The reflection I did for the staff briefing at Chevalier on Monday morning.

For nearly three weeks and 460 kilometres, I followed the pilgrim path of the Camino Frances, walking towards Santiago de Compostela and the shrine of St James in Northern Spain, and then onwards to the Cape of Finistera, which until Columbus was believed to be the end of the world. I went alone, but never was lonely, as there seemed to be always companions on the pathway and fellowship around the table.
The Camino seemed to promote something very profound in my fellow pilgrims. I met very few people on the road who were not open, friendly and welcoming. It was absolutely normal to walk into a bar and seem someone you knew vaguely and get invited over to share the table. There is a catalyst at work.
In the end, I think it is because most people are here with some spiritual goal. The statistics tell us that 40% or so do the trip for purely spiritual reasons, 40% for spiritual and physical, and 20% have no spiritual reason. I think that self-selects in a way, because there are many more beautiful walks than the Camino, so you walk because you want to end up at the Cathedral for the Pilgrim Mass; however, most people start drawing water from deep down in their lives, and it shows in the behaviour of people on the road.
The symbol of the Camino is the scallop shell. It is carried by pilgrims from the Pyrenees to the sea and it has a special place in the Santiago legend. It is used on signs and markers that guide pilgrims, and I saw my first shell on a pavement in Issoudun earlier this year. I think Father Chevalier would have been very aware of the Camino, and he would have understood its power to bring people together. There is an old saying, ‘Heart Speaks to Heart’(Cardinal Newman’s motto), and we know what that means at Chev. And even though every pilgrim must walk their own Camino, there is an old tradition that allowed pilgrims to carry another person in their heart.
Chev was very much in my heart, particularly my Year 12 students and you, my colleagues. I carried one of their graduation badges every step of the way. It may not have improved their HSC results, but they were in my heart every day. It may not have lightened your burdens this term, but you were constantly in my heart — except on the really big hills. Fiona has my pilgrim shell from Santiago, with the Year 12 graduation badge pinned to it, and as a token of my pilgrimage and what it meant to me, I am asking her to place it in our prayer space, as a sign that we are all on the Way with our God.
St James, patron of pilgrims, pray for us.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in thee.

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