A path at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington.
Some time in the mid 90’s, I came across a book, “Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route Into Spain” by Jack Hitt. I read it and despite the author’s agnostic bent was seized with the general notion of making a religious or spiritual pilgrimage and the more specific thought of walking the Camino de Santiago–the 500 mile trail across northern Spain to the alleged burial place of St. James the Apostle. For a couple of decades, the closest I got to making this pilgrimage was thinking about it.
So last October, when my friend Peggy Arizzi called me to tell me about an opportunity to make the Camino de Santiago through a tour offered by the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House and said, “I want you to think about it,” she didn’t realize that I had been doing that for 20 years. When Peggy approached me with the idea, I immediately moved into the phase of, “How can we make this work, not just for me but for John and Luke too?”
And as I thought about it, while flying across the Atlantic to walk the Camino seemed like a fantastic idea, what seemed even better would be to visit Ireland, Scotland, and France also. To pay the money to travel that distance it seemed to make sense to see other places. With Luke in 7th grade and understanding, excellent teachers at St. Mark’s prepared to make it work academically for him, the timing was now-or-never.
Why these Ireland, Scotland, and France?
Ireland: the beautiful home of our ancestors. John has never been there, and I know he will love it. He is very Irish.
Scotland: the home of our friends Ailish and Leo, who have adopted five children from Haiti and who have extended many invitations to us to visit.
France: John’s dad was a World War II veteran who was part of the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy. We have 27 letters that he wrote as he made his way with the 90th Infantry Division through France to Germany. We want to visit the D-Day sites, including the cemeteries, where a friend of his is buried.
So, it will be a four-part pilgrimage.