162 Miles to Santiago

10-15-11

Murias de Rechivaldo

162 Miles to Santiago

I didn´t walk as far as I wanted to today. I couldn´t. Not because of pain, which is good and I am happy for. But because I was not in the right mindset.

My morning was wonderful. The walk to Astorga was absolutely breathtaking, especially by the pink dawn´s light. I absolutely fell in love with Astorga. But this afternoon I found myself in tears walking away as fast as I could. It´s not Astorga´s fault really, and I know it´s a shame. But I had to get away.

It all started when I decided to take a look in the cathedral. Like most cathedrals on the Camino, there was an entrance fee. I haven´t visited as many churches as I would have liked because I think this is wrong. It´s one thing to ask for a donation, but to charge admission simply to enter what is billed to be a place a worship infuriates me. It doesn´t seem a very christian idea. But the cathedral in Astorga was so beautiful and I was in such a pleasant mood I decided a few euros may be worth it. I was surprised to find there wasn´t a discounted pilgrim´s rate – as there is on most cathedrals on the camino – but I didn´t say anything and paid anyway. As I turned around the stoic man who sold me my ticket informed me that I must leave my pack in the lobby. Not in a locker, not behind the counter – on the floor in the middle of the lobby. I turned around slowly and asked him ¿por que? That is the rule, he told me.

Ah, one of those rules, I thought. I tried, in my bast scattered spanish, to explain to him that everything important to me in this world was in this backpack. And I couldn´t just leave it in a place where anyone could have a look through or even take it. He stared back unsympathetically. I quietly handed back my ticket and asked for a refund.

I was surprised to feel tears welling up as I walked out the door. Did this guy not realize I had walked hundreds of miles to the door of this church? Did he not realize how serious I was when I told him that everything important to me was in that pack? Why was it that it wasn´t allowed in? Was he nervous I would steal and hide some sacred object in the pack? Ladies were allowed to carry purses that had much more room for stolen objects than my rucksack. Was he worried it would take up too much space? Many honking strollers were permitted through as I was turned away. I didn´t understand. Why me? Out of all the people who showed up and paid the fee, why was I the one to be turned away? Wasn´t I just as deserving as the others? Isn´t it strange for a church to turn anyone away?

Ideas that have been stirring for a little while now became overwhelming as I stepped into the sunlight. And I realized the reason for the tears: I don´t think I want to be Catholic anymore.

Now granted, I haven´t been a good Catholic for a long time. But it was something I considered a part of me and something I took pride in. I had hoped that this camino might be something that would bring me closer to my Catholic background. But although the camino has taught me many wonderful, wonderful things, one thing that has happened is that if anything, it has brought me further away from my born religion.

Maybe attending so many masses in a foreign languge has allowed me to view them as an outsider. And what I´ve come to notice has not been very comforting. The masses lately to me have felt so cult-like. It´s the same thing every time, everyone says the same words, in unison, unthinking. Wouldn´t it mean so much more to pray from the heart, rather than repeat the Lord´s Prayer or the Nicene Creed for the 20894th time? How is it meaningful to say the same thing over and over and over again? It´s mindless. Maybe it works for some, but it doesn´t work for me.

And then there are the things I have experienced specifically on this camino and in my life. Like the nuns who threw Troy and I out onto the street even though we could barely walk. Or all of these Cathedrals, these ´Houses of God´, that charge entrance fees. Or the teacher in my Catholic grade school who, instead of comforting me after my beloved pet died, told me I would never see him again because he didn´t have a soul and so he is now turning to dust. And all of those rules? How is that Christian? How is that Catholic? It´s not. I don´t know what it is, but it´s not good. And I don´t want to be associated with it anymore.

If God exists, I don´t think he is in these great Cathedrals like they say. I think those places are awesome because they speak to the achievements of man. But they´re not awesome. Surely God would be much happier with that kind of wealth being spent elsewhere. On things like feeding the hungry and providing education to the needy and making sure everyone has access to clean drinking water. Or even on letting a couple of pilgrims with tendinits spend an extra day in your albuergue to heal. I think nature is a much better place to worship. On your own terms is a much better way to worship.

I´m sorry if this offends or upsets anyone. I know many of the people I am walking with and probably some people who read this blog would be shocked to hear these things coming from me. But I´m just really feeling that there is more bad than good coming from the Catholic church these days, and it doesn´t make me feel good to affiliate myself with that. And this morning that thought brought me to tears, but now I feel much better about it.

As painful of a revelation as this is, over the course of the past few hours I´ve become happy for it. I think I still have a ways to go as far as figuring out my religious beliefs, but this is a big step for me and I know it´s bringing me closer to where I need to be. As long as I focus on being the best person I can be I will be at peace with myself, and should I find God along the way, well, that will be nice too.

11 thoughts on “162 Miles to Santiago

  1. Mariana, God isn’t in those churches and cathedrals but in your heart. The rules enacted by the caretakers are not a representation of Him. He is in the beautty of the pink sunrises and in the peace of the red sunsets. His reflection is your free and giving kindness and the spirit of your essence. Believe in yourself, and He will be your solace. He guides your footsteps on your incredible journey. Walk on…

  2. I want you to know that you are inspiring me to be bold and fearless with life. I am enjoying your blogs. This who journey is taking you places both physical and spiritual. I pray today that God will show up for you and make Himself known.

  3. Sometimes our personal journies take us to places and revelations that can be upsetting or at the very least shocking. But you don’t need religion to find a connection to God, Allah, Bhrama, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. Think of those times when you feel most connected to the world around you, the most spiritual if you want to give it a name. Are those times when you’re in a church or when you’re discovering something new in nature, in life, in yourself? If it’s the latter then THAT is what you should hold onto, not some structured set of rules that say “this is the only way you can be close to God because we say so”. YOU are the one to find your own path, remember that and embrace it. Thinking of you every day.

  4. I am sorry that you had that bad experience…I’d mines too!…religious people are not exactly kind….they are looking for a way and get stock among the rocks of our society…too many rules and too little faith… humanity: nobody is perfect…remember that the people who put Jesus in the cross were the religious ones…God will show himself…and you will know.

  5. Your love of life and belief in the goodness of people is what I see continually coming forth from within you, Mariana. Continued self-reflection will bring you to a greater understanding that a belief in a god is not where humankind’s future lies. It lies within the best of what people can and need to be – first individually and then through each other’s inspiration. Your Camino is not found within any one church (although I wish you better luck on the next church). Mariana, YOU inspire!

  6. Marianna:
    please bear in mind that a building is not a church, it is a man-made structure with nothing special to offer unless it is filled with God’s people. Christianity is not about organizations or buildings or liturgy or something you are born into, it is a simple truth that is given to you as a gift from God. Sounds like you have just received it. I am so happy for you. When people find out that I am a pastor, they invariably ask “where is your church?” I always give this reply….”some of them are at work, some are at school, some are at home taking care of their families.” Don’t be sad about the cathedral incident….and rightly know that the Apostle Paul taught true believers that Christianity is not for sale. Keep your chin up, this odyssey is proving to be a life changer for you!
    Pastor Mark

  7. Religion can only take us so far these days. It’s part of this new day, the “fifth world”, if you will. There are no mistakes or coincidences, either.

    I thought you were just “hiking” around. Whoa! Sounds like an amazing journey. I really enjoyed reading this post. I’ll be back! Congratulations on your Journey.

  8. I know how you feel – completely. I’ve had a similar issue with most organized religion. Frequently I find myself upset that people focus so much on going to church because they think it’s the only place to worship; or worse, people go to see and be seen, as if they’re looking for other’s approval instead of God’s. Granted I’ve always felt a little confused when it comes to religion in general and the nature of God, but I simply can’t believe that what people have assigned to him is accurate. I don’t believe in the idea that idea of ‘God created man, and man returned the favor,’ but I can’t agree with all the trappings we’ve assigned Him. And following all of this, I’m truly happy for you, even though this is such an uncertain time with something that’s so important in your life, I know you’ll be much happier and much more satisfied. My grandfather is constantly ‘fighting’ with his priest about one point or another and he’s one of the most religious people I know. In my opinion and his, someone who doesn’t question their faith, for one reason or another, will never truly understand it.
    Pretty much what I’m trying to say is that, I’m happy for you and I’m glad you’re doing this =) Even if it may seem like you’re a stranger in a world you found familiar for so long, I think that no matter where you end up or what you believe – or don’t believe – in the end, is where you will find you should have been all along.
    I love and miss you and I can’t wait to hear more! Come visit me on the way back States-side?

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