Trainee Priest’s Spanish Mission
POINT Road resident and trainee priest Barry Matthews is going the distance for his faith. That distance is all 500 miles of Camino de Santiago, the world-famous pilgrimage through Northern Spain.
The 30-year-old trainee priest has temporarily discarded the robes of the priesthood in favour of a good pair of walking shoes, walking as he does an average of 30 km per day over 33 days.
“It’s quite gruelling, but it is also great fun, and there is a great sense of teamwork and community among the group I’m walking with,” Barry told the Democrat, having just finished his 30-odd kilometres for the day on Friday. “We are on a siesta at the moment.”
Hundreds of pilgrims and travellers travel from one tiny town to the next along the 500-mile route.
Thousands of travellers complete the route each year, with people of all faiths and backgrounds partaking.
“I’m doing the most popular Camino walking trail: Camino Frances. This part of the Camino de Santiago traditionally starts in St Jean Pied de Port in France. It finishes in Santiago de Compostela, about 780km after travelling the breadth of Northern Spain. It was the original route of St James, who was evangelising following the death of Christ.
“We start walking around 6 am and aim to be at our destination by lunchtime, though some days the route is longer, and you can only make it back around 3 pm.
“We are walking to Leon tomorrow. Each day you travel alone, whether by yourself or with friends you have made. You can walk along the way and meet up later in the day.
“When we arrive in a town, you generally find a local hostel. They are incredibly cheap, some just taking a small donation.”
“I’ve made many friends along the way. I’ve walked with a BBC journalist who is blogging about his experiences.
“Catholicism is still powerful here, and the rural villages and towns atmosphere is very tranquil. You get plenty of time to reflect, which is very much part of it for me.”
When Barry returns, he will return to Maynooth to continue his studies.
“I’ve two weeks of walking until I get to Santiago. It’s been a wonderful experience so far. It’s a stunning country.
Find more information about the Camino.