Holy Week: Walking the Camino de Santiago

The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

One year, before lockdown, rather than visiting family in Scotland CAFOD’s Anne Fegan decided to have a different Holy Week. She walked the Camino de Santiago, and found each day memorable for different reasons.

I first heard about the Camino when I was at university, but it was only a few years after I graduated, and in my first year of working at CAFOD, that I took a week off work to do a small part of the route.

My friends and I started our journey on Palm Sunday, walking throughout Holy Week and arriving in Santiago de Compostela in time for the Easter Sunday Mass.

A simple and peaceful journey

There was something so wonderfully simple and beautiful about the Camino. We stayed in albergues (hostels) with fellow pilgrims, with only a small backpack of clothes. Each morning while it is still dark, you get up, put your boots on and set off into the early morning. Most pilgrims are quiet in these early hours and there is a peace.

As the days went on, I found myself walking alongside other pilgrims, exchanging the familiar greeting of ‘buen camino’ and asking each other where we had journeyed from. At other points of the day, I would walk alone, praying my rosary and saying other prayers, thinking of family members. I would rejoin my friends in little cafes for a short rest, to enjoy a cup of coffee and some of the delicious local foods, and getting a stamp on my pilgrim passport.

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Each day was memorable for different reasons

I recall one day where it rained all(!) day, which happened to be the day we had decided to walk our longest distanc – a mighty 32km. The albergue was a welcome sight at the end of this very long and wet day!

Then there was a beautiful Mass I attended on Holy Thursday, where the priest welcomed us to his parish, blessing all the pilgrims and asking that we carry his parish with us as we walked the last few days into Santiago de Compostela.

Then on Good Friday, I stood on a street in a small town, watching a procession of religious statues and a large cross carried by locals weave through the town, remembering Christ’s Passion.

Finally, on Easter Sunday morning, we walked the shortest journey of that week, arriving at the impressive cathedral, joining with many of our fellow pilgrims from all over the world for the Easter Sunday Mass.

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Christ who walks with each of us

During the lockdown in 2020, when public Mass was suspended, like many Catholics across the UK I celebrated Easter with a livestreamed Mass. I thought a lot about my time on the Camino and it gave me so much hope.

The word ‘Catholic’ means universal, and that is what I loved about arriving in Santiago for the Mass. As Catholics, we may all be from different cultures and countries, but we celebrate and share in that same Mass, each of us full of hope in the Risen Christ. This same Christ who walks with each of us throughout our lives, whether on the Camino or in the very ordinary, everyday moments of our lives.

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