These past few months, I’ve been acutely nostalgic for the Camino. My travel schedule for work has picked up significantly, with less than 2 full weeks home since the start of 2018. While it's a blessing to work with talented teams on exciting projects, amid the early morning flights and late night emails I kept thinking of the Camino – If I could only “get away” for a bit, I thought, I could press the reset button and come back rejuvenated, restored, ready to dive back in.
On one of those Monday morning flights, I decided to forego opening my laptop, instead cracking open Fr. James Martin’s book “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything”. Fr. Martin quotes fellow Jesuit Walter Burghardt’s definition of prayer as “a long, loving look at the real”:
“Prayer is “long”, said Burghardt, because it is done in a quiet, unhurried way. “Loving” because it happens in a context of love. Prayer is a “look” because it has to do with being aware…Finally, prayer is “real” because our spiritual life is primarily about what happened in our daily life.”
On reading this passage, I realized what I really missed about the Camino was not that it was an escape from life, but that it had made it so easy to take a “long, loving look at the real”. The deliberate rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other created a pace where it was okay to go slow. Okay to be silent. The natural beauty of the trail made it easy to look around in awe – easy to look lovingly at the present moment and be aware of God’s presence in the very real swaying of the wheat and murmurs of a roomful of pilgrims at night. When I missed the Camino, what I really was desiring was its environment of continuous, simple prayer.
But we can’t always be on the Camino – right? Could I really give a loving look to the security line that snaked back and forth at George Bush airport? Or find time to give a long look at God’s presence when I already felt behind at 8:00 on a Monday?
I know on my own I can’t. On the Camino, raising this "loving look at the real" up to God was so natural. But that peace, that stillness – that is not my natural environment. And I’ll make a wild guess it’s not yours either.
But how good is God that we are not reliant on our own power, even (especially) when it comes to prayer. We are not dependent on our environment to create peace in our hearts.
“Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Let's walk together friends as we walk with Him. Not escaping, but embracing the real of our loud, messy lives. We may not be on the Camino, but with Him we can pray the Camino way, one delayed flight at a time.