A year ago today, I was sore. It was hot; the sky was blank. I was in Spain.
On May 15th, the dirt road before me was a bold orange hue (like nacho dust, I remember thinking), and the forest on either side housed pines and bushes rife with tiny violet blooms. Mile after mile, I walked through that nacho dust, separated from my companions, alone with my thoughts and a God who was as quiet as myself that day.
It does not feel as if a year has passed since I walked El Camino de Santiago. Not at all.
Yesterday I gathered with friends to sip Spanish wine, eat a little prosciutto and gazpacho and sweet Tarta de Santiago—a foretaste of what is to come for those islanders who are soon to fly across the Atlantic to Europe. Yes, soon they will walk the paths my own feet tread. I ache to see again what they will see—roses crawling up a lonely stone shed, golden eagles gliding through the fog, vast cobblestone plazas, cathedrals that carry one’s voice to Heaven, cropland spattered with poppies, an ancient fortress on a hilltop, pilgrims from across the globe laughing together at table, misty cherry orchards, faces wizened by the Spanish sun, mountains as blue as the sea—for my heart has yet to let the beauty fade from memory. I cannot forget, because to forget would hurt more than it does to remember.
A year later, I find myself on Prince Edward Island, no longer sore, but impacted forever by the pilgrimage that drew me nearly 500 miles across Spain. Indeed, I do not believe I would be here on this island if I had not first been to Spain. As I have shared before, along the way to Santiago I befriended a seminarian from Boston who later bid farewell with the invitation to visit him in his beloved city by the sea. I accepted. While there, I stayed with his friends—a family that is crazy with contagious joy—and by the time my visit was through, I had discerned to return to live with them. It was to be my first experience as a family missionary. Three months later, I discovered I had gained the courage to respond to God’s prompting to come to this island of red soil and live with a new family.
Next week I will again be on American soil. Almost to the day we met, I will witness my dear brother in Christ become a priest for the Kingdom. I think, somehow, we are still pilgrimaging together.
They say no one walks the Camino by accident. I believe it. And so I eagerly await the stories my friends will bear home, knowing that what is inscribed upon the heart by El Camino de Santiago cannot be forgotten.