When I walked the Camino during this current extended Holy Year 2021 – 2022, I gained another Compostelana and added to an experience begun in 1965, walking as a 14-year old with the OJE (the Catholic youth group of those days). It seemed as if the experience had come full-circle. Was there any need to repeat the process? Why would I want to walk the Camino again?
More recently, as this Holy Year comes to a close, I have also seen how the Camino de Santiago has become merely a business model for some of the people I used to associate with. The Anglophone pilgrim “tour guides” who have set up their companies in Santiago de Compostela and make their money transporting baggage, selling books about the Camino, or simply becoming ‘Camino celebrities’ are nothing to do with the original Catholic pilgrimage. Even the English pilgrim association, the Confraternity of Saint James, has become a place where merchandise seems more important than the enthusiasm once offered by the great Marion Marples and others, as we discussed our pilgrim plans. It is time to say farewell to all that.
The great ceremony of opening the Holy Door in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela will come full circle with it being sealed up again at the end of December 2022. I thank God I have walked through that Holy Door and gained my Compostelana on various occasions throughout my life, walking through the heat of summer or the snows in winter. I shall not go through that door again. The experience of what the Camino fellowship has become – or let’s say the lack of it! – as recounted in the previous blog post, tells me that the pilgrim experience would be best consigned to memory now, rather than open myself to any further disillusionment!
I have enjoyed some marvellous times on the route to Santiago de Compostela. Like everything, people tend to spoil a good thing by trying to repeat it, so it’s best to not try and re-live the experience again. It will never be the same.
I am finished with pilgrim associations, Facebook groups, and all the rest of the Camino industry. These are moribund carbuncles encrusting the once noble vessel of pilgrimage that now lies on its side on a Galician beach, amongst the Santiago shells. The real Camino was never lived in Facebook groups, but in the daily struggle to walk 2000 kilometres to get there! And it was ever thus.