19 May 2022

Offaly influencer inspired by the Camino de Ingles in northern Spain


Ronan Scully of Self Help Africa

At this present moment I am walking along the winding but beautiful pathways of the Camino de Ingles in northern Spain . I try to organise a charity walk every year for some special cause and for various charities and have done it at this time of the year for the past number of years and always remembered our loved ones gone before us during this special month of Our Lady.

I have been walking and praying for about a week now for anyone that has asked me to pray for them, most especially for some members of my family and close friends who sadly passed away, especially during the last two years of the pandemic. Also I have prayed continuously for all the emergency workers, the carers, nurses, doctors, gardai, coastguards, teachers, ambulance people and first aiders and responders, religious and all people involved in any work that cares for those in need and especially for help and support to our homeless and those most in need in our country and world and for anyone sick or unwell at home or in hospital.

I also remembered all my colleagues in work and the people and children we work with and for in many countries in Africa and other parts of our world and especially in war torn countries and those affected by famine and drought. Though long distance walking might be considered just an athletic event by some, from my experience over this past week on the Camino Way, I would refer to it as an allegory for life. So, what life lessons can one learn from walking a 150Km charity walk or being a walker or pilgrim on the highways and byways of the Camino or any specific challenge that we do in life? The following are some of the thoughts that came to me while reflecting and walking my charity Camino journey on this occasion along the Camino de Inglese Way where I had much time to think about life and some of the lessons that it has taught me so far.

Keep Going

As I walked my Camino charity walk it reinforced to me the idea that in life, it’s about the journey, not the end result. I also realized that this might be the last time that I would ever take part in a charity walk like this, so I needed to savour the experience. I thought, “this is it, the moment I have worked so hard for.” I needed to enjoy the walking experience, not wish it away and especially because it is along the Camino way one of my favourite places in the whole world and what an experience it has been so far with many epiphanies and very spiritual moments along with some hardships as I walked along the Way and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Sometimes keeping positive is difficult and prayer becomes very basic, ‘Bed please God’, ‘Please God get me to the top of this hill’, 'Please God stop the pains in my legs and head' or 'Are we there yet God?' But walking towards the goal of Santiago following arrows, road maps and signs, remembering that for centuries others have walked on these paths and carrying prayers and intentions for everyone I know or who asked me and thinking of Aoife and all my ancestors and thanking them for the love they gave in their life so that I could be where I am today was a tremendous experience, allowing the physical experience to become the prayer, the weight of the backpack, the aches, blisters and pains, the warmth of the sun when it shone, the beautiful and bountiful wildflowers, tree's, birds, choruses of frogs, bells ringing in my ears at times from bicycles, cows and churches, amazing scenery, sharing a meal, sharing a burden, realizing that the other many people I encountered along the way all have one thing in common, we were all walkers and pilgrims on the journey of life.

Often we wish our lives away, wanting to reach a certain place in life in order to be happy. However, often times the satisfaction derived from setting an objective is not so much in attaining the objective, but in the anticipation and striving toward the objective. So, as much as possible try to enjoy the journey as much as the end results as I did with my Camino attempt. The journey itself makes you a walker and a pilgrim. Because the way of the walker is not only a track to be walked in order to get somewhere, nor is it a test to reach any reward. The walking of the walk is a parable and a reality at once because it is done both within and outside one's body in the specific time that it takes to walk each stage and along your entire life if only you allow the prayer walk to get into your head, heart and soul to transform you and to make you a walker and a pilgrim on the journey of life. This charity walk called me to contemplate, to be amazed, to welcome, to share, to care, to cry, to heal, to forgive, to internalize, to stop, to be quiet, to listen, to challenge, to risk, to admire, to love, to pray, to bless nature, to bless family, friends, colleagues and companions on the journey of life, to bless our own life journey and to be always thankful to our God. In a challenging walk like my charity Camino walk, as in life, the key is just to keep going, even if that means going slowly. No matter how hard things get, even if there are many hills blocking your view of the ending line, there is usually an end in sight, if we just keep going forward. Life is difficult. We are pressured and stressed and pulled in various directions and especially with all that has been happening in our world with the pandemic. Amidst the rush and hustle of the daily grind, it can be easy to lose ourselves and forget what really matters.

The Beatitudes of a Walker

In finishing let me leave you with The Beatitudes of a Walker that are helping me on my journey of life. 1. Blessed are you a walker, if you discover that your “walk” opens your eyes to what is not seen. 2. Blessed are you a walker, if what concerns you most is not to arrive, as to arrive with others. 3. Blessed are you a walker, when you contemplate your “walk” and you discover it is full of names and dawns. 4. Blessed are you a walker, because you have discovered that the authentic “walk” begins when it is completed. 5. Blessed are you a walker, if your knapsack is emptying of things and your heart does not know where to hang up so many feelings and emotions. 6. Blessed are you a walker, if you discover that one step back to help another is more valuable than a hundred forward without seeing what is at your side. 7. Blessed are you a walker, when you don’t have words to give thanks for everything that surprises you at every twist and turn of the way. 8. Blessed are you a walker, if you search for the truth and make of your “walk” a life and of your life a “way” in search of the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. 9. Blessed are you a walker, if on the way you meet yourself and gift yourself with time, without rushing, so as not to disregard the image in your heart. 10. Blessed are you a walker, if you discover that your “walk” holds a lot of silence, and the silence of prayer, and the prayer of meeting with God who is waiting for you to dwell with Him.

Thought for the week

As your thought for the week, keep going forward no matter what challenges life throws at you and don’t be afraid to give help and receive help as you make that journey through life and don’t forget to savor the experience as it is all about the journey when it comes to your life challenges!! We are all walkers and pilgrims on this journey called life. Let's use it to love and bless one another on the way!! The following prayer has always helped me on my journey and maybe it can help you on yours!!! "Will you let me be your servant? Let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I might have the grace. To let you be my servant too. We are pilgrims on the journey.

We are brothers and sisters on the road. We are here to help each other. Walk the mile and bear the load. I will hold the Christ light for you. In the night time of your fear. I will hold my hand out to you. Speak the peace you long to hear. I will weep when you are weeping. When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you. I will share your joy and sorrow. Till we’ve seen this journey through. When we sing to God in heaven. We shall find such harmony. Born to all we’ve known together of Christ’s love and agony. Amen."

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