Last night as I joined with fellow classmates in the Jubilee Spiritual Formation for our second residency in a three year journey together I heard a wonderful story about the scallop shell and for me it set the tone for the week.
The scallop shell has become the symbol for Pilgrims and it has to do with St.James being buried in Spain if you want to know more. Apparently the saint’s body was being shipped to Spain and a storm washed the casket overboard. It then found it’s way to shore but was covered with scallop shells.
Now many people make their way to the site of his burial at Camino and place a shell on the steps of the cathedral. On the journey the shell can be a useful tool. It can scoop food or water and be used to dig if it is needed. On the back of the shell is a pattern of ridges. There are several lines which start from the outer edge and then converge at one point near the spine of the shell. This is indicative of the pilgrim journey. We come from different places and take different paths but we all find our way to a single place.
This was day one part two of the journey of Jubilee. I met this wonderful group of people a year ago. We learn, laugh, are silent and sometimes cry together. Each comes from a different place. Each has a path of their own yet we all walk toward one goal, one centre, one drawing point.
Some of us call that point God, others creator, others may say universe while others may not have a name for that unifying force which makes our hearts want to seek deeper things and our spirits soar to places even our hearts cannot imagine.
I don’t think I have ever thought of myself as a pilgrim before. Unfortunately, in North America, the name brings to mind black garments on white folk feeding on turkey at Native tables. It has some questionable connotations and a sketchy past but today I have a new and improved perspective of the word and will happily take on the name of pilgrim.
I suppose, in many ways I have always been a pilgrim. I have been seeking for many years, the heart and desire of the creator. While I fail miserably, on a daily basis, to emanate the ideals of faith at least I’m still trying. When I stop failing I suppose I will have stopped trying so for now I will remain the pilgrim.
(More on the Camino de Santiago.)