Although there is physical effort involved, the pilgrimage is essentially a spiritual experience and it is recommended that pilgrims take some time before starting to prepare for this.
We urge you to think about your motives for wishing to make the pilgrimage to Santiago. Traditionally these fell into three categories: from a personal desire; to complete a vow; or in atonement for sins. Some people may be attracted to the cultural aspects of the journey. These entirely complement the religious heart of the Camino and indeed making the Way often leads the pilgrim to draw closer to God.
Here are some of the reasons which pilgrims give for making the pilgrimage:
• To find oneself
• To find the meaning of one’s life
• To find a favourable environment to think and reflect
• To fulfil a promise
• To meet other pilgrims
• To follow of millions of others that have done the Way over the centuries
• To learn more of the culture and art along the Way
• To honour St James, one of Jesus’ Apostles
• To deepen and enrich faith in God
The Apostle Saint James
The Way that you set out on (it does not matter which route) has as its goal reaching the Tomb of the Apostle Saint James. Who was this person? What connection does he have to us? Why do so many people direct themselves to his Tomb? The answer to these questions is the first step that you must take before beginning the pilgrimage. The books that we recommend, shown below, can help you find the answers to these questions.
• The Apostle and his Tomb.
• Saint James, the Son of Thunder. A comic book inspired by the novel above.
• The Apostle Saint James and his place in history. Ten topics about Saint James.
Making the pilgrimage in a group
Perhaps you are a group of friends that have thought about doing the Way together. There are also materials for you. We suggest the book Religious instruction to begin the Pilgrimage, recently published as a way to prepare for the pilgrimage. There is also a book by the author JOSÉ MIGUEL BURGUI that can be of assistance, On the Way to Santiago with the Young, Central Catequística Salesiana. Alcalá, 164. 28028. Madrid. 1993. In his book he writes about his experience about making the pilgrimage to Compostela with a group of young people. These books are only available in Spanish.
Further Spiritual Preparation
To read more about spiritual preparation for the pilgrimage this book may assist you: Only available in Spanish.
Spiritual resources in your own language
The Confraternity of St James in the UK publishes a Spiritual Companion as well as other resources. You should also consult your local priest or spiritual adviser for material in your own language.
It is recommended that the pilgrim prepares with reflection and prayer a few days before beginning the Way. It is also recommended that pilgrims include their friends and clergy men and women they know in these preparations.
Blessing before departure
Many pilgrims wish a blessing before they set out. We encourage this. You can ask your local priest to do this for you or you can pray on your own or with friends. Here are some words of blessing which may be used:
Blessing 1 – From the Codex Calixtinus Sermón: Veneranda dies Ll, cXVII
“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, receive this pouch, habit for your pilgrimage, so that, castigated and corrected, you hasten to prostrate at Saint James’ feet, where you yearn to arrive and, after having completed your journey, you come to us delighted with the help of God, who rules over the world without end. Amen.
Receive this staff as support for the journey and your efforts during your pilgrimage so that you are able to defeat the throngs of enemies and thus arrive safely at Saint James’ feet and, after having completed your journey, you come to us delighted with the consent of the same God, who lives in and rules over Heaven without end. Amen”.
Blessing 2 – a more modern form of blessing where the pilgrims’ names can be inserted:
Father God we pray for these pilgrims (Names)……………… who are soon to leave these shores to travel to the Tomb of Saint James the Great in Santiago de Compostela. In doing so they will honour Saint James, Apostle, friend of Jesus and martyr for his faith. That faith has a long tradition of pilgrimages, of the faithful travelling to holy places for religious reasons. The very word “pilgrim” comes from the Latin “peregrine” which means “foreigner” or “wanderer”; someone who travels in faith to another place in a journey set apart from their normal lives. For this reason Abraham is recognised as the first pilgrim described in scripture because he was called to journey to the land chosen by God. Centuries later, Abraham’s descendents embarked on their pilgrimage to the Promised Land from Egypt. The birth of Jesus himself is marked by the pilgrimage of the Magi, the three kings who followed the star to pay homage to the Messiah and it is recorded that Jesus himself travelled on pilgrimage many times to Jerusalem. We pray that (Names)……………… be inspired by these examples of pilgrimage described in Sacred Scripture.
Father God, we ask you to bless these scallop shells, the traditional symbols of pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela – we pray that (Names)…………… bear them proudly to their destination at the Tomb of the Apostle.
We ask you to bless these (rucksacks, sticks etc), symbols of the support (Names)…………… will receive from friends old and new who they will meet on the Way.
And to bless (Names)……………… may they travel safely and enjoy days of happy and prayerful companionship and nights of restful sleep until they reach their journey’s end.
Together we now say the Pilgrims’ Prayer:
St James, Apostle, chosen among the first,
you were the first to drink the Cup of the Master
and you are the great protector of pilgrims.
Make us strong in faith and happy in hope on our pilgrim journey,
following the path of Christian life,
and sustain us so that we may finally reach the glory of God the Father. Amen.
(Names)……………… as you go from this place to begin your final preparations, leave with the love and fond good wishes of all who know you.
Bow your heads as we pray for God’s blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your cheeks.
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.