Connection along the Camino de Santiago – Catholic Philly
At the end of July, I had the great blessing of walking the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, in Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, with my 16 year old son, Connor.
Tradition holds that the remains of Saint James are buried under the altar of the magnificent Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Along with Rome and Jerusalem, Pope Alexander VI declared the Camino one of the three great major pilgrimages of Christendom.
About four decades ago, only a few thousand made the pilgrimage each year. But in recent years, with the help of the popular film “The Way” starring Martin Sheen, word of mouth, and church and government support, the Camino de Santiago now attracts more than 300,000 people a year.
Pilgrims can choose one of dozens of routes to Santiago. Connor and I walked along the most popular route, the French Way. We spent days in Madrid both front and back, but in between we covered 100 miles from the town of Villafranca del Berzio to Santiago. We happened to be there during a major heat wave, with temperatures of 95-100 degrees adding another dimension of harshness to the trip.
I had been inspired to take this trip by a great Catholic friend who had already traveled the Way three times with each of his sons. He has often shared what a great spiritual journey it is and how meaningful it has been to spend time with each of his boys.
With four boys between the ages of 10 and 16, one of whom will be graduating from high school in less than two years, I really saw this as an opportunity to get him out of the video games, noise and routine of everyday life. and spend time together. Ultimately, I discovered that walking and hiking in the Spanish hills every day led to a variety of different connections.
Connor and I prayed the Rosary together daily, visiting churches in every town we passed through. We went to confession and attended Mass several times during the week. Soaking up the beauty of Spanish churches along the way provided many shared memories and planted many seeds of faith that I hope will blossom for years to come.
I also felt a strong connection with the past and the tradition of this pilgrimage. When you walk in the footsteps of so many Christian pilgrims, appreciating the amazing churches and history that the Catholic Church offers, you can’t help but feel the universal nature of our great faith. We met many Catholics from all over the world, all excited to make this trip.
Finally, I felt very connected to the mission of The Papal Foundation and to all those who support it. I celebrated my first anniversary as general director of the foundation during my trip, and I was able to pray every day for the intentions of the Holy Father, of all the Stewards of Saint Peter, as well as of my colleagues. I prayed in gratitude that God led me into this role, and I am thrilled as I enter the second year, supporting Pope Francis’ priorities to serve the poor in developing countries around the world.
The trip was a great blessing and if you or any of your family members or friends are considering making this special pilgrimage, I certainly recommend it wholeheartedly. Feel free to email or call me for helpful tips!
Dave Savage is Kim’s husband and father to Connor, John, Greg, and Zachary; a member of St. Norbert parish in Paoli; and the executive director of the Papal Foundation.