Flumes Vol. 5: Issue 1, Summer 2020 - Page 97

has their own Camino,” for example. This phrase leaves no room for judgement when someone chooses to walk their pilgrimage in a way that’s different than your own. But on this particular trip, we added a Part Two to this saying. “Everyone can have their own Camino, as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s Camino.” If you litter throughout the trail, others cannot experience the beauty of the land, for example. Or if you stay up until 2 am drinking and yelling, others may not have the energy to climb the Pyrenees the next day.

And so, I land on two conflicting ideas: everyone must have the freedom to answer the Camino call, Catholic or not. But in doing so, must we find a way to retain the sacred respect on which the pilgrimage is based? And if so, where is this middle ground of respectful sanctity? What is the “new tradition” being forged by this new wave of pilgrims?

In 1984,Don Elías Valiña Sampedro, the Parish Priest of a small mountain town in Galicia, Spain, set out to revive the dying trail. In addition to founding associations to maintain sections of the trail, he came up with the iconic yellow arrow we now follow as markers. When stopped by the Civil Guard near the coast of France, they asked him what he was doing with his yellow paint. He exclaimed that he was planning a great invasion. Many now attribute the rebirth of the modern Camino to Don Elías. Are we his invasion? A wave of lost souls with no intention of joining his church? Tragically, he passed away five years later, and never got to see the result of his work.

My table’s group, now deep in the magic of the Spanish liquor, slammed their shot glasses on the table and initiated their county’s call and response:

“Sláinte!”

“Salud!”

“Cheers!”

And finally, the Polish man, rising and lifting his glass to the ceiling. “Na zdrowie!”

We knocked our glasses on the table in unison, orujo sloshing onto our hands, and threw back the drink.

The conversation moved on from religion and down the winding roads of our personal stories from home, the alcohol launching our voices to the rafters of the dining room. The Man from Poland’s thick accent kept me from catching every word, and I regretted my inability to speak a

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