Even though I've never set foot on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I have to admit that I've become somewhat of a Camino-junkie. As time passes and my departure date draws nearer, albeit at a snail's pace, I can't help but feel more and more drawn to this journey that awaits me.
Someone like Ermanno Aiello certainly fuels the fire. He took to the road in Spain in April and May 2007 at the age of 69. Meeting him a few weeks ago was a very special occasion for me and if I was wondering if I was expecting too much from the journey I'm planning, he certainly confirmed to me that I am in for the walk of my life!
When Ermanno returned from his camino, he was persuaded by many of his friends and family members to put it all down on paper and he decided to write and self-publish his book, titled 'Forever a Pilgrim'.
I was fortunate enough to buy the last copy of his current print. This book has since become one of my most prized possessions and I treasure the lovely message that he wrote in there for me - sending me on my own camino armed with blessings from a deeply religious pilgrim!
Ermanno has given me permission to quote from his book and I would like to share with you some of his experiences in the next few weeks.
For those of you who are new to the blog and not quite familiar with the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage - click on the link at the top right hand side of this page titled ' History of the Camino...'. This summary will give you an idea of what it's all about. Even though the Camino was started by the Catholic church, it is certainly not only Catholics who walk it today. In fact, some people simply walk it as a hike of sorts but it seems to me that the majority of pilgrims actually do it for reasons much deeper than just that.
Personally, I have walked a much more focused road with the Lord these past three years and I am experiencing a very strong calling to this pilgrimage. Something about leaving all the luxuries of the world behind and just walking for miles and miles, with the freedom to devote hours to the Lord in contemplation, seems like a gift too great to pass by!
Ermanno the pilgrim - can that smile be any broader?
To start off, here is a quote from the book - this piece illustrates one of the gifts of the Camino - silence of a different kind.
' In wild and beautiful Galicia with its magnificent forests, mountains,countless streams, farms and fickle weather I experienced a different type of silence. The weather kept reminding me that, like life,there is no permanent silence and that if I needed silence I would have to create it within myself. Amazingly so, I managed this very well - eventually being able to find the silence (and with it the much needed solitude) that I craved for at will.'
' This silence and solitude led me to deeper and deeper introspection. The analysis of my life up to then, with all its good and bad times, my periods of moving away from my faith and the subsequent return to it, the successes and failures of my career, the value of my loved ones, especially my wife Lia, led me to the realization that my life had always been and always will be for a purpose only known to God. I do not need to know that purpose - that will be revealed to me when I am finally with Him - all I need to know is that I am of value to Him as I am and that I will do my utmost to fulfil whatever purpose He still has for me. This knowledge filled me with such peace.'
Since I made the decision to walk the Camino, countless people who are somehow connected to it have crossed my path. Each and every one of them has added value to my life. Sitting down for coffee with someone like Ermanno Aiello, a man who rejoices in his relationship with his creator, is very special. When you're in the presence of someone who loves and adores the Lord, the feeling is tangible. You can't mistake the warmth, the joy and the peace that fills that person. I felt all of this from the first minute I met this man and praise God for sending people to guide me along this road. A road that I am so happy to be on!
And thank you Ermanno. Thank you for being obedient. Thank you for sharing your beliefs, your experiences (good and bad!) and most of all, for proclaiming everything that the Lord God has done for you!
For those of us, like me, who are in our infant stages as Christians, your guidance is a blessing beyond words!