“Dare to dream, and then pay the price of your dreams!” This was one of the lessons I learned on the Virtual Camino de Santiago Challenge, run by the Dioceses of Calahorra and La Calzada-Logroño at www.challengelarioja.com. With my first Camino cancelled because of CoVid – after a year of enthusiastic preparation – I was extremely grateful for the sudden opportunity to take the Virtual Challenge. Through this guided experience, I learnt what it means to be a pilgrim on pilgrimage. Even virtually, I experienced the transformative power of the Camino.
Participants were assigned a Pilgrim Friend in Spain, and also a Pilgrim Family, with regular contact via Zoom meetings. My first challenge was undertaking the whole thing in Spanish, using Google Translator, although an English version is underway. My second challenge was rescheduling my life to accept this sudden, unexpected daily commitment for the next month.
We started in St Jean-Pied-de-Port in late June, with the goal of completing 25 stages and arriving in Santiago by 25 July for St James’ Day. The daily activities for each stage were: a life lesson to be overcome, physical preparation with a training video, town & church video, talk by a spiritual leader on the day’s lesson, prayer or guided reflection with song videos, personal journal entry, video testimonials by pilgrims and hospitaleros, research to solve 3 ongoing mysteries, video of pilgrims undertaking that day’s stage, additional readings and links to significant movies, and a knowledge test with your written evidence of having passed the day’s lesson. It took me at least 2 hours per day to work through all this, but I could see the value of genuine commitment.
“Are you doing what you are supposed to be doing in life?” “What’s your real vocation?” “What signs have been appearing in your life that you should pay attention to?” “How do you find joy in life, even during crises?” These were some of the questions discussed in our lessons. We learnt how to listen to the Camino talking to us, how to help others and how to be helped, and how to become
grateful for every small blessing. By the end, we had been guided in documenting a Personal Life Project to transform our lives. “Choose life”, we were taught, by thoughtfully and proactively examining and shaping our lives. After starting on my personal action plan, the Camino worked its magic and opportunities started to appear immediately. One of the treasures of this Virtual Camino, then, is the resultant personal journal with life plan.
I met some amazing and beautiful people on this virtual Camino. I discovered a very articulate, proactive and passionate group in the Camino world. While the Camino is recovering from the pandemic, I can thoroughly recommend this virtual Camino Challenge.