The Camino provides us the opportunity to adopt a new daily spiritual habit, such as journaling, prayer, meditation, or scripture readings. One cannot live on bread and hiking alone! Reflecting on my state of mind during each of my Caminos, I recall several approaches to enhancing spirituality. Although popular advice is to carry less, I could not resist sneaking something small into my backpack to remind me to do a spiritual practice each day. Instead of weighing me down, these tools spiritually lifted me up!
On my first Camino, I wanted to learn the history and embrace the pilgrim lifestyle, so I focused on the bonus material in the guidebooks. I found John Brierley’s A Pilgrims Guide to the Camino Portugués packed with historical and spiritual aspects of the route. Most notably, Monte Santiaguiño in Padrón, pictured below.
After walking all day to get to Padrón, I continued up to Monte Santiaguiño where it is said to be the place where St. James preached. At the top of this peak, there is a pile of big granite rocks with a statue of St. James and a cross. It is the most significant spot on the Camino Portugués and is even featured on the cover of Brierley’s guidebook. Here is an excerpt about the monument to St. James in Padrón:
Nearby is one of the best kept Santiago secrets and little visited Monte Santiaguiño. Here, legend tells us, is where St. James first preached the gospel message.
Standing imposingly above the river it is not difficult to envisage him delivering Christ’s message of unconditional love and forgiveness from this remote and peaceful place. It is accessed, somewhat inconspicuously, between two houses on the road to Noia (just beyond the Fonte do Carme). Adjoining Santiaguiño Mount is the small chapel of Santiaguiño with a stone motif of the apostle baptizing a pilgrim with water poured from a scallop shell. While it is located less than a kilometer from the town center, it is a very steep climb up the stone steps along the Stations of the Cross but well worth the effort to this most significant of Jacobean sites that forms the front cover of this guide. Just as the vast majority of pilgrims (as well as the population at large) believe there is only one Camino de Santiago, they also mistakenly believe that St. James arrived in Spain dead—not alive. They therefore miss, perhaps, the most important part of the Santiago story—his life and teaching rather than his death and burial.
For this reason, I urge all pilgrims, no matter how tired your body is from walking, to climb the mountain and see this monument.
The other book I used, Camino Portugués My Way, purchased at the famous Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto, had fascinating tidbits but was a little bulky, so I did a pilgrim hack to reduce the weight, as shown below.
For my second Camino, I enjoyed pulling a daily reflection card from The Way of St. James deck purchased in Santiago. Continuing this daily card tradition on my third Camino with the Sacred Traveler deck became a fun icebreaker. I had pilgrims I met pull a card while I read comments from the accompanying app. To reduce bulk, I brought only one card for each day of the Camino Primitivo.
Also for my third Camino, in 2018, I committed to read scripture daily through the One Year Bible reading plan. This book is hefty, and I didn’t want to slice it down. Sure, there’s a Kindle version, but I try to avoid screen reading when I’m away from my work. Having made copies of readings for the month I was to travel and walk the Primitivo, as I finished each day’s reading, I recycled the pages—lightening my load each day!
For my Camino Invierno last year, I brought Karin Kiser’s, Your Inner Camino mini guidebook. As suggested by the author, each day I randomly opened it and pondered that particular point. I loved the contemplative activities in this booklet and the size—no paring needed!
I definitely think about what I want to work on before each Camino, and all these tools enhanced my experience. But, there is something to be said for just letting go and seeing what unfolds day after day. You can decide if you feel the need to bring a guide, prefer to write your own experiences in a journal, or find a fresh way of spiritual connection while on your Camino.
Also see, Counting My Camino Blessings.
Note: This is the full version of the article published in the June 2020 newsletter for American Pilgrims on the Camino (See page 26 in “La Concha” newsletter).
Members of American Pilgrims on the Camino may submit articles to be considered for future newsletters. See guidelines and details at: https://americanpilgrims.org/newsletter-la-concha/
Other books to consider:
Spiritual and Walking Guide: León to Santiago by Stacey Wittig. Travel writer Stacey Wittig thought of everything with this guidebook for the last major section of the Camino Francés. It not only includes daily prayers to reflect on, but also details about where to sleep and daily walking distances.
View full review.
Everyday Camino with Annie by Annie O’Neil. A pocket-size book that features 40 days of inspirational quotes and messages that one can read while on the Camino, or anywhere.
View full review.
The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho
Coehlo’s first book is significant because it was during his Camino pilgrimage that he decided to follow his dream and become a writer. Coelho weaves in symbolism and history about the Camino de Santiago throughout his adventure.
View full review.
Returning From Camino by Alexander John Shaia
Whether you are a pilgrim on the Camino, or elsewhere in the world, this is the first guidebook that physically, mentally and emotionally prepares you to return home.
Do you have a favorite guidebook or spiritual practice that you do on your Caminos? Please share below!