Jason here, with a guest post about the last stage of my walk with Gabe, from Santiago to Finisterre.
It was an epic trip for Gabe and me, going from Santiago to the coast in three days. We walked long distances, fast, through unpredictable weather, and had great conversations along the way. Susi finished her pilgrimage in Santiago, the traditional end of the road, and met us at the coast. So, why did I want to add another 100 kilometers to the 700 we already walked? Of course, it was wonderful to have the time with Gabe, but there was more to it for me.
I needed to walk to Finisterre because of the story of St. James (brother of John, son of Zebedee), and because of my prayers for this pilgrimage. While many pilgrims aim for the Cathedral in Santiago and the remains of St James, I felt much more inspired by his journey to the end of the earth (the literal roots of the place-name Finisterre). James left his home and family to follow Jesus. Then, sometime shortly after the Christian church began in Jerusalem, he left his new family of other disciples, in order to follow the mission that Jesus gave them, to take good news to the very ends of the earth.
On our walk, Gabe and I discussed how James may have experienced this journey. He probably brought at least one companion with him, and travelled on foot over thousands of kilometers, through different tribes and villages and languages. He depended on others to keep him alive through their hospitality. Eventually he reached the Iberian peninsula (now Spain) where the Romans had outposts and the local cultures must have been vastly different from James’ own culture. Anyone who has experienced profound cultural displacement knows how confusing, exhausting, (and wonderful!) it can feel over time. Tradition says that James saw very few converts on his long journey, but had a small congregation gathered in Northwest Spain by the time he departed. I imagine this felt disappointing to James. He saw the dramatic beginnings of the church in Jerusalem, with over 3,000 converts on the first day – and then his own experience was quite different. Somehow, James was persistent and faithful through this confusing cross-cultural odyssey. I encountered this tile-art on a house between Santiago and Finisterre, depicting James preaching to locals .
Sometime before 40 CE, James walked to the coast of the Iberian peninsula, as far West as anyone could walk. I imagine the encouragement he felt having completed the mission that Jesus entrusted to his apostles. He had carried the good news to the end of the earth. It was a marker point of affirmation for him, in the midst of a life-pilgrimage full of uncertainty. Soon after James reached Finisterre, he received news from Jerusalem that caused him to return there as quickly as possible. He was martyred when he returned.
As we walked across Spain, we prayed through the Psalms of the Old Testament together, and I asked God to focus my prayers on what is most important for this stage of my life. The prayer that has risen in my heart relates to James’ life journey. Lord, grant me the grace to faithfully complete the pilgrimage you set before me. In the last few years, my journey has felt (in varying degrees) confusing, uncertain, painful, and yet very right. Now in my 50s, the idea of completing my journey is gaining relevance. For this reason, I needed to walk on St James’ way to the ends of the earth, praying for the grace to be faithful through the twists and turns of life’s pilgrimage. I felt deep encouragement when we first saw the coast on the horizon, when we walked on the beach into the beautiful little town of Finisterre, and when we arrived at the Western end of Europe to watch the sunset. I believe I am receiving the grace for which I long.