Saturday, February 6, 2010

Re-Entry reconsidered: What marks the way -- when there are no markers

On the Camino to Santiago, we found our way forward by looking for yellow arrows. Hiking out of Pamplona on the first day was hardest. We made several wrong turns before we found them. We weren't used to looking.

Gradually we got our eyes accustomed to the logic of the arrows: where they would be, when they would be, how they'd be displayed. And we began seeing them everywhere.

In time, we found other "markers." Two fellow Camin-istas, one from California and the other from Australia, became markers: they walked our pace; they stopped as frequently as we did. Whenever I saw Linda and Nancy in some cafe or bar, I felt like I was on the right path. Or the English couple we kept running into -- always in cathedrals. Or the Irish couple we shared so many cafe con leches with. These were all markers.

So what marks the path when the Camino is over? That's the question I keep asking. One has surfaced in the last week: it's not a coincidence.

In July I will assume the Bernhard M. Christensen Chair at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. Former president of the College, Christensen was also a teacher and writer. It seemed fitting to find out what he'd written, and I set off for the library to search, emerging with a slim volume entitled, "The Inward Pilgrimage: An Introduction to Christian Spiritual Classics" (Augsburg Publishing House, 1976, 1996). The word "pilgrimage" stood out. Way out. Not a coincidence.

Inviting readers to "walk through the centuries in the company of good friends of God," Christensen introduces his own hiking companions. They cross the centuries: Augustine, the Desert Fathers, Thomas a Kempis, Martin Luther, St. Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, John Bunyan, Soren Kierkegaard, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, along with the authors of the Russian spiritual classic "The Way of a Pilgrim" and medieval Italian stories that comprise "The Little Flowers of St. Francis." These are his "markers."

I'll have additional traveling companions. Thanks to the dear Lisa, I will add Ignatius Loyola to the group, for we collaborate this semester in a course on Lutheran and Ignatian spiritualities. Maybe that's how I can add to the rich Christensen legacy.

It feels like this is the right path.


  1. And a beautiful path, too. Or so it looks from where I am :-) Buen Camino!

  2. So, Claire: you remind me of something another friend sent:
    "To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicated what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget." Arundhati Roy