Spiritual preparation

The Way, spiritual preparation

Although there is physical effort involved, the pilgrimage is essentially a spiritual experience and it is recommended that pilgrims take some time before the start to prepare for this.

Before the start, you can contact the local parish priest for advice on spiritual matters and to recommend some material, especially for foreign pilgrims, as the material we have at the Pilgrim’s Office, listed below, is mostly in Spanish. In general, the pilgrim should prepare for reflection and prayer along the Way, starting days before leaving.

Reasons for the Pilgrimage

We recommend that you reflect on your reasons for doing the Way of St. James. Traditionally these used to be classified into three groups: a personal wish; to fulfil a vow or promise; or as penance for sins committed. Some people may be attracted by the cultural side of the Way, others by the landscape, etc.; but we can say that all the reasons are complementary to the spiritual and religious essence that characterises the Way of St. James, and going on the Way is definitely an experience that very often brings the pilgrims closer to God.

Here we present the pilgrims’ most common reasons to make the pilgrimage:

  • To find themselves
  • To find a meaning to life
  • To enjoy an atmosphere for reflection
  • To fulfil a promise
  • To meet other pilgrims
  • To follow in the footsteps of millions of pilgrims who have walked the same path for centuries
  • To learn about the culture and art along the Way
  • To honour St. James, one of Christ’s disciples
  • To deepen and enhance themselves in the Faith

The Apostle St. James

The Way you will go on (no matter what route you chose) has the Tomb of St. James in Compostela as the finishing point. Who was St. James? What connection does he have with us? Why do so many people go on a pilgrimage to his Tomb? The answer to these questions is the first step you must take in any pilgrimage. The books we recommend below can help you answer them.
El Apóstol Santiago y su Sepulcro, by Juan José Cebrián Franco. Edic. Paulinas.
Santiago el Hijo del Trueno. Comic inspired St. James’s life. Pilgrim’s Reception Office in Santiago.
El Apóstol Santiago y su proyección en la Historia. Diez temas didácticos. Pilgrim’s Reception Office

Making the Pilgrimage in a Group

Perhaps you are a group of friends who have decided to go on the Way together. Here is some material that can help you prepare the pilgrimage: Catequesis para preparar la Peregrinación a Santiago and Guía Espiritual, both were published to mark Holy Year 2010 and can be downloaded from our website (see Pilgrim Services section, Downloads). There is also a book written by José Miguel Burgui Ongai that may be helpful: En Camino a Santiago con Jóvenes, Central Catequística Salesiana, 1993; in this book Burgui recounts his experience of a pilgrimage to Compostela with a group of young people.

Blessing before departing on the Way

Many pilgrims wish to receive the Pilgrim’s Blessing before leaving. From the Pilgrim’s Reception Office we encourage you to do so. You can go to your local pastor or you can recite any of the following prayers on your own:

Blessing 1. (Codex Calixtinus. Sermon “Veneranda dies” LI, c. XVII))

“In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, accept the purse, this symbol of your pilgrimage, that you may be worthy to arrive chastened and cleansed at the threshold of St. James to whom you wish to go; and with your journey completed, may you return safe to us with delight, with Him as a guarantee, Who lives and reigns as God forever and ever, Amen.
Accept this staff as a support for the journey and for the labour on the route of your pilgrimage, so that you may be able to overcome all the throngs of the enemy and arrive secure at the threshold of St. James; and having completed your passage, may you return to us with delight, with the agreement of Him Who lives and reigns as God. World without end. Amen.”

Blessing 2.

God the Father:

We pray for these pilgrims (Names)……………… who are soon to leave on a pilgrimage to the Tomb of St. James the Great in Santiago de Compostela. In doing so they will honour St. James, Apostle, friend of Jesus and martyr for his faith.

That faith has a long tradition of pilgrimages, of thousands of the faithful travelling to that Holy place for religious reasons. The very word “pilgrim” comes from the Latin peregrine, which means ‘foreigner’ or ‘wanderer’; someone who travels in faith to another place in an experience far from their normal lives. For this reason Abraham is recognised as the first pilgrim described in the Sacred Scriptures because he was called to journey to the land chosen by God. Centuries later, Abraham’s descendents embarked on their pilgrimage to the Promised Land from Egypt. The birth of Jesus himself is marked by the pilgrimage of the Magi, the three kings who followed the star to pay homage to the Messiah and it is recorded that Jesus himself travelled on pilgrimage many times to Jerusalem.

We pray that (Names)……………… be inspired by these examples of pilgrimage described in the Sacred Scriptures.

God the Father, we ask you to bless these scallop shells, the traditional symbols of pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela – we pray that (Names)…………… bear them proudly to their destination at the Tomb of the Apostle.

We ask you to bless these sticks and rucksacks, symbols of the support (Names)…………… will receive from friends old and new who they will meet on the Way.

And to bless (Names)………………, may they travel safely and enjoy days of happy companionship, prayer along the way and nights of restful sleep until they reach their journey’s end.

Together we now say the Pilgrims’ Prayer:
St James, Apostle, chosen among the first, you were the first to drink the Cup of the Lord
and you are the great protector of pilgrims. Make us strong in faith and happy in hope on our pilgrim journey, following the path of Christian life, and sustain us so that we may finally reach the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Names)……………… as you go from this place to begin your final preparations, leave with the love and fond good wishes of all who know you.
Bow your heads as we pray for God’s blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your cheeks.
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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