Upper IV and ‘The Way’

Posted: 29th September 2020

The importance of pilgrimage.

Mrs McDermott reports that, as part of their unit on Pilgrimage, Upper IV have watched the film, ‘The Way’, made in 2010, about a man’s journey along The Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James, the network of pilgrimage routes that ends at the tomb of St James in the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.

This is a major pilgrimage, dating back to the ninth century.  It is a popular pilgrimage and people walk or cycle along the ways, sometimes all in one go and sometimes stage by stage, taking several years.

The film, ‘The Way’ stars Martin Sheen as ‘Tom’ who is walking the route as a way to understand his deceased son who was killed while taking part in the pilgrimage.  Tom meets several other pilgrims, all searching for greater meaning in their lives.

Caterina in Upper IVA reviewed ‘The Way’: 

‘The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage which leads to the shrine of the apostle St James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. This is a good pilgrimage to go on as you will make many new friends along the way. You will also become closer to God as, during the walk, you are allowed time to think for yourself while you walk.

However, going on this pilgrimage is not just related to religion.  For example, ‘Tom’ decided to finish the pilgrimage for his dead son, ‘Daniel’. Another character, ‘Sarah’, went because she needed time away after she had divorced her violent husband and ‘Jack’ went because his publisher sent him to write a book on the Camino.  Sometimes the reasons are as simple as a walk to lose weight to fit into a suit, which is why the character ‘Joost’ was on the pilgrimage, even though he confessed it was also because his marriage was going through a difficult time.  People who go on the pilgrimage will, of course, get closer to God, as already mentioned, but they will also get closer to the people they are going with or they will make new friends along the walk to Santiago de Compostela.

The pilgrimage is not very expensive as accommodations are not luxurious and food is often provided. The pilgrimage lasts around five weeks, however, it depends at what walking pace you choose to proceed. ‘Sarah’, for example, had been stuck in the same place for a long time as she did not want to carry on. To prepare for this pilgrimage people could add to their bag essential items such as earplugs, as pilgrims will probably be sleeping in dormitories. A guidebook and some research would come in useful as this will make your walk more enjoyable as you will understand the meaning of the places along the way and will also just make the whole experience much more enjoyable.

I liked this film as it balanced religious significance and a story quite well. ‘The Way’ didn’t feel like a documentary on the Camino but you liked the characters in the same way as in other movies. It definitely made me decide that in the future I would like to walk the Camino de Santiago with some friends. The contrast of the different characters made this movie interesting and definitely very funny. The religious links are very subtle and the film could be portrayed in many different ways not only as a religious one. In some shots, however, the sound is not very good and the music is a bit loud and blocks out people’s conversation. Overall, I would recommend ‘The Way’ as it makes you want to experience something similar in life. At the end of the film it shows that the father, ‘Tom’, has decided to travel the world just as his late son wanted to do.  This also shows how sometimes we should not judge someone’s choice if we do not know how much it would mean to them and that we might actually like it as well. 

Staff member, Ms Corkery, has undertaken The Camino de Santiago.  Ms Corkery says, ‘I walked The Camino de Santiago in the summer of 2014. It took me thirty days from San Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago, roughly 800 kms. From Santiago de Compostela I walked a further three days to Finisterre, which is also a traditional thing to do! 

The highlights for me were to visit some fantastic cities and cathedrals in places like Burgos and Leon, meeting interesting people along the way from all over the world, and getting to hear their stories. The swinging of the massive Botafumeiro in the Cathedral in Santiago was also a highlight.  This a famous thurible which produces large volumes of smoke and can reach a height of 21 metres at the top of its swing.  I also visited Cruz de Ferro, the highest point on the Camino de Santiago, where you leave a stone to symbolise leaving your burdens behind! I would definitely recommend the experience’.

Mr Ferguson has also taken part in walking the Camino de Santiago, as he relates here: ‘I walked part of the Camino in the summer before I first joined St Augustine’s Priory, back in 2014. I went with my wife, who was not yet my wife at the time. But we only had about 10 days, so after flying into Barcelona we took a train to Ponferrada and from there began the 200km walk to Santiago. The walk wasn’t difficult, although I ended up suffering at points with blisters. My wife, somehow, never got a single one. The whole trip was peaceful and, unlike most holidays, utterly simple. Get up eat and walk. Stop when you’re hungry or need a coffee.

A nice memory is taking a high pass over a hill stretch and getting to a church as the rain chucked down. The next place we wanted to stay at was a walk of several hours.  Luckily, the church was also a hostel. Unluckily, it was full. But the nuns offered us a place to roll out on the church floor. Naturally, we weren’t the only ones in similar need. By morning, we realised nearly the whole church floor was packed with pilgrims thankful for a roof to shelter them. With the morning sun now warm and drying the path, we began walking again.’

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