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Camino Calling

What is the Camino de Santiago and why am I planning to walk it you might ask?  And what is a Spiritual Hat Trick?

I first heard of the Camino de Santiago in 2003 when an acquaintance in Florida was preparing to walk it.  I would see Jose walking all over town breaking in his boots and himself in preparation.  But it was not until this past Spring (2016), when my friend Walter forwarded to me his friend, Steve’s, Blog which he was posting as he was walking across Spain, that the Camino began calling to me.  As with other spiritual awakenings I did not see this one coming.

I had the opportunity to meet Steve for lunch after he returned to Connecticut from his pilgrimage.  He told how he was first “called” and numerous stories of his experience on the Camino (“The Way of St James”).  He also recommended watching Martin Sheen’s movie “The Way”, and a number of other references to help me learn more about the history and significance of the Camino. (see Camino History page)

My thoughts about a possible trip began to grow a life of their own and change shape in many ways.

In the fall I met Steve once again for lunch, this time in Litchfield.  By now I was seriously considering the reality of my walking the Camino.  He was very tolerant of me as I peppered him with questions.  After lunch Steve took me to meet a friend of his, Father Bill, who is in charge of the Montfort Fathers retreat center.  I discovered that on the grounds of this former monastery there is a reproduction of the shrine of Lourdes in France.  Having been raised in the Catholic Church I was familiar with the shrine but not at all sure where the original Lourdes was located.   I checked a map and discovered that it was in the Pyrenees east of St Jean Pied du Port (St JPP), the traditional start for the Camino Frances.

Consequently I found myself with three goals on my new journey:

Goal #1 – Will be to begin my pilgrimage in Lourdes and walk 100 miles through the French Pyrenees to St JPP.

Goal #2 – Will be reaching the cathedral of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela via walking 500 miles across Spain the Camino.   (And if time allows to continue an additional 55 miles to Capo Finesterra.

Goal #3 – The final goal came to mind as I remembered that my parents, on their only international trip, vacationed in  Portugal and visited Fatima.  A little research revealed that 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.  So it seemed natural to add this on at the end as my third goal.  I will take the train to Porto, Portugal and then rent a car  to  visit this last of the shrines.

In hockey, making three goals in one game is referred to as a “Hat Trick”.  The Spiritual “Hat Trick” of my pilgrimage is to  visit these three shrines – Lourdes, Camino de Santiago to Santiago de Compostela, and Fatima.

It was not until December, after months of mental wrestling, that I decided to “pull the trigger” and purchased my airline tickets to Paris.  I am scheduled to leave mid-September and return mid-November 2017.

So far I have only detailed the progression of events but not the underlying feelings and spiritual motivations.  There are too many to list here, and many more will be revealed I am sure, but I will try to touch on some of the key motivations.

Certainly, the most important motivation of all has been the last to materialize.  My pilgrimage has become an opportunity for me, with your help, to raise money for a cause very dear to my family. Please click Support O I Foundation to learn more about contributing to the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.  Thank you.

I believe my spiritual journey, or at least my awareness of it, began February 21st, 1996 when I had my last drink of alcohol and joined AA.

Three years ago I began Hotchkiss Publishing with the publication of “Dear Friend” by Sandy Beach, my cousin, in celebration of his 50th AA anniversary.  It is a collection of 52 spiritual “letters” written by him.  Working on this wonderful book changed the course of my life, leading me to publish additional books and create a heightened awareness of my own personal spiritual journey.  I have been put on a path which has opened the doors & windows of my world and my soul in ways I could have never imagined.

On October 23rd of this year I will turn 69 years old.  I fully realize that I am blessed to be healthy enough to even contemplate walking 600+ miles. My father, Fred, died from prostate cancer at the age of 69 and my mother, Alice, took her own life at the age of 60 after battling depression for many years.  Seven years ago, I too, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was successfully removed and I remain in remission. I also have issues with depression, but I believe that unlike my mother, I am winning my battle with depression thanks to AA and a spiritual shift in my perspective.

This pilgrimage represents an opportunity for me to connect with people from all over the world in new and meaningful ways. (see: Prayer Book Entry to include yourself or a loved one)

I recently discovered the following quote from William Ward which nicely encapsulates my purpose for making this pilgrimage.

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool
To weep is to risk being called sentimental
To reach out to another is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To try is to risk failure

But risk must be taken
because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But they cannot learn, feel, change, grow or really live.
Chained by their servitude they are slaves who have forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is truly free.

Lastly I will share a surprising phenomena which began after reading Steve’s blog.  Each time I would talk to someone about my contemplating walking the Camino I would begin to cry.  It wasn’t until I purchased my flight tickets that this has lessened.  I believe I am on the right path.

I will be posting to my Blog Journal and Facebook periodically if you wish to follow my preparations and journey use the pop-up menu on the bottom right of this page to enter your email address or  “like”  the Spiritual Hat Trick Facebook page or register for.

Gratefully yours,

– Bill Ludwig, Branford, CT    1/30/2017