|The stone I brought with me on the Camino de Santiago during my first pilgrimage in 2014.|
Perigrinos (pilgrims) typically carry a stone or pebble from home on their journey. Upon arriving at the Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross), they see a mound of pebbles, rocks, photos, letters, and seemingly random items with a large thin monument topped by a cross.
The mound is made of all the pebbles and items left behind by the thousands of travelers from all over the world through the ages. You can climb onto the mound and many travelers find the sight an important milestone indicating that they are within days of the Compostela de Santiago.
The stones represent something quite powerful. Prior to a pilgrimage trip, peregrino travelers are instructed to reduce, Reduce, REDUCE the weight of their pack to make this arduous, long journey more tolerable. And yet, they carry with them a rock along most of the route. Why on earth would you carry unneeded weight on such a journey?
To me and to the pilgrim, the stone represents all the physical, mental, and even spiritual that weighs you down in life. And whether you realize it, acknowledge it, or deny it, that stone follows you on your journey. It follows you every day of your life. It's in your bags, in your head, in your heart.
Try as you might do otherwise, you go through life with unnecessary baggage. Emotional or spiritual, granite or mental, that baggage will slow you down. They might be your vices. They might be your habits. They could be your imagined self or your Facebook persona. They could even be the ones you love. All things of this earth can act like stones, at least some times.
It's humbling to know of the stones in your life; it's bewildering and frustrating to not know the stones in your life. Lent is an opportunity for us to unearth the stones in our life, to find them in the dust, and to leave them at the cross. It's in God's unimaginable love for us that we can discover that we don't need to carry the stones. We are meant to leave them behind.
The Roman Catholic Franciscan friar, Father Richard Rohr, describes this process as letting go.
“All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not. Then, when you can get little enough and naked enough and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect.
That place is called freedom. It’s the freedom of the children of God. Such people can connect with everybody. They don’t feel the need to eliminate anybody . . .”
― Richard Rohr, Healing Our Violence through the Journey of Centering Prayer
When I saw the cross and laid down my stone, I cried. No. No, I sobbed. Sobbed because after enduring a couple falls on my first pilgrimage, I knew that I was carrying a stone that I did not need. I laid that stone at the foot of the cross, knowing that I could and would still stumble, but that the process of letting go, the search for freedom shown in resurrection, the journey towards God would be easier by laying it down.
Like the thousands of pilgrims who walked before me, I asked our Lord to carry my burdens for me.