Hi friends and welcome to the Arise, Beloved blog. We have an amazing team of writers behind this blog and our desire is to speak truth into the lies that cripple us and shine light into the darkness that isolates us because we believe that now, more than ever, the Church desperately needs women to be restored so that the world can be set ablaze. Our hope is that you find comfort, solace, and peace in knowing that you are not alone, you are not too far gone and there is ALWAYS hope to be found.
// Mary Kate Anthony //
When I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2018, I met people from over 30 different countries, and 12 different US states, representing almost every single continent (all except Antarctica). I kept a running list of names and places for each person I had at least a 5-minute conversation with. The list ended up being three pages long. There were Melissa and Stefano, a Canadian couple living in China. There was Josh, an Indiana Mennonite math teacher, and Josh, a California surfer. There was Luke, from South Korea, Daniel & Martin from Denmark, Eva & Liga from Slovenia, a beautiful mother and her four-year-old daughter from Germany (she pushed her daughter in a hiking stroller for all 500 miles). There was a couple who had started the Camino from their front door in Holland and who we met 250 miles into Spain. There was Ben from the UK who lives in Barcelona and loves books, especially Russian literature. There was Gustavo from Argentina, Carmen form Italy, Isacc, from New Zealand, Giffin from Taiwan, Gall from Israel, and the list goes on.
And these are just people I actually talked with long enough to get their name and where they were the from. There were dozens of others that I never met but who I shared the pilgrimage with.
I have been blessed to travel quite a bit at this point in my life and I have never experienced humanity the way I did on the Camino. Everybody WANTED to talk to each other. Everybody WANTED to know who you were, where you were from, and what was your story, why were you here? People actually cared about each other. Total strangers would sit down together at a table outside a cafe and 20 minutes later they would be laughing and talking like they had been friends for ages. Within the first minutes of meeting someone, I would know things about their family, their life history, their hopes and dreams, and also, some of their deep sorrows.
People were so instantly open with each other. Walls that are normally miles high, were almost completely gone. Why? I asked myself this question so much. Why were we all so willing to share our hearts with each other? Why were complete strangers from opposite corners of the world sharing meals together so easily and effortlessly?
Most people we met were not Catholic, or even Christian. I’m sure many of the people we met had opposing viewpoints on politics, religion, morals, and lifestyle choices. But none of that mattered. In fact, none of that even came up in conversation. Nobody judged each other, and so no one was afraid of being judged. Instead of viewing another person as the sum total of their beliefs and opinions, we viewed each other as equal humans with the same hopes and dreams as ourselves. We saw the inherent goodness of each other. We saw that we all ached for something beyond ourselves and that we were on the same common pilgrimage. For why else would we spend five weeks walking 500 miles across Spain?
We had a common goal. Santiago. We all were walking (or biking) towards Santiago. We all had sacrificed our time, our comfort, and stability for something outside of ourselves. And this allowed us to be vulnerable with each other. This allowed for walls to be torn down. This allowed us to see the humanity and the value and worth of each of our fellow pilgrims. In the face of such common ground, our differences melted away. It was the most Christian experience of my life. At times, the veil between heaven and earth felt so slim. I would look around and think: “This is what the Communion of Saints must be like”. People from all walks of life, on a common pilgrimage, with a common goal, coming together to walk beside each other and cheer each other on.
I wrote on instagram on July 10th, 2018:
“Only on the Camino would 22 strangers from 12 different countries around the globe (South Korea, New Zealand, Slovenia, Denmark, Mexico, Poland, Germany, and of course, the USA just to name a few) sit down at a big family-style table for dinner. Between Spanish and English everyone was able to understand each other and the room was filled with laughter as stories were swapped and more wine was poured. It was absolutely magical to watch strangers became family over the course of an evening and probably one of the memories I’ll cherish most from this whole trip. And it made me think a lot about life and how this is what the human experience should be all about. Far too often we let our differences, fears, and insecurities divide us rather than choosing to set aside (or rise above) what is different and celebrate what is the same: that we are all on this wild adventure called life. I called it magic, but really it was just a glimpse into what life was designed to be like (and what heaven will be) that 22 strangers from all walks of life with probably vastly different beliefs and backgrounds could come together and authentically rejoice in the company and goodness of one another. That is truly living.”
This truly was an incredible experience, but it shouldn’t be exclusive to the Camino. Because the truth is, we are all on a larger, much more important pilgrimage: life. Our whole life is ultimately a pilgrimage. We know that this life is temporary and is not our home. And even those who do not share this same belief with us, know that their life will end in the same way ours does: in death. This is not a morbid thought, this is simply reality. How we choose to live with this reality is up to us.
What would it look like if we realized that we are in this life together? If we could see the strangers in the grocery store, the park, even in our own neighborhood, and see them as beautifully unique and precious souls who hope and dream, love and laugh, cry and suffer, just the same as us. What would it be like if strangers were open with each other, instead of guarded? If strangers WANTED to be friends, even if for just five minutes? Some of the people I met on the Camino, I had one five minute conversation with and I never saw them again.
And yet we were friends, united by our common pilgrimage.
Let us lean into our common ground. Let’s start celebrating what we have in common with those around us and letting the differences take the back seat. Let us be united by our common pilgrimage. Let us be friends.