Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Com-pan-eros on el Camino

A pilgrim walking alone will meet lots of other pregrinos on the trail - one never needs to feel alone. 
Walking with a friend or in a group adds a new dimension to walking a long distance trail and I love it!  I first walked with a group of 10 women in 2001 on the Coast to Coast walk across England.  We were free to linger longer in small villages it we wanted to or stay with the group.  Mostly we all stuck together.  It was a wonderful experience and the camaraderie and caring made the walk memorable.
In 2006 five friends walked the Via Francigena - five women, average age 55 - and it was a marvelous experience.  With five pairs of eyes looking out for markers and signs we didn't get lost, not once!  When one person was feeling a bit flat, the others rallied and helped her through. 
In May and June a group of amaWalkers walked about 350km of the Camino Frances from Roncesvalles to Santiago. 14 people strung out along the Camino during the day, came together at night for a communal meal filled with laughter and stories of the day. During the day one might meet up with members of the group and walk with them - or not. We shared plasters, pain killers, bread, fruit, water. Sitting outdoors in the evening after a long day walking, sipping wine, comparing sights seen and people met is almost 'gospel-like'.
 One can imagine medieval pilgrims doing exactly the same thing over the centuries.  Medieval pilgrims mostly walked in groups, for safety and security, and for companionship.  Various guilds and brotherhoods appointed guides to lead groups of pilgrims to Santiago.  The Knights of Santiago appointed Saint Bona of Pisa an official guide after leading a large number of pilgrims on the long and dangerous thousand-mile journey to Compostela. She successfully completed the trip nine times. Despite being ill at the time, she took and completed a tenth trip, and returned home to Pisa, dying shortly thereafter in the room she kept near the church of San Martino in Pisa, where her body has been preserved to the present day.
A Catholic Bishop once said:“Solitude is necessary and often welcome on the Camino but there are times when we need com-pan-eros, the ones we eat bread with.Bread is so evident at Spanish meals, not only those wonderful bocadillos, but the bread that comes with everything you eat.As the Spaniards say “Com pan y vino, ande el camino”.With bread and wine we walk the camino!A companion is someone we share bread with, not just the edible type but also the bread of our experiences and the many insights, revelations and learnings that we consume as we walk along the Way."
I am looking forward to sharing bread, wine and experiences with this wonderful group on our journey along el Camino to Santiago de Compostela.


  1. What a beautiful, Sil! Thank you for introducing me to St Bona of Pisa. I had never heard of her. I will pray to her as we walk to Santiago.

    Blessings on your own journey with your own com-pan-eros!

    Love too :-)

  2. I think that breaking and sharing of bread along the way, this is what I miss the most right now!! Buen Camino to this new group! Praying for all of you on this wonderful journey!

  3. Thanks for this lovely post Sil - I'm passing it on to my friends who are considering walking with me next year in June - a first time on the Camino for all of us!