This is a picture of my own front door. It is the door of St Mary's Vicarage
in Northampton. It is the boundary between home and the rest of the world.
Beyond this door is the safe space of home. It is the door through which I
pass as I start my pilgrimages. As I put my foot on this side, I start the
pilgrimage. After a few weeks, I end the pilgrimage by crossing the
threshold. When I first started going on pilgrimage I thought that
the pilgrimage did not really start until I was on the aircraft or even in
Spain. I came to see that I was mistaken.
If you follow the pilgrim forums, you will know that towards the end of
the year, about September time, posts begin to appear that speak of
post-camino blues. This condition is the result of going on pilgrimage
and finding there is a different way to live. This has many causes,
generous hospitality, welcoming albergues, pilgrims who engage freely
with each other, living in an atmosphere of trust, some time alone to get
the head straight, time to pray inside churches and in the open
countryside, all lead, with many other experiences to a realization that
there is a better way to live. The pilgrim returns and meets a blank wall
in the faces of those friends with who he tries to share his joys. Slowly the
old style of anxiety driven life re-establishes itself. Thus an internal conflict
arises between the pilgrimage and 'real' life. Th so called 'Real life' pushes
one back into its own mould. For some the answer is to go on as many
pilgrimages as possible, till the day when the body has had enough.
There is another root cause. On pilgrimage the interior life comes to the
fore. For many this is the first time that they have even begun to discover
that there is such a dimension to their being. This is the part that has to
be guarded. It is easy to experience the externals of pilgrimage and
believe that the heart of it is in the staying at albergues, talking
to other pilgrims etc. But these are only expressions of what is going
on deep below. In the same way that giving to a beggar is a sign of a
heart that is given to generosity. The gift is not the heart, but the fruit.
So to return to the front door. Every time I set out, wherever I am going,
is in some way a Camino. A going out to encounter God in others and
through events that happen to me out there. What happens at home,
the internal life of prayer and meeting with our Lord in the peace and
quiet are the heart. If the internal stops, then the Camino stops and the
blues at the sense of defeat, set in. Once you begin to be a pilgrim it does
not end. Keep on walking.