I recently watched Emilio Estevez’s fine film, The Way. The movie concerns Tom Avery, a father whose son accidentally dies while on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (also known as The Way of St. James), a pilgrimage he was beginning near the border of France and Spain.
Avery — played by Estevez’s real-life father, Martin Sheen — travels to France to claim his son’s body, but then suddenly chooses to go on the pilgrimage himself. The film then follows the 8oo km. walk, introduces us to the companions that he meets on the journey, and provides glimpses into Avery’s growing understanding of his son and himself.
I have known a few people who have made the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and each have described it as a remarkable experience.
Last summer, while traveling in the UK, I quite by accident found myself walking a part of another old pilgrimage route and remember how extraordinary the experience was. There is no small amount of power in joining in the procession of the faithful, the questioners and spiritual-seekers — past, present and future. A pilgrim walk is now on my to-do list.
A dozen years ago, Neil Teplica and Dave Freeman wrote the book, 100 Things to Do Before You Die, which inspired the making of the popular film The Bucket List. Included on their list were such things as going to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in Brazil, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, and — of course — the World Cow Chip Throwing Championship in Beaver, Oklahoma. The popularity of the book and movie led to the publication of a variety of parallel lists. Sadly, Dave Freeman died suddenly at age 47 after falling and suffering a head injury. It is reported that he may have only managed to do half the things on the list, which might indeed serve us as a reminder of the uncertainties of life.
As Robert Burns so wisely observed, “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often awry.”
What is on your list? Many of us have more modest items than running with the bulls. Put a message in a bottle, learn to play a song on the guitar, renew wedding vows, try snowboarding, write memoirs — there are lots of possibilities.
One that I hear with regularity is a desire to read the Bible from cover to cover and this is not exclusively from spiritual seekers. It is arguably the most influential book in our culture. I still remember, as an undergraduate, seeing an English professor — an atheist — explode in frustration at the class, saying, “How do you expect to understand English literature without knowing the Bible?” Agree with it or disagree with it, ignorance of its contents puts one at some disadvantage.
Have you ever wanted to read the whole Bible? Here are a few hints. Though it may sound counter-intuitive, it is not always best to start at the beginning. Depending on your purpose, it is sometimes advantageous to start in Mark’s Gospel, three quarters of the way through the Bible. Second, there are lots of plans that can guide you through the entirety of the Scriptures in as little as 90 days, so take a look online. Finally, do not be afraid to use some solid local resources. At the risk of seeing my colleagues inundated with work, ask one of the local pastors to suggest a reading plan. My guess is that they will be more than delighted to help.
The Rev. Phil Spencer, St. Stephen’s United Church, Qualicum Beach.