Ancient pilgrimage route ‘a Catholic gift to the world’

Roxanne King

For 90 minutes last weekend, moviegoers in Denver and Boulder experienced the spiritual growth, physical pain and joy of pilgrims who made a 500-mile journey along a historical Catholic trail in Spain.

The premier of the award-winning documentary “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” attracted large crowds in both cities, including 233 people at a sold-out show the evening of March 28 in Denver.

“This film and Camino is for people who want more from life than making more money or buying a bigger TV or a new car,” said director Lydia B. Smith, who attended the Denver premier.  “People who are seeking why they are on the planet, what is their relationship with God and the meaning of being more connected with other people.”

Smith first walked the trail in 2008 after a broken wedding engagement and wants to share the magic of the pilgrimage she calls “a Catholic gift to the world.”

Since the Middle Ages, the 1,200-year-old Catholic pilgrimage has attracted several hundreds of thousands of walkers yearly and ends in the city of Santiago de Compostela where the bones of Apostle St. James are said to be buried.

“Many people come as tourists,” said a Spanish priest in the film. “They end as pilgrims.”

Co-producer Annie O’Neil and Smith, who did question and answer sessions at the local premiers, raised the money to produce and distribute the film. Their film crew followed pilgrims on the six-week journey from late April to early June 2009.

Moviegoers at the Friday evening show laughed and cried as they watched the pilgrims encounter humorous and heartbreaking challenges: snoring strangers packed in a hostel; a brother who doesn’t believe in God; blisters the size of quarters; hiking boots covered with mud; smelly clothes; and strangers who offer immediate friendship.

“I didn’t expect to be so emotional watching the film,” said moviegoer Louise Lopez, who heard about the film from a Facebook post. “A women sitting next to me, who I don’t know, shared some Kleenex when we both started crying.”

O’Neil was one of six pilgrims, ages 3-73 from Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France and the United States, featured in the documentary. They had a variety of reasons for doing the walk, from a traditional Catholic pilgrimage to a widower honoring his wife and a women suffering from depression.

O’Neil started the journey feeling inadequate because she physically couldn’t keep up with older pilgrims. Yet, she soon realized that feeling of competitiveness was taking away from her spiritual journey.

“A bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul,” she said in the film.

Sam, a woman in her 30s, began the walk in a deep depression and ended it determined to focus on the positive things in her life.

“I haven’t washed my hair in the month but I feel great,” she said.

Misa, a student from Denmark, wanted to travel alone but she discovered the journey became more meaningful by walking with fellow traveler, William from Canada.

“Happiness is meant to be shared,” said William, who also considered himself a loner before the pilgrimage.

About 20 people at the film Friday evening have walked the Camino, including Gene and Rosann  McCullough of Denver. The couple completed the pilgrimage in three different segments beginning in 2002. As members of American Pilgrims on the Camino, the couple now returns to Spain as hosts to help other pilgrims at the hostels.

“We’ve made connections that will last a lifetime,” said Gene. “We see new people every day and they all have a different story.”

About 50 people raised their hands when Smith asked how many wanted to walk the trail after watching the film.

The filmmakers plan to have a DVD of the film available to the public by this fall. They also are raising $85,000 to get the film aired on PBS in the next few years and are seeking an international distributor.

More information about the Camino can be found at www.caminodocumentary.org and www.americanpilgrims.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMING UP: Not your “this-could-be-for-anyone” Christmas gift guide

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With Christmas rapidly approaching, many of us run into the problem of finding great and unique gifts for our friends and relatives. For this reason, we have come up with a gift guide that can make your Christmas shopping a little more fun.

For your friend who enjoys “Naptio Divina”

We all know that sleeping during adoration or prayer isn’t all that bad: you rest with Jesus, right? Well, we thought this quality would be worth honoring with this shirt from Elly and Grace that you can gift your “Jesus-took-naps” friend. The cozy baseball shirt is perfect for any man or woman who enjoys resting with Jesus. Visit EllyandGrace.com for more information.

It is great to nap with Jesus; but… it is also good to pray. Therefore, we have included Fr. Larry Richard’s “No Bible, No Breakfast! No Bible, No Bed!” Scripture Calendar, in case your friend is tempted to nap with Jesus every time, instead of talking with him. You can find this calendar on CatholicCompany.com and help your friend remain faithful to praying without napping.

For your friend who evangelizes while they drive

Is your friend’s driving accompanied by countless Rosaries and acts of contrition? We have the perfect gift! The Catholic Company provides numerous car accessories for the fast evangelizers. It reminds them to wait for their guardian angels on the road in their works of mercy. On the Catholic Company inventory, you can also find sacred images and pins, such as the visor clip for any parent who is worried about their children’s driving habits.

For your friend who fights for a cause

Religious art, yards, a great cause: everyone wins with one. Angel Haus is a Denver-based nonprofit that provides employment for the disabled by creating religious art, especially for yards. The founder is the newly-ordained Deacon David Arling, who has been operating it since its initiation five years ago. They have now sold over 300 Christmas Display boards and San Damiano Cross images. The family business has encountered much support from their pastor, Father Michael Carvill at Nativity of Our Lord Church. Nonetheless, they need your support to continue with this project. To purchase an item for your friend and help this great cause, email Arling at djarling2011@hotmail.com.

For your friend who is a lost cause

Okay, okay, no person is a lost cause; but we all know someone who is pretty close to being one. As soon as you think they’ve finally gotten it, an off-the-cuff comment smashes all your hopes. Hold fast and do not despair, St. Jude is here to help! This 3 ½” tall St. Jude wooden peg from Etsy.com will make sure that the patron saint of lost causes is constantly at work for your friend. Etsy provides a wide variety of religious hand-painted figures from Whymsical Lotus that range from the Sacred Heart to your favorite saints, such as St. Therese, St. Patrick, and Our Lady of Guadalupe. These charmingly detailed and delightful dolls make a unique gift for those friends who need a special intercessor.

For your little friend

Running out of ideas to gift your child, godchild, or short friend? The search is over. Faithful Findz from Etsy.com makes great replicas of saints’ attires. Take, for instance, the “Saint John Paul II the Great” costume, handmade out of cotton poly fabric (Hawaiian Pope mobile not for sale: sad, I know; but a miter and red cape can be purchased separately). Some of their popular costumes include the habits of Mother Teresa and Padre Pio (gloves included). Even more, the maker requests the person’s waist measurement to ensure the best fit. When in doubt, you won’t lose with the saints, and neither will your little friends.

For your priestly friend

He already has all sorts of things, what could he possibly want? Rosaries, religious art, and other religious accessories are probably some of the most common gifts for priests (or priestly friends). Nonetheless, we can assure you that very few have a custom-made priest bobblehead of themselves. It makes a great gift! All you have to do is send a couple pictures of your favorite priest to MyCustomBobblehead.com. Doesn’t sound like the best idea? Look at it this way: it is a way for your priest to remember and embrace his obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church, as his bobblehead will constantly nod to God’s will and shake his head to refuse all sinful things. Plus, you’ll get a discount if you mention you saw this in the Denver Catholic.

For your friend who never gave up on comics

Why would anyone give up on comic books when you have great initiatives like The Ultimate Catholic Comic Book? A group of Catholic cartoonists joined forces to bring about this entertaining, clever, humorous, and enriching book for all ages. Although many of the parodies and puns may well go over children’s heads, the comics contain messages that remain true to Catholic Doctrine. You can buy it and check out the sample digital copy at CatholicComicBook.com.