la Brosse (GB), Co-founder and Chief Editor of the review
de Sinety (PS), Writer, author of l’amour des travelurs
(Editions Balland, 1999) and of a movie on father Ceyrac.
Bellevue (AMB), Student in statistics and informatic,
National team of the French Catholic student mission.
What is your experiment of
Pilgrimage ? Why did you get under way ?
|AMB : I
often went to
rather as organizer. Last year, I followed the road of Santiago de
from Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela. It took me 30 days. We were two,
we left on bike, because I couldn’t walk. I had had the occasion to
a Mass of Saint James which a friend had composed. During this
one passed a slide show of two retired pilgrims, who made an approach
couple towards Santiago de Compostela. We were twenty to record, among
whom seven or eight had already made this pilgrimage. Three among us
said : next year we left. One speaks about “ the call of Saint James ”.
Why does one answer a call ? One does not know very well.
: In 1995-1996, I left on foot
Paris to Jerusalem. I walked alone for eight months. Jerusalem was at
beginning only a geographical point to reach. While walking, I realized
that it was more than that, as it’s the place of died and of
of Christ, on what I ground my faith. As for the reasons for which one
leaves, I would also say that it’s to answer a call. I didn’t know
kind of call it acted. Today I distinguish better the direction of this
way, but at the beginning, there was a kind of challenge, a will to
himself to the world, to knock on the doors, to ask where to sleep, to
live a poverty...
: Since I am fifteen years
I go with various groups of young people on the roads. Thus we walked
high places of spirituality : Rome, Assisi, Fatima. A summer, we
from Fatima to go towards Santiago de Compostela. We thus arrived by
South. I then felt a major shock. I knew that it was necessary that I
again the road of Saint James, but this time while going towards the
towards the setting sun. And I started the following year, going with a
group from Saint Jean Pied of Port to Santiago de Compostela (800 km).
From this travel, I didn’t cease crossing the paths of Saint James. In
1991, I organized a Transeuropa in roller skates, from Santiago de
to Czestochowa (4,000 km). At the beginning, the actors of this
were sportsmen : on arrival, pilgrims. Three years ago, I also made the
“ Tro Breiz ”, the round of Brittany by the seven bishoprics, to try
a circular way, and not a linear. I think that the orientation is very
significant in displacement. The Path of Saint James moves towards the
occident, where the sun dies. It thus invites us to strip the old man,
to give up his “ old clothes ” to begin a new life. In a circular
one saw the walk in a very different way : one circumscribes a
one lives it. But one returns to the starting point. The pilgrimage of
Saint James remains for me most extraordinary, because it’s worth by
way which one achieves before arriving : this path has as much
than its result.
We are in an urban society, and you speak about the
call of the road.
Isn't this shifted compared to our ways of life ?
: The road, it’s as well that of the beatnik who goes to
pilgrimage, it’s different, there is a spirituality which is anchored,
a faith which is test. For me, that was like the command of a battle,
a testing period, which does not have anything of a vaguely esoteric
The walk is very in today, even if that appears shifted.
: It’s a chance to be able to leave, to try, during a rather
to make the experiment of its limits, of the other which one meets, of
the beauty of the world which one discovers, of the reference marks of
the space and the time which change, of another rhythm.
: An historian of the pilgrimage said that the pilgrim of
along ” : he is in overhang towards the current society. And
… because by this shift, the travel makes it possible to return to
to retie with its true dimension. The man is a peregrinus, i.e.
a foreigner. To take the road enables him to cross this foreigner who
in him, and thus to meet itself. The travel helps him to live fully its
gasoline of homo viator.
You would say that alienation, it’s the ordinary life,
and that the
life, it’s the road ?
: I don’t think so. There is a reef to avoid, that to make the
an escape. The hardest, as in any travel, is the return. It’s necessary
to know to integrate the pilgrimage in the everyday life. The walk,
can be a break in the life, a means of setting off again after.
: The fact of leaving for one month, with only its bag, and of
too much only where one will stop for the evening, brings into play a
availability. One places oneself at the disposal of the road, and one
then place oneself at the disposal of God. I am not a large reader of
Bible. But there are things which always spoke to me, for example when
Christ sends his disciples on mission in their saying : You will have
one stick. The pilgrimage is a single experiment, makes possible to
very concrete things of the Bible. That falls under a life. There is a
side rather in bracket : one leaves all to leave. That can be an
that can make also possible to live more fully as one has to live after
the return, because that makes it possible to be found toward oneself.
Which difference do you make between pilgrimage and
and roaming ? Many people make hike today. As for the roaming, it’s
a figure of the life, and it’s not certain that it’s the same thing as
: I met a couple of hikers, who were not catholic nor even “
”, but which acknowledged a difference between the hike and the paths
Saint James. On these paths, the contacts which one has with people the
evening are not the same ones. There is a search, other that in the
As for the roaming, the difference it’s that there is no goal, whereas
in the pilgrimage, there is one.
: It’s a very current question in the pilgrimage of Saint
the path was marked out in GR., i.e. in path of “ great hike ”. I think
that one should not oppose the hiker to the pilgrim : one can leaves as
a sportsman and arrives as a pilgrim. However, there is a danger of
It’s for that that I like the term of “ itinering ” : one follows a
with reference marks, and the path leaves the place to the roaming,
the search of the “ exiled ” human soul. But this roaming has a
The path worth by the goal, as the goal worth by the path.
: For me, the difference isn’t fundamental. The roaming is
seek and find the other. It’s the roaming of the Hebrews in the desert.
