The Pilgrim's Journey and Lent

By Emma Grace Geckle

In August of 2017, I embarked on a pilgrimage that would transform my faith in indescribable ways. The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James, is a network of “ways” that all lead to the Shrine of Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the northwestern region of Spain. In the span of ten days, I experienced places such as Santarem, the sight of a Eucharistic Miracle, Fatima, the sight of Marian apparitions, and Santiago, the burial place of Saint James. Six months later, and I am still unpacking all the graces that were poured out on this pilgrimage and, now, I see it all in the context of the season of Lent. Here are three ways of how my pilgrimage has allowed me to look at Lent in a new light this liturgical season:

It’s Not so Dark: In the past, Lent has always been a dark and daunting time for me. It’s that season where you have to give stuff up and be sad all the time … right? Not so much! Lent is the season where God’s love is magnified. As a pilgrim, there were many scary, dark moments that I encountered. Times when my feet were covered in blisters and I was unsure as to where God was leading me and why He had called me halfway across the world. However, looking back on those moments, I see that His grace was overflowing. In Lent, we can do the same. In those moments when we want to cave into temptation, God’s grace is there every step of the way, calling us closer to Him and showing us the reason He sacrificed His son. He is so in love with us.

It’s Not All About the Destination: Lent is a period of waiting for the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. In that waiting, however, there is more. Just as many times during Lent I count down how long this is all going to last until Easter comes, during my pilgrimage each mile was just one mile closer to Santiago. However, through discussion with my fellow pilgrims, I became more aware of the now … of the moments of waiting in which there is so much going on than just that. There are small triumphs and graces and journeys within it all. Lent can be like that too. Each day of Lent is its own, individual little Lent. So be open to the now, be open to the grace, be open to the fullness of the journey.

It Doesn’t End When You Get There: Once I reached Santiago in Spain, my pilgrimage was over. Right? In the liturgical calendar, Lent ends on Easter. But does it really? Nope and nope. On the Camino, I sort of expected it all to come to fruition when I reached that final destination. I thought everything would make sense suddenly and I would be the holder of all wisdom, with all the answers to anything and everything I was questioning. Surprise, surprise - it did not work out like that. My pilgrimage continues even today as I journey to my final home with Christ. The same goes for Lent! Lent ends on the calendar once Easter begins, but we are constantly called to be a Lenten people - to be people yearning for Christ to enter into our lives and to resurrect the spirit within us. We are, everyday, called to sacrifice what holds us back from growing closer to Him and to cultivate His divine love.

Edited by Barb Miller

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