I had first heard of the Camino de Santiago while studying Spanish as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut. I learned about the exchange of cultures, ideas and material goods along this historical route starting from southern France to northwestern Spain.
While in Spain for a semester abroad, I spent a week traveling to Santiago de Compostela, staying in some of the major cities along the way. Similar to the mustard seed parable, God planted a seed of faith within me. At the time, I did not realize how much it would grow or in what direction, but it was growing. As time marched on, I had a growing desire to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. As my discernment grew closer toward the priesthood, I felt a particular attention being given to the moments when Jesus entered my life and beckoned me to “come follow me” (Mt 9:9) or the struggles of the rich man in Luke 18:18 and renunciation of wealth within that chapter of Luke.
Finally, it was time for me to place my trust in the Lord and his providence. During 2018, I made preparations to apply to seminary and go on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
I invited my mother along as a chance to spend some time before my departure for seminary. We procured our pilgrim passports, books, backpacks and boots and set forth on a mission to Santiago de Compostela. With full trust in the Lord, we left by bicycle from Burgos after attending Mass at the cathedral.
First, we traveled over the meseta from Burgos to Leon. Our initial leg was approximately 25 miles of riding and getting into a rhythm of finding our way to the next town. Leaving the town’s boundaries and seeing nothing but open fields as we prepared to bike to our next destination increases one’s faith in the Lord. Our lives at that moment were guided by meeting the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and in his Church.
Though we weren’t sure where we were going to sleep or wind up, we made it a priority to make it back to his Church. One of the highlights for me was attending Mass at the Monastery of the Holy Cross, run by the Marist Fathers and Benedictines in Sahagun, Spain. We were surrounded by people of different nationalities: Croatians, Germans, Italians, English speakers and others. Being in Spain as the priest celebrated Mass in English demonstrated the unity of our faith throughout the world as we participated in the divine life of Jesus.
Along our pilgrimage, we shared time with people that were part of our lives. Each of us traveling toward the end, Santiago de Compostela, not knowing that the end is but the beginning. After almost 14 days and 350 miles of riding, we made it to Santiago de Compostela, where we participated in the pilgrims’ Mass.
There was one last surprise in store for us, though we did not think there could be any more surprises. We were told that the famous thurible was not going to be used at the Mass due to cost. However, thanks be to God, it was put into action for the glory of God. We concluded our pilgrimage by taking a bus to the “End of the World,” also known as Fin des Terra or Fisterra. At Fisterra, we saw the sun sinking into the ocean, knowing that tomorrow we would have another day to give glory to God.
Coming home from our pilgrimage left us with a peace that prepared us to return back into the world with a renewed sense of purpose. There were many lasting impressions that were left upon us. Packing fewer things would have been better, great company kept our spirits up, and Christ was at the center of all.
Participating in the liturgical life of the Church brought our souls to God and a peace that is indescribable. In rethinking the guiding Scripture passage for this pilgrimage, perhaps the passage to think of would be, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (Jn 14:6)
By Eric Hosmer
Third-year Theology student
Mount Saint Mary Seminary