100-mile Camino walk was metaphor for life for two pilgrims

Categories: Around the Diocese

August 15, 2014, edition
By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

Reaching the cathedral in Santiago, Spain, Tim Drake felt tired and had sore feet, but he was grateful, thankful and filled with awe.

Beginning his journey in Astorga, Spain, he had just walked more than 100 miles along the Camino de Santiago, a network of paths that lead to the tomb of St. James the Apostle. He and his friend, Jim Wildeson, a member of St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, walked the Camino Frances path.


Jim Wildeson, left, and tim Drake participate in a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. Photo by Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

The Camino, which pilgrims have followed for more than a thousand years, receives hundreds of thousands of travelers from around the world each year.

It received special attention when featured in the 2010 movie “The Way.” Drake, a former senior writer for The National Catholic Register and a member of St. Stephen Parish in St. Stephen, interviewed Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen when they were in Minneapolis promoting the movie. It was then that Drake became interested in walking the Camino.

The romanticism of the movie was deceiving, however. Drake discovered the more taxing realities of the Camino after he accompanied Wildeson July 13 to 24. Dozens of other men in central Minnesota also participated in their own Camino-like pilgrimages and group walks organized by their morning prayer groups during the same time frame.

The movie stars in “The Way” were not bothered by the heat or the difficulties of carrying enough water like Drake and Wildeson were. They did not have blisters or bed bugs either like some of the travelers Drake and Wildeson met along the path.

Still, like the movie, a highlight was reaching Santiago.

“It was beautiful,” Drake said. “The church is a mixture of architectural styles with so much detail. I knelt down and thanked Christ and St. James for making it safely.”

Because of the heat, around 90 degrees, Drake and Wildeson began walking around 6 a.m., took a short break about 10 or 11 a.m. and then continued walking until 2 or 3 p.m., when they found an “albergue” (pilgrim hostel) for the night. They often participated in Mass at a nearby church and ate a late supper at a café or restaurant.

Wildeson said the experience was a chance to reflect on what God desired for him. The journey provided time for reflection, even with the day-to-day distractions that came with walking for miles and meeting people along the way. All of it led to a deeper understanding of what is required to love God and love your neighbor, he said.

Drake saw the Camino as an analogy for the journey of life. Like life, the physical path of the Camino has ups and downs and challenges. Santiago, he said, was a foretaste of heaven, a destination which everyone on the path hopes to reach.

Wildeson agreed, recalling his feelings of disbelief and excitement when they finally reached Santiago and finished the Camino journey.

“It was amazing,” he said. “Many things contributed to it: the foreign country, people from around the world, the historical aspect. Santiago is just dripping with history.”