The Camino de Santiago is a life-changing experience for those who walk it, so there’s nothing better than walking together as a family. It’s an opportunity for all the family members to practice the virtues and values that make a human being virtuous and just.
Striving to live this experience as a moment of personal and spiritual growth is what differentiates a pilgrim from a mere tourist or hiker. Who would want to travel a long way with the bare essentials on his back? Undoubtedly, someone pursuing a purpose, a goal, an end, or a promise.
You have to walk about 60 miles in order to earn the certificate of Compostela and the plenary indulgence. This year, 2021, and next year have been declared Compostela Holy Years: years of grace and forgiveness.
In short, a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela can be a moment of renewal in our lives and that of our family. It can also be a watershed moment for us to find a new beginning.
A gift for our family
It’s certainly a great experience, and one of the best gifts we can give to our children and to ourselves. If we make this pilgrimage, we’ll all cherish it in our memories and in our hearts.
Sometimes, we tend to dedicate only our meager “spare time” to our family. Work life, errands or various other commitments steal most of our day. Making this pilgrimage journey with our family can be a great opportunity to establish stronger bonds with our family members. It can also help us to remember the deepest values that sustain our home.
Shall we look at more reasons to take this walk together?
The route of St. James is an important learning opportunity in our lives. In the case of children and teenagers, it will show them that every effort has its reward.
In fact, the reward isn’t merely being able to check with satisfaction the map with the points and stages covered and to look with pride at our certificate, complete with the stamps given at each stage of the journey. It’s much more! For example,
- It’s a wonderful journey during which the family puts into practice values and feelings such as hard work, perseverance, generosity, constancy, austerity, hospitality, tolerance, respect for others, love … things that can rarely be found so closely united with each other. All of these are fundamental values that we should live every day.
- Each pilgrim has a wonderful opportunity while walking to reflect and to consider reasons for renewal. If each one strives for personal improvement, the whole family also progresses and advances.
- It’s a unique space and time to cultivate family ties. We enjoy a relaxed atmosphere—somewhat tiring, yes, but far from our routine obligations and away from our usual place of residence.
- The days of the pilgrimage are favorable for deepening our relationship with our children, since we have hours and miles to talk with them. In this way we can get to know them better, discover their motivations, their joys and sorrows, their ambitions, their dreams and desires, their worries and their friendships.
- As we advance and finish stages, we’ll cross paths with other pilgrims like us. It’s amazing how easy it is to get along with other people during these days! Sometimes children are surprised at the camaraderie and the bonds that can be established along the route. The mere fact of how they wish each other “¡Buen Camino!” as they cross paths with other pilgrims fascinates them.
- The days dedicated to pilgrimage are the best opportunity to encourage our children to learn how to do things for themselves. They can prepare their backpack and carry it for themselves, just like the rest of the pilgrims. They have to learn to manage their resources: water, food, spare clothes and their small first aid kit. They’ll learn to pay attention to the yellow arrows on the Camino so as not to get lost, and will enter the hostels or information points to get their credentials stamped. They must also make sure they don’t lose any of the little they carry with them—a lesson in independence! Their pilgrim’s walking stick will be their guide, and they’ll be proud to carry it with them.
- Of course, the Camino is also a time for leisure and fun. While walking you can sing, tell jokes, tell anecdotes, play “I spy” or look for shapes in the clouds. The evenings can be spent playing board games with the family, reading, consulting the guides to prepare for the next day’s stage or bathing in a nearby river.
- We can also enjoy the sites of cultural, historic and artistic value that the route has to offer. The Camino de Santiago was declared the first cultural itinerary in Europe. And the fact of doing it on foot (or by bike or horse) makes it easier for us to contemplate, calmly and quietly, all the artistic treasures offered by its towns and cities. Something wonderful might be found around practically any corner!
- Obviously, we cannot forget that our pilgrimage will be an immersion in nature and the rural landscape. How much we can enjoy the outdoors! We can also learn lessons about fauna, flora, biology and geography in just a few days: we’ll get to know and identify plants and trees, we’ll see crops typical of each area, we’ll discover all kinds of insects, we’ll set foot on different terrains and surfaces, and we’ll learn to identify symbols on maps.
- And finally, we’ll get into better shape—both physically and spiritually! We can pray the Pilgrim’s Prayer before leaving and the Rosary while walking.
It is always a good time to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. However, this year, due to the pandemic, it’s fundamental to be aware of the various safety measures adopted in each territory.
Even under current circumstances, it’s a highly recommended trip. Families who decide to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with children will experience a real family adventure full of values. Likewise, the emotions and lessons will remain in the memory and hearts of all.