Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

Links to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages are on the navigation links to the right of the web page.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Camino de Santiago - Lasciate ogni speranza (Preparing #4)

"Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate" means "Abandon all hope, you who enter here". It's not exactly what one would think would be associated with the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage walk that I'll be starting in just over two weeks.

The quote is from Dante Alighieri's epic poem "The Divine Comedy", specifically at the entrance into the Inferno or hell. The poem describes a mid-life visit to Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. It's his exploration of his soul, because he was focused for too long on worldly possessions, frivolity, and politics.

A portal near the Spanish Steps in Rome, taken June 23, 2014
Why do I think of the Divine Comedy before the trip? Because it's a poem about a journey, a vision of something outside of our day to day lives. It's a magnificent reflection on values that we sustain on a daily basis but will ultimately leave us perpetually hungry, forever unhappy. I think of the dieting adage "a minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips" taken to an infinite extreme. A misguided satisfaction leads to endless unmet need.

I am thinking that my walk will be akin to the Divine Comedy. The first few days will almost certainly be Inferno. Spain may still be enduring hot temperatures, my feet will be complaining of the  grind kilometer after kilometer, and my back might buckling under the weight of a pack. And who knows what joy can be found when rains come. When the first mud splatters me in the face, you can bet I'll be saying to myself "Lasciate ogni speranza".

But I also see a transition, a change of perception after that part of the trip. We enter what was known in the Middle Ages as Purgatory. It's a transition place, where I do accept my state and place on the walk. I know I will eventually be away from this unhappy place, given time, given patience. Hope walks high.

And finally, at the conclusion of the Camino, I will feel the satisfaction and joy in an ineffable, impossible to describe manner. Like in the Divine Comedy, when he meets God, the joy is simply beyond words.

Why do I want to abandon hope on this journey? I don't really want to do so. I can't be honest about being prepared, though, if I don't recognize the challenges that might face me. One doesn't embark on a physical journey without expecting to be challenged. One should expect the same difficulties when embarking on a spiritual expedition as well. With both confronting me with each tired footstep, it would be foolish to think that I won't have my doubts, won't feel foolish, won't think twice about my trip.

On the face of it, I don't have to do this trip. Yet, as many pilgrims might attest, I also feel as though I must do this walk. It's this compulsion, this urging from within that makes me wonder if I'm prepared. If I'm called to walk this way, then like Noah, shouldn't I have my doubts?

So I might be saying, "Abandon all hope" not because I want to but because I'm scared and questioning why I am propelled to do it. I abandon myself to that which consumes me, the One who truly has my life in His hands. I don't need to hope in some ways, but I do need to trust. I need to trust that my Creator will guide me and watch over me. And whether tired, frustrated, or even at my end, when hope might be possible, I'll still have the trust one gives to the shepherd to find my peace.

And, in due time, like Dante, I can progress to the next stages of my journey, to meet Creation. It might be on this trip, it might be decades from now. But I'm getting ready.
We are people on a journey
pain is with us all the way
acudamos jubilosos a la santa comuniĆ³n.

Thank you and bless you for joining me on this transformational journey.

I leave Los Angeles on September 10 and land in Spain September 11.

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Prior blog postings regarding the the Camino
Camino de Santiago - Introduction (Preparing #1)


  1. Trust that the God who calls you on this strange journey - and trust me, it's very strange - will guide your every step! I walked from St Jean to Finisterre this past April/May - and my life will never be the same!( I'll be following along and cheering you on! Trust your own path and your own speed; Buen Camino!

  2. Thank you Donna. I will check out your blog. I'm inspired by the many stories I've read online. Moreover, I'm raised up by the combination of a physical journey and an internal journey. My trust comforts even if I am nervous about the demands. Thank you for sharing your blog with me on my life as a peregrino. Buen Camino!