Lection Connection - Spirit Sightings

June 30, 2019: Take Up the Story

From Ray McGinnis


Last year a group of 13 staff and friends of Australian Catholic University walked the last 115 kilometres on the Camino in Northern Spain. They began their pilgrimage along the Camino beginning in the town of Sarria, with the goal of reaching Santiago de Compostela and the tomb of St. James the Apostle.


The Australian pilgrims took six days to walk from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. They also had days spent prior to and after their pilgrimage learning about other historic sites in Madrid and in Finisterre.


Dr. John Ballard, who coordinated the trip from Sydney to Spain, referenced the words of Thomas Merton, who wrote, “The geographic pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out of an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.”


James and John were two brothers who were among the first to decide to follow Jesus. After Jesus’ death and appearance to the disciples, James decided to preach the gospel in Iberia (present Spain). James was martyred in 44 CE when Herod Agrippa had him beheaded. According to legend, friends of James the Elder, along with angels, took his body and sailed in a boat headed for the Iberian Peninsula. The ship containing St. James’ body was lost and destroyed in a severe storm. After a long period of time, his body washed ashore covered in scallop shells, completely undamaged. Consequently, St. James emblem became the scallop shell.


St. James was buried on a hill in Galicia. In the early ninth century, a shepherd claimed to see a light on a hill and found the cave that was the resting place of St. James. In short order, Santiago de Compostela quickly became a destination for pilgrimage.


The Australian pilgrims from the university each carried a credential, a passport that was stamped at each pilgrim hostel they stayed while travelling on the Way of St. James. The weather was temperate for their journey, between 17C to 22C daily highs. But a few later the temperatures dropped to as low as 2C.


Each person on the pilgrimage along the Camino was searching for something. And with each fork in the road there was a scallop shell sign to mark the path toward Santiago de Compostela. Ballard noted after they flew back to Sydney, “We have now returned home to our daily routines but for my fellow pilgrims and I, the Camino remains with us, along with a desire to find ways to enjoy the benefits of a slower, more reflective pace. The inner journey continues.”


Explore…1 Kings 19:1-4 (5-7) 8-15a

  • What physical challenges does Elijah face in this story? Why is he hiding in a cave? How is the sound of silence important in this story?
  • What physical challenges might the pilgrims walking on the Camino in Spain face?
  • What is the inner journey they might face on the Camino? What would it be like to walk 115 km, and how might this deepen their spiritual life?
  • What physical challenges would you be willing to face in order to deepen your walk with God?
  • Where do you encounter silence?



God of the way, you are present with us on our journey. You meet us on our path, whether we are hiding in a cave or in a traffic jam. Help us to be still and know you are guiding our way forward, as we lean into your presence. In Christ we pray, Amen.


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