The hike it’s the discovery of the beauty of the world. The pilgrimage
combines these two aspects. All that is complementary. The essential,
the spiritual, being registered in a true search, a major search.
You started to speak about discovered about oneself.
What would you
to add ?
: The discovery of oneself, it’s the very essential and
of its person. That makes a whole : the intellectual, the physical. The
pilgrim who travels alone manages to discover little by little what he
is through the tests, sufferings, joys that he meets. The pilgrimage
into play several modes of relation : the dialogue with God, in the
of the world, and the dialogue with the others. I realized at the end
God was present as well in the glance of those which lodged me as when
I was alone on the road to walk. To be confronted with its limits,
break-in a certain idealism. That makes humble.
: Instead of “ discovery ”, I would rather speak of
the fruit of the availability, of the detachment. An experiment that I
often made on the road, it’s that of death. The Path of Saint James is
a path of death and rebirth. The town of Santiago de Compostela was set
up on old a compostum, a cemetery : it’s the sanctuary of the end of
earths, where one will seek his shell, which is the begging bowl for
last great travel. While walking, one carries also the soul of those
achieved this pilgrimage before us, and traced us the road. There is a
pelerine solidarity, which transcends the time. Stripped of all, one
carry the luggage of essential.
: There is indeed an intimacy which is created between
pilgrims. In the
discovery of oneself, I would insist on the loneliness, which isn’t
I am happy to have made the way of Santiago de Compostela on bike,
on bike, even when one is with others, one often rides alone. That
the contemplation, the meditation. It’s also a school of humility : one
rises the morning, patient, one must climbs hard coasts. What makes it
possible to reach the top, it’s God, it’s the prayer. The “ jacquaires
” have a rosary, on bike one has ten fingers... I made the very strong
experiment of my physical limit, in relation with God. The impression
without him, one could not arrive there.
There is a strong intensity of feeling, in the
: It’s carried to paroxysm : desolation, consolation, to speak
terms. There is no insipid moments. Except when one stops a few days :
the insipidity returns, but with much softness.
: It’s true that time is exacerbated, whereas the pleasures
which one tests are of the simplers : physical pains, loneliness, joy
the tended hand and the shared meals.
: The insipidity returns quickly. It’s why few pilgrims are
Santiago de Compostela : there are people everywhere, one rises the
and one does not make any more his bag, one remains in a city to turn
round. The goal remains a goal - one is glad to arrive - but the place
itself, one cannot remain there.
: Moreover Santiago de Compostela isn’t the goal. It’s
necessary to go
to Padrón, where the boat of the apostle would have accosted.
necessary to go to the sea.
: I would say in counterpoint that Jerusalem and the Holy Land
contrary places where one remains. In fact it’s places which were
on by Christ, and it’s significant. That didn’t carry to me during my
but it was another wing of my pilgrimage.
: The rallying cry of the “jacquaires”, it’s “ Ultreia ”, i.e.
: “ go
”. That summarizes all : a way of life, spirituality.
You spoke, Gaële, of the link to death, the old man who
You register your step in a catholic faith ?
: The first travels which I made were “ traditionals ” walks,
canticles, vocal prayers... The pilgrimage towards Santiago de
was a revelation for me, the training of a new fashion of
Not a negation of what I had lived before, but a deepening. It’s of
an event less punctual than the pilgrimage of Chartres, for example,
lasts only three days. But it’s especially a different path. The
of Saint James accompanies all the life. This “ stars path ” isn't it
projection of the Milky Way on the ground, a reflection of this furrow
of light in the sky ? It’s only the markers which guide us during the
Thus the pilgrimage was an enrichment of my Christian faith. But after
Santiago de Compostela, when one arrives at the sea, there is nothing
no more markers. All his making safe anchorings are lost. And there,
finds oneself in front of the Mystery. The pilgrimage is always a
of a new life in relation with God, much more intimate. A face to face
: our mask falls.
: The path of Saint James is indeed well marked, while the
isn’t it. Disorientated, I was walking towards the East. Each time, the
unexpected one could emerge, I never knew where I was going to sleep
evening. I had to attach me to find God in all which could emerge. It’s
on the contrary on arrival, in Holy Land, that markers are found. That
led me to not see God distant or unreal, but on the contrary terribly
One passes sometimes in sumptuous places, with formidable people, but
also passes in variegated humanity, and God in this humanity. It’s an
which I lived.
: A good part of the pilgrimage is done the evening at the
meeting with different people, with whom one clashes sometimes. God,
me, it’s a fellow traveller. An incarnate god, who pains with me, who
the same constraints. The image of the pilgrims of Emmaüs. I had
the physical impression while walking to have Jesus at my sides.
Today, how appears and how last what you lived ?
: If had to summarize this metamorphosis, I would employ the
in the return, one feels accompanied. One lives then in a state of
disponibility. One has only the choice of “ yes ”. There is no more
for the chance : each event is ordered towards a goal and becomes
as in the pilgrimage where one walks towards a term, and where each
germinates of the preceding one. The only thing which imports, it’s to
make a success of this crossing, until the last passage. The road is a
parable of the life.
: There are winks every days, which support. When I read again
in five years, I realize that my life is full of these winks, of these
coincidences. What carries me today, it’s the rallying cry of the
“ Ultreia ”, go further.
: What comes out from this experiment in my life, it’s
the projects. That pushes to create. It’s a dynamics. From a spiritual
point of view, it’s for me a real presence of the Lord. Because I lived
this pilgrimage in a radical way, alone, with this apprenticeship.
|Talks collected by
Paul Legavre, SJ