My father and I were worried. We had come to the end of the quaint Spanish city walking along the pilgrim route of the Way of St. James (el Camino de Santiago), and we still couldn’t locate my younger brother Michael. Although my dad's shins were hurting him, he was ready to retrace his steps and suffer whatever he had to in order to find his youngest son.
Could we really have passed Michael? My dad and I had stopped at one point to care for his shins while Michael had continued on ahead of us. After resuming our journey along the Camino, we expected to find Michael waiting for us around every corner. We didn’t find him.
I succeeded in going back alone to look for Michael only by convincing my dad that I could move faster if he watched our packs. After walking almost all the way back through the city, I was ready to turn back to tell dad the bad news. Then I saw my brother. What a surprise!
When we were finally reunited, although much relieved, my dad was still curious about how we had ended up passing Michael. Michael explained that he had stopped to rest at the ruins of the pilgrims’ hospital just before the beginning of the city thinking we would see him there. My dad knew the spot and said that he had even stopped to take a picture of the ruins. When Michael examined the picture, he smiled.
Surprise! My dad had photographed the ruins completely oblivious to Michael who was napping in a shady spot.
The Way of St. James surprises pilgrims all the time. The Way taught me to be open to see surprises as arrows that point me to Jesus where I might not expect to find him. The Way of St. James is more than a 500-mile walk through Northern Spain. It is a pilgrimage of the Way, who is a person. Jesus is the Way. St. James, as a friend and an Apostle of the Way, loves to direct us to Jesus and say just what Our Lady says, “Do whatever he tells you.”
As the Church celebrates the Feast of St. James on July 25th, even if we can't go on a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle in the beautiful city of Santiago de Compostela, we can be spiritual pilgrims. We can ask St. James, our friend, to help us to be open to the surprises of life and see them as arrows directing us always to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.