Iona Community Prayers on the Camino 3. Peace
The Iona Community is a dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship. “Gathered and scattered” is how it sees its members and friends, for, indeed, the Community has members in many parts of the world. Members and associate members pray daily for each other and for the community and I have found these prayers a constant source of invigoration while on the Camino, especially on the parts where I am walking alone for week after week.
An affirmation for the Camino.
I don’t think there is a single day in which I don’t want to shout aloud that middle statement.
With people everywhere, I affirm God’s goodness at the heart of humanity, planted more deeply than all that is wrong.
So many people I meet live in fear. Almost everything can serve as a source of fear in life and especially other people. For me, this affirmation announces the fundamental truth: Other people are good. Yes, things go wrong, but, at heart, humanity is good, overwhelmingly good. One morning while walking I began to give thanks for those who had helped me at some point in my life and by the end of the day I was still naming people. Those who have been bad for me are very few, like Movistar or a French bureaucrat, but even then I learn from the encounter. How tragic it is to think that we always have to be on the look-out for criminals and cheats, bullies and thieves, conspiracists and politicians; fearing aggression and attack from all corners. (The most frequent attacks come from much nearer to home anyway.)
I remember taking one of my children to Morocco before I knew that place very well. I had heard stories about the dangers of being cheated or mugged or used as a drug courier without my knowing it.
In those days I had not learned to affirm the goodness of at the heart of humanity. I pointed out the “baddies” to my son as we dodged through the souk: dangers males (always male in Morocco) huddled in conversation in shadowy spots. Later on, walking in Morocco helped me see that innate distrust is the real enemy and that with trust the world is not so threatening. I found Morocco is an exceptionally welcoming country. Young people today travel the whole world and the real risks are few, statistically speaking. The Camino de Santiago confirms emphatically the truth about goodness at the heart of humanity: here there is a constant encounter with different people in village after village, in the fields and in the cities, with fellow pilgrims and the army of volunteers who give help and welcome all along the way. This affirmation is liberating and self-fulfilling, just as people who fear most seem to make real what they fear.
We celebrate the miracle and wonder of life, the unfolding purposes of God, forever at work in ourselves and the world.
This phrase thrills me, reminds me to be thrilled at life itself, to breathe and know I am breathing, to look and know I am seeing. It is a celebration of awareness. I like the phrase “unfolding purposes” as if God, Him/Herself does not quite know what is coming next, just as, on the camino, I have no idea what is coming next but trust it will be a part of this celebration of creation: it will be good, even if it hurts, or is uncomfortable or tires me. This is because there is something more important going on, deeper within me, invariably when I walk the Camino. It comes from letting-go of all the daily invasions of life in today’s society. So many Camino blogs list these noises which we leave behind.
The camino, step by step, empties. I find that concerns drop away with each footstep until I am left with the most basic such as where will I find a shop or where to go to the loo. These, too, become wrapped up in a peace, a renunciation of planning, a trust that the goodness at the heart of humanity is also God’s goodness for me. I can trust my body, listen to it and take care of it without fuss.
I am confirmed by this prayer for peace which is the Camino: A journey from death to life, from fear to trust, