follow-up piece about what they learned.
Pilgrims were people who figured things out as they walked.
Pilgrims were people wondering, wondering.
Pilgrims were people who tried not to annoy the regular inhabitants.
Pilgrims were people who carried little. They carried it balanced on their heart. –Anne Carson, “Kinds of Water”
I am a youth leader at St. Margaret’s Anglican. It has long been a dream of mine to start a tradition of pilgrimage for the senior high youth group. This spring we will be embarking on the first journey, walking the final third of the Camino de Santiago. Our pilgrimage group is small, but strong, and excitement is already brewing amongst the junior youth for their turn!
These young pilgrims worship together regularly, serve in various ministry areas, and participate in the youth program. They also gather once a month to walk and study the lives and stories of Christians who have walked before them, and to learn something of the pilgrim way of simplicity, fortitude, and faith.
We intend to develop a rhythm of life together on this journey, rising early to prepare and share a meal together before we walk. We plan to end each day with Compline, a liturgy that has become an integral practice in our youth community over the last several years. There will be one camera and one logbook (youth are not bringing their phones!), and we will take turns recording the narrative of the day in image and word. These pictures and journal entries will become pieces of St. Margaret’s youth history, passed down to the next group as they prepare to make their way own on the Camino.
This May will bring an exciting event into my life, when I will be travelling to Barcelona. From there, accompanied by some of my dearest friends and leaders, I will undertake the age-old pilgrimage to the Camino de Compustela, a grand cathedral where the ruins of the Saint James are said to be laid. These ruins are a key feature of the Camino de Santiago and were an extremely important aspect of the Medieval Catholic Church. Relics of such saints and holy figures can be found in many cathedrals and are believed to give protection to the congregants.
I want to live the reality of medieval pilgrims and join in the ancient devotional trek to find God. I have grown up in the Church and have always known that I can find home there, no matter where I live. So, I suppose I should say, I am not going on the Camino to find God; I am going on the Camino to discover God and see him in new ways.
I am a physiotherapist who has been a member of St. Margaret’s for many decades and was a member of the youth group many years ago. I am an experienced hiker, having done other pilgrimage trips in the past, and volunteered to come as a resource and support. I turned 60 this year and thought this was a great time to walk with young people, to enjoy their energy and perspective as they do something like this for the first time. Pilgrimage is always an individual experience, but as a group we will draw inspiration, strength, and, hopefully, faith from each other. I am looking forward to contemplation through physical effort and the communal faith experience.
The Camino is a fairly renowned pilgrimage, and it has been travelled for more than 1,000 years. So, one might ask, why is a 16-year-old, smack in the middle of 11th grade, planning on exerting herself many hours a day for two weeks? Apart from yearning to travel and the want to be physically alive, it is on account of my current state and age that I am drawn to it. I am 16. I practise piano and harp. I like to spend much of my extra time with my friends, and I enjoy painting. I am involved in the church community at St. Margaret’s. I volunteer, follow the International Baccalaureate program at school, and live as teenager in the 21st century.
Taking all this into consideration, I spend little time with just myself and God. The Camino opens up a span of two weeks in my life where my worn-out body and I will be completely immersed in his abundant creation, and my mind able to wander to unmaterialistic, intangible things in my 16-year-life life. I know that people tend to walk this once they encounter hardships and that I have hardly experienced much of what they have. But, I know enough to believe this experience will ground me, help me love my Lord and all those around me, and prepare me for all the unknowns that lie before me.
I’m 15 and I attend St. Margaret’s regularly. I am excited to go to Spain and walk the Camino to deepen my understanding of myself, God and our relationship, other people, and other cultures. I love to learn new things and see other perspectives of life, and this is an excellent opportunity to do so. I am also looking forward to deepening my friendships, as the Camino is a unique way to get closer to one another. I want to walk the Camino to enrich my life and gain memories I can look back on fondly.
After four years as a youth leader, I am beginning to see many of the youth who were once new to the youth group make their way towards graduation. I think it’s important that we celebrate the end of this journey by embarking on a new one together: a journey where we will tithe our time to God, walk a path saturated with the prayers of innumerable saints, and add our own prayers. It is my hope that this pilgrimage will instill in the youth an understanding of the greater journey of faith they will walk the rest of their lives. As for myself, I hope that this pilgrimage will help me to fulfill my role as mentor to these youth while also allowing me time to dwell with God and meditate on what is to come.