Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Having been an honest-to-God pilgrim in my life, I have learned a few lessons about the Pilgrim Way. One of the most important is that many of us who have walked some part of the pilgrim Way, have found that we were called to it. Even before our first step, we experienced a pull, a longing, an urging, a yearning, that moved us to throw caution to the wind, and take up the risky challenge of walking hundreds of miles, if not a thousand or two, to a holy place where we might meet God in some new way. We felt called enough that we were willing to walk those miles with everything we owned on your backs, and all along the Way depending on the kindness of strangers.
The Christian tradition calls this "urge", this "pull", this "longing", by the fancy term, vocation, a word that comes from the Latin, vocare, to call. Vocation goes to the spiritual gristle of who we are and who we are asked to become. It acknowledges that there is something bigger than ourselves that beckons us to become who we most truly are. That "something bigger" is our Creator and particularly the Holy Spirit version of God; the Hebrew word, ruach, captures this Spirit well...breath, wind, spirit. Ruach is what calmed the chaos of creation in Genesis, it is what moved the prophets to prophecy, it is what filled Jesus with a full knowing of his own mission in the Jordan River, the wind and fire that enlivened his disciples on Pentecost. The Spirit/Ruach urges us on from the inside out to fulfill our mission in life whether it be prophet, messiah, apostle...or pilgrim.
One doesn't just "do a pilgrimage". When a you yes to that insistent beckoning and takes the first step along the Way, then you are a pilgrim forever! It is now who you are and who you will always be. As the conch shell proclaims on the outside, so a sort of indelible mark makes it so on the inside. The Spirit has formed you and made you her own and kind of branded you as Pilgrim.
So here's the thing: once you've walked as a called and chosen pilgrim, your pilgrim identity makes everything else you do in life a pilgrimage, too, including the long arc of life itself. The pilgrimage pattern becomes visible in every aspect of living; the arc of life from birth to death...and beyond...is that of a grand pilgrimage:
Call! Response! Leave behind! Begin! Carry on! Arrive! New Life!
Having myself been through that pattern three times along the paths and roadways of Europe, it also makes itself known in many other corners of my life. In particular, my journey to Ecuador that I begin in December fits the pilgrim pattern. What started as an idea, a whim, perhaps, soon took on the feeling of a call coming from beyond me. That sense has only grown as I moved from thoughts to actually buying plane tickets, renting an apartment, and most of all, depending on the goodness of strangers to make it all work. My interior pilgrim indelible mark has come to the fore again and buzzes with grace as I now realize again that I am called to this journey, it is a pilgrimage to a holy place, grace will abound, and I now have said a committed yes to this vocation of peregrinus yet again. I feel very much like peregrinus redivivus, a pilgrim alive again.
Being a pilgrimage rather than just a trip or even an adventure, I expect that the breath of the Spirit, Ruach, will uphold me from beginning to end.
This is who I am yet again. In Ecuador and in life, ego sum peregrinus.