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Giovanni's experience along the Saint Francis Walk (part two)We are publishing the second part of the interview to Giovanni, a pilgrim of the Walk.
Click here to view the first part of the interview.
6. In your opinion, what are the common factors between the Saint Francis Walk and the Way of Saint James?
I think there are many common factors between the two Ways even though the Saint James Way offers more possibilities and experiences because it is longer and therefore more varied in terms of regions that are crossed, people and ethnicities encountered, and centuries of history and culture that have stratified along the Way.
The Way of Saint James is also more famous not only because it has been publicized more and is well known around the world, but because it has a thousand year old history behind it.
The fascinating thing about the Saint James Way isn’t so much the figure of one Saint having travelled it but the fact that millions of pilgrims have travelled it, including Saint Francis. The pilgrimage to Santiago di Campostela is in fact the third official pilgrimage of the Church after the Holy Land and Rome.
One of the main common factors between the Saint James Way and the Saint Francis Walk is perhaps the fact that Saint Francis did the Saint James Way pilgrimage at least twice leaving behind various traces that are still visible today.
Saint Francis is well loved among the Spanish and there are various monuments, monasteries and churches commemorating him along the Saint James Way.
The common factor between the Ways, including those who do it with religious consciousness, is the fact that it is a nice way to do a pilgrimage.
There are numerous pilgrimages available, both near and far. We can reach places linked to our religious faith by particular historical events and cherished places where the figures who visited and worked there are commemorated.
We can also partake in pilgrimages cherished by the Marians that can be found all around the world because this great maternal figure is very close to us and is present in so many places and in so many ways in order to save us and help us.
All these historically important places tied to the life of Jesus, the Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary can be the destinations of pilgrimages in the physical sense, like a journey towards a precise goal.
But a pilgrimage can also be an interior movement and often this component coexists with the other more concrete one giving it a soul. It thus unites the physical motion to the participation and motion of the heart.
A pilgrimage is in fact also a sign, a symbol that faith is not a chance happening but determined by a precise will and a well-defined goal. A pilgrimage is also a respite that allows for both material and spiritual contemplation.
It is a way to contemplate on beautiful places, landscapes and views but more so it is a way to calmly contemplate and examine the “Panorama” of our lives, our existence, our goals, what we are and what we have been; on the road taken and the one still to come and on the good and the bad, the useful and useless.
It is a way to contemplate on ourselves in relationship to others and above all in relationship to God and His will, the project He has for all of us… in substance to contemplate on ourselves and on our pasts united with a foreshadowing of our near and far future.
We must always remember that all this is a sign, a symbol, a reference to the true pilgrimage we all take: our lives.
The essential difference between this pilgrimage and the others is that the final destination is Paradise and the vision that awaits us is not a statue or a figure but the Glory of God, the Virgin Mary, the Saints, the Blessed, the Angels and all the Just.
This reality can already be experienced with the Faith that makes the “Communion of Saints” tangible and comprehensible to us and that allows us to enter the Kingdom of God during our lives on earth. Faith and the Holy Spirit also allow us to face everything that happens around us in a new way making our whole lives “new”, giving us strength in our daily journey, shedding light on the road we have to take, and transmitting peace, serenity and joy.
All these things can be experienced on the Saint James Way and the Saint Francis Walk.
7. What are the differences between the two Ways?
The biggest differences, as I have stated before, are: the length and therefore duration of the Ways. The Saint James Way is more intense and offers more. There are more places, ethnicities, languages, cultures, etc. because it winds through a region that is rich in history and varied in geographical aspects.
There is one major difference that is also linked to the long history of the Saint James Way, its importance during the Middle Ages and the huge investments made throughout the centuries. It deals with the organization of the stops along the way and logistics in general. Throughout the pilgrimage to Santiago di Campostela you can stop and find lodgings and food every six or seven kilometres and therefore the pilgrim can walk as far and as much as he feels he is up to doing depending on the situation. He can plan his journey one day to the next.
The Saint James Way is marked very clearly (almost obsessively) with yellow arrows in the ground or on the walls, arrows that have become famous and an integral part of the Way almost as much as the official symbol of the shell. It wouldn’t take very much to make the two walks similar and homogeneous because the Saint Francis Walk is also marked quite clearly.
8. Do you think you will return? Are there any particular reasons that would make you want to return to the Rieti valley?
If my health is good and I have the strength, I think I will return for a longer period of time and in a different season. It would be nice if the Walk included other places where Saint Francis lived and passed through like Assisi, La Verna, Gubbio and other places in Umbria.
This would make it possible to make more stops along the way or to do it all at once like the Saint James Way. It would make them more similar in distance and intensity.
It would also be easier to advertise and export it abroad. In fact one of the fundamental differences between the Saint Francis Walk and the Saint James Way is that the latter is more international thus offering the opportunity to meet and get to know people with dozens of nationalities from all over the world.
9. Did you meet with other pilgrims during of after the Walk?
Unfortunately, this did not occur, probably due to the period (mid October) and the bad weather.
10. The DVD will be available soon on the Saint Francis Walk web site. Would you be interested in a visual transportation of your experience?
Yes, thank you, I would be very interested.