Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago 
ChicagoTribune (S. Merry) review
Spirituality & Practice (F & M.A. Brussat) review
Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago  (directed by Lydia Smith) is the second film, this time a documentary, about the experience of walking the traditional 500 mile pilgrimage route The Camino (Way) of St. James from the French side of the Pyrenees across much of picturesque northern Spain (Galicia) to the Cathedral Shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela, the other film was The Way  starring Martin Sheen and written / directed by his son Emilio Estevez (reviewed on this blog when it came-out as well).
The countryside is lovely, the Camino is full of history. The question that can fairly be asked is "How 'Catholic' does 'Walking the Camino' remain?"
And it could be said that "Walking the Camino" today would fall in the realm of "Religion Light." Of the six people that the film follows, only one (a young clearly devoted French mother with a Rosary ever either in her hand or around her neck, who embarks and completes the entire Camino with her three year old (often in a stroller) in tow), maybe 1 1/2 (there's an older Episcopalian priest who's followed in the film as well as he and a friend walk it on behalf of his wife who passed away a few years back) seem(s) to begin the journey for any explicitly religious purpose.
Yet, having said this, I do agree with the smiling Spanish Bishop (one of three spiritual consultants to the film, all Catholic) interviewed quite extensively in the film who assessed: "One may start the Camino as a tourist, but just about everyone ends it as a Pilgrim." Why? It's just too hard to do this trek otherwise. It's just too much of an investment in terms of time (6-8 weeks), sweat/blisters, and (if one really wanted to do this entirely secularly) money to not become grateful for the generosity / hospitality of the MANY, MANY Catholic convents / hostels that open their doors to the pilgrims along the way.
Now don't get me wrong. I know there are would-be ingrates out there (and I've personally known ingrates out there). But there are a lot more easier ways to HATE THE CHURCH than to walk 500 miles constantly running-into tired but smiling people, who DON'T hate as much, to do so ;-).
And there are some lovely life-lessons that one learns along the Way: (1) No one ends this trip "alone." Even though several of the people followed in this film BEGAN their journey expecting (even hoping for) Solitude ... it just becomes so much easier to complete it with friends found along the way. (2) Even today, with all our advances in technology, the 500 mile journey bests the best of footwear. Part of the journey for EVERYONE appears to be putting-up with / accepting "blisters" along the way. (3) We really DON'T NEED a "lot of stuff." Almost EVERYONE finds that they've "over packed." And as people INEVITABLY _come to share_ what they've packed with those they meet along the way EVERYONE seems to find that they can get by with MUCH LESS than they started out with. (4) The Camino made here in 2-3 months, is really symbolic of (a metaphor for) the Camino that EVERYONE does over the course of one's life (That last insight comes from one of the _initially_ most secular minded people followed in the film).
As such, I did find the movie inspiring. In younger days, and with more time, I'd be tempted to do this kind of a journey as well. BUT I don't have to do everything ;-) ... Still I would encourage those who are young(er) and with some time ... to take a look! It looks like a great way to spend a summer, and I do believe it would be an experience that would change / stay with one for the rest of one's life! Good job!
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