An Education on the Camino

by Michael Van Hecke, M.Ed.

This summer my wife and I were blessed to be able to go on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with our son. The Camino, The Way, is a many-centuries-old pilgrimage across Spain to the resting place of the remains of St. James the Apostle: Santiago.

This is my third Camino, and like the others,

it has proven to be totally unique and a profoundly moving experience. While my first Camino (we walked the Camino Primativo that year) was a great retreat and an unveiling of a Camino as a metaphor for life, this Camino (the Camino Frances—the most common route) was a metaphor for education.

It began the first day of the Camino, as my wife and I were hiking over the Pyrenees Mountains from St. Jean Pied du Port to Roncesvalles. I had been re-reading The Song of Roland leading up to this first day’s trek and was reflecting on the toughness and heroics of the men of Charlemagne. What men! What courage and strength they possessed! And what vividness of purpose they saw. It was in the midst of these reflections that a trio slowly overtook us on the trail.

Because of the slow pace of plodding up and down mountains, we were within earshot of the two men and one lady for nearly a kilometer (0.6 of a mile for those who are not currently steeped in European measurement scales). These three were all twenty-somethings, each from different countries, friendly young people who just came together for a short time on the walk. The topic of discussion was why Muslim women, or even Christian women, would let themselves be ruled by men. Lots of platitudes to “non-judgementalism” were uttered all in an effort to not offend while they concluded absolutely nothing. Relativism abounded amidst a stream of CNN-worthy soundbites. To be fair, they seemed to have a genuine interest and allowed for the fact that these women themselves probably saw something positive in their dress or behavior constrictions. But they seemed to have no moorings from which to judge a position, much less argue to or for something. They were drifting along in a relativistic cloud, thinking they were expressing “their truth” in pure and respectful freedom.

However, as St. John Paul II reminded us in 1995 (found in the July Magnificat), “freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” These well-meaning young people have seemingly been robbed of the right to do what they ought, because they have not been taught or shown what they “ought” to do or think. As Heather King poignantly states in her excellent article on Marshall McLuhan (Magnificat, July 2018), what we ought to see, think about, or act in accordance to, is “the Alpha and the Omega… the real Body and the real Blood of Christ.”

That is powerful.

That is purposeful.

That is the kind of conviction that drove Charlemagne and Roland, even with their human failings. They were able to stand for something real, and fight for it and die for it!

That was how my Camino started.

As it continued, and we met many people from all over the globe, it became more and more clear how hungry people are for a Truth they can believe in and live for. We live in a world starving for intellectual and moral nutrition, and everywhere there is McDonald’s and Cup-o-Noodle. We suffer from malnutrition and yet feed on intellectual fast food.

The Camino is a beautiful opportunity to step aside… Read more>>