In the summer of 2014 I walked the northern route of the Camino de Santiago, starting at the Southwestern most point of France, and finishing some thirty days later in Santiago, the burial place of the Apostle St. James.
Since returning, many have asked, “So, what was it like?” and I suppose the question is simple enough, yet it has never ceased to boggle me—for in the attempt to express the whole in its entirety, I sense the impossibility of even finding the words to begin. Thus a meticulous excavation of thought and memory ensues, digging for that ultimate experience, that gem that condenses everything into one clear and reflective moment.
So what was it like to be a pilgrim and walk over five hundred miles through the raw and beautiful wild lands of Spain? Honestly, it was quite painful.
We are all pilgrims, I often have to remind myself of this, and the camino is life. Along our way the journey challenges us, surprises us, changes us, and ultimately leads us right back to where we all began, our home, our origin. Ask yourself, where did you come from, and where are you going? Is not our origin and our destination the same, to be at home with God?
I’ve been on my way for the past thirty-three years, and though my journey is clearly different from your own, we essentially have the same options. Each day, and at every moment really, we have a choice: take a step closer to God or a step further from him. Yes, it can be that simple; however, the key to taking the next right step, and this is the tough part, lies in the discernment of what is good, true, and beautiful. If you don’t know what is good, true, and beautiful, start by digging into your faith (read the lives of the saints) and then by surrounding yourself with beauty (go hiking).
Chastity is good, true, and beautiful and therefore a decided step towards God; yet, we live in a world that incessantly whispers, “If it feels good, do it!” “Unfetter your passions!” “There is no truth.” “Don’t judge me!” and “Love is love is love!” right into our ears. The challenge then for any faithful Christian is how to continue choosing Christ in a world that openly rejects him, and in particular how to remain chaste amidst a confounding milieu of secular standards.
So how does one remain chaste and faithful to Christ?
To answer this, I’d like to suggest coupling the pace of the pilgrim with the practice of virtue. Like any virtue, chastity is not a destination to be reached, there is not Santiago at the end of the trail; rather, it is a choice that one renews and repeats, it is a mantric act of the will not all too different from walking, step, after step, after step. If Christ is our goal, if the Heavenly Kingdom is our homeland, then chastity is our pathway, and it is our footstep, and it is our dogged determination to keep moving when every fiber within us is crying out to stop!
Back to the pain then, so why does it have to hurt?
I was often reminded of Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy, while walking in Spain, for there is a strange and almost disagreeable union between pain and beauty in that book. I say disagreeable because I’m a wimp and I am still learning to embrace this wild standard of Christ. The Army’s slogan declares, “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” but as Christians witnessing the death of Christ, we see pain and suffering in a different light. For when our sufferings are united with Christ’s, they become a means for our sanctification.
The truth is, you are called to be a saint! So take a step towards Christ, take a step in chastity, and when it hurts, or seems too hard, or makes you just want to give up, remember where you came from and where you are headed. Fix your eyes on Christ, and just keep walking.
Earning his BA from San Diego State University in 2006, Faulk entered the commercial arts, working with Sorrento Valley based firm, Buchanan Design. Following a passion, Faulk left the firm to study Cabinet and Furniture Technology at Palomar College. In the Fall of 2011, Faulk was admitted into California State University Fullerton’s MFA Program and graduated three years later with a concentration in drawing and painting. Faulk presently teaches Art at Garden Street Academy in Santa Barbara, Ca and laughs about it every day. It is with wide eyes and a level head that he continues the next leg of his journey; yet quoting the Spanish mystic John of The Cross, Faulk smiles: “If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.” For more information on the Footprints movie, click here.