Sometime about 2005, Arthur Paul Boers went on a hike. Not just any hike, but the 500-mile-long Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. Already an experienced hiker, he made the journey in 31 days. And he wrote about his experience.
But he didn’t simply write a travel diary of what he saw and where he stayed. Instead, The Way is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago is about the experience of pilgrimage itself, what it means and signifies, and what the idea of pilgrimage suggests for the Christian life. It isn’t a primer on pilgrimage, or even a step-by-step guide to the Camino de Santiago. This is the Christian life as a pilgrimage.
Boers explains why he was drawn to pilgrimage, its Christian roots, and its lessons for spirituality. Like the pack he carried on his back, a pilgrimage is always about the need to simplify, carrying with us only what’s vital and necessary. (He became such a stickler on this point that he tore out sections of the book he read along the way as soon as he finished reading them. The book was Don Quixote.)
He goes on to consider the challenges of faithful pilgrimage, the opportunities for hospitality, what happens even to secular seekers along the way, and how to put pilgrimage into daily practice. And he sees walking as a spiritual practice.
Arthur Paul Boers
Just so you know, Boers also wrote about the blisters on his feet, the good and bad food, and some nice places to sleep along with those he’d rather forget about. And four appendices discuss recovering and reclaiming Christian pilgrimage, planning a pilgrimage, some well-known pilgrimage destinations, and resources specific to the Camino itself.
The book, first published in 2007, so impressed the late Eugene Peterson that he wrote the foreword.
Boers is an ordained minister and Benedictine oblate, and he served for many years as a pastor in rural, urban, and church-planting settings. He served for six years he held the R.J. Bernardo Family Chair of Leadership at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada, and taught pastoral theology at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. He’s also published Our Work, God’s World; Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distraction; and Servants and Fools: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. He received his D. Min, degree with distinction from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he also holds degrees in pastoral counseling and peace studies.
You don’t have to travel to Spain and walk the Camino de Santiago to appreciate The Way is Made by Walking. You can practice the idea of pilgrimage in your own neighborhood or town. And while the 500-mile Camino might be too challenging, I’m thinking about the 120-mile path from Winchester to Canterbury.