The most powerful thing about the Camino de Santiago is what it teaches you about yourself. Along this ancient route, pilgrims walk to the city of Compostela in northwestern Spain where the bones of the apostle St. James are buried. As I walked The Way with eight of my brother seminarians and one of our priest faculty members, I learned a particular lesson, one that we all must come to grips with, whatever road we walk: how do we deal with adversity, with the inevitable mountains that we must climb.
It was only our second day, but it had already proved that it would be the toughest of our nine-day journey. After walking 12 miles, we still had another 5 to go. And a mountain was staring us in the face. Our destination: the very top. I struggled every step of that climb. Still, I had no choice but to keep going. Where did I find the strength to make it to the top of the mountain? Certainly, in my brothers who were walking with me, side by side. But, more importantly, I found it in the hands of Mary.
As I walked up the mountain that day, and all the difficult parts in the days to follow, I clung to Mary. Through the Rosary, when I could find the strength to say it, and even just by calling Her name when that was all I could manage. As the beautiful Memorare teaches us, never has it been known that anyone who has sought Mary’s help has been left unaided. I know that Mary’s hand guided me to the top of that mountain and, days later, into the Cathedral at Compostela. And, in life’s difficult moments, I know She will always be there to guide me along The Way – wherever it may lead.