Every year, especially in the summer, tens of thousands of people set off on a journey for sport, for tourism, out of curiosity, many on the trail of an inner search which then becomes silent, with large spaces of solitude, but also meetings of unexpected humanity.
From such a meeting with the decision to reach a goal the pilgrimage is born, walking in solitude with a backpack on the shoulders, is the image par excellence.
The possibilities of choice are quite wide in Lazio, the main paths of faith unfold on the Via Francigena; in the north from Rome to Proceno up to the border with Tuscany; in the south from Rome to Minturno and to Cassino, on the border with Campania and Molise. Or the Way of Benedict, which crosses down Lazio from the territory of Leonessa to Montecassino.
The Cammino di Francesco (Path of Francis) is also very sought-after, discovering the Franciscan places, from Umbria to Rome through the Valle Santa (Piana Reatina). This branch has various directions and is intertwined with other paths criss-crossing on the Road to Santiago, a pilgrimage route that leads to a holy sepulchre.
The word itself, pilgrim (from the Latin per agros, literally one who walks through the fields), already from the time of Dante was used to indicate travellers heading to Galicia on the path of the Camino de Santiago, to pay homage to the Apostle James.
Later, it came to indicate any traveller animated by devotion or religious intent. Often the starting point involves the intrinsic need of a strong motivation, which can be triggered by the demands of the soul or by the elective circuits of thought.
From here, different readings and interpretations open up:
– The Journey immersion in nature and awareness of a Creation that is given
– The Meeting (with the inseparable bond between man and Divine and with humanity)
– The Generativity that flows from it
– The Fusion that opens to change and to relationship.
Every journey is not only external, but it is the process that evolves in the intimate self linked to the rhythms of the heart, to the openings and changes that become the journey itself.
Each journey in itself is a ritual, and the mode and the way in which it is reached is very important. It is the path that shows the pilgrim the richness of a tradition narrated by the stones and images that are presented again as meetings, because in every place there is an event waiting to be remembered.
So, it is not wasted breath or time, but, with the backpack fixed well on the back, adjusting the pace to the ability to breath points straight to the goal, to be able to reach the joy of the summit, acquiring the ability to see beyond the mountain.
The experience of the pilgrimage becomes history that is a living element of inspiration, material to be used to share what has made it such, each actor becoming the protagonist of his pilgrimage, while the going is molded to their needs.
These blessed steps lead to a path of ancient wonder furrowed by the footsteps of the saints at the dawn of ancestral roots of love and brotherhood; probably St. Francis also travelled to this goal. Humble pilgrims, servants of the Lord, with light baggage of joyful hearts, verified unshakable faith along the milestones of the heart across Spain.
The Way of Saint James of Compostela is an important itinerary in every condition that calls you and chooses you, a pilgrimage of over a thousand years tradition that estimates an average of two hundred thousand participants a year, coming from all over the world.
The entire route is 775 Km (beginning at S. Jean Pied-de-Port, on the French side of the Pyrenees). The estimated walking time is around 30 days, but because the pilgrimage is valid Pietatis Causa (performed for the sake of piety) the last 100 km are enough. In 1985 “Il Cammino” was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Tradition is inextricably linked to the discovery in the ninth century of the tomb of the Apostle St. James of Zebedee, known as the “Major” in a field illuminated by star-like lights. “Santiago” therefore derives from the Spanish San Yago (Saint James) while the name “Compostela” is thought to derive from the Latin Campus Stellae (Campo delle Stelle – field of stars).
The emblem of the entrance to Jerusalem were the palms, to Rome they were the keys to St. Peter: symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago is the Shell of St. James.
It is said that the Pilgrims who did not stop continued until they saw finis terrae (end of land); contemplating the Atlantic Ocean they came symbolically to the limit of the known world. Here they collected the valves of the “pecten maximum” the large shell similar to our scallop. It has become a sign of the pilgrimage, it distinguishes and defines the goal and it is the documentation of achievement.
The entire signpost contains this symbol, so the pilgrims choose to hang a shell from the backpack from the beginning of the journey. The entire jacopean route is also indicated by yellow arrows that serve as a reference to the pilgrim reassuring him: they were painted towards the eighties in order to revitalize the route in modern times. Even the mileage signs are painted, coloured or signed and mark a sort of countdown.
Having experienced it in the first person in those holy days that changed my future, I felt the need to share the strong experience that changed my life. From this interior pilgrimage to the desert as a fertile place, my book was born: “Peregrinos para Siempre” (Pilgrims Forever), a work that is a “physical” but above all a “spiritual” travel diary.
It was a moment of darkness that became an occasion for profound reflection on the meaning of life, from which a true renaissance resulted, wherein the dynamics of a boundary became intimate and intense courage, and developed in a fire of pure ardour. The telling of reality shows its episodes synchronizing the key elements of the adventure of life.
“Santiago de Compostela” is a destination to be reached, to be conquered, a commitment, an ideal of which the collective imagination has made history and romance. An unpredictable, hard, emotional journey, an arduous, beneficial, reparative path. An unconscious force, a disconcerting experience and a sweet adventure, which causes wounds to the body, but certainly cares and heals those of the soul.
It is the story of a great change of heart, illustrated in the fragments of a journey of conversion, in the light of this providential pilgrimage. The story of an experience lived during “Il Cammino di Santiago”, a story of a life in progress immersed in the foreshortening of a prevalent nature.
The shared solitude becomes an opening and welcome, and the joy of the encounter expresses the truth of hope. The feet furrow a barren strip that flows like a river of earth, overflowing with bright green of the serene embrace. The Way absorbs and teaches from the first stages the sense of the pilgrim’s days, a journey of thorns and roses whose intense scent alleviates scratches and bites.
Why write a book?
A book that tells of sweat and effort, of encounters and people, of feelings and inspiration, of love and shade, of conscience and repentance, of faith and hope, of paths of life and roads of existence. Because tried experience is the main key to testify that all roads lead to the heart and introspection, to give wings to the soul that flies over in our eternity.
This book is not a tourist guide or a text of physical preparation, it is not a novel or a geographical text, but it is the strong testimony that illuminates every page of the ardour of a faith expressed in a loud voice.
An empathetic and engaging reading, true of emotion and vibrant of pathos, a story of love and of little great joys that give meaning to our searching in our land. It is written to make those who read participate in all this and the joy of being able to tell and spread the scent of love in the world through the words all of hope.