The longest journey of my life was about to begin, and I felt unworthy. Preparing to walk the Way of St. James should have filled me with excitement, but all I felt was doubt. Who was I to think I could do this? Who was I to seek the Lord, His love, and His will?
Two years ago, my best friend Erin invited me to walk the Camino de Santiago with her. Erin is a wonderful Catholic woman – strong, holy, courageous, and steadfast in her faith. It made sense for someone like her to pursue a Catholic pilgrimage—but me? I have made so many mistakes, and just getting to Mass on the occasional Sunday was my greatest spiritual achievement. My “earthly tent” was filled with concerns about how to look and how to be successful, which heavily weighed me down.
But Christ has always told us to come as we are. And so, in August I ventured out onto El Camino exactly as I was, feeling the weight of my unworthiness, regret, and earthly tent on my narrow shoulders.
In the middle of my Camino, I came upon this verse in the Book of Wisdom:
“For who knows God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and uncertain our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthly tent weighs down the mind with its many concerns. Scarcely can we guess the things on earth, and only with difficulty grasp what is at hand; but things in heaven, who can search them out? Or who can know your counsel, unless you give Wisdom and send your Holy Spirit from on high?”
It was then that I realized I had been asking the wrong question. Instead of asking, “Who was I to seek the Lord?,” I should have asked, “Who was I to seek the Lord alone? Who was I to seek the Lord without the guidance and support of the Holy Spirit?”
Two best friends, “basking in Basque Country,” on El Camino.
Michele, the author, right, with her best friend, Erin.
To say the Camino found Erin and I physically unprepared is an understatement. That first week was hard. But the Holy Spirit led us, and we found that all of our needs were met at the end of each day.
Anytime I felt frustrated, confused, or exhausted, it became a habit to pray and ask Jesus to send the Holy Spirit. I prayed to the Holy Spirit for strength and aid.
The Holy Spirit delivered, not just in my physical struggles of sore feet and tired legs, but also in my mental struggles. He began to heal my thoughts.
I felt my heart open as Christ showed me that I am worthy of His love and that I am worthy to seek Him with all my might. He reminded me that I am His daughter and that our relationship is unique to the way God made me. The Holy Spirit helped me shake my earthly tent, let go of my feelings of unworthiness, and put my utter trust in Him.
My Camino taught me that I cannot fully encounter Christ without the Holy Spirit.
I also learned that my Camino was just the beginning. A French man we met on The Way put it best, “The real Camino starts after the Camino.”
Seeking the Holy Spirit was an important part of my Camino. It’s called the Way of St. James, but it became my Way to Christ. Led by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I am now free to pursue God’s perfect plan for me.
Michele Doheny believes in “coming as you are” and in the transformational power of pilgrimage. Michele grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her parents and five siblings. She graduated from Temple University with a B.A. in Media Studies and Production and a Certificate in American Sign Language. Michele loves to travel and listen to other people’s stories. She currently lives in South Philly, where she spends her free time with friends and family, planning her next adventure and learning how to play the harmonica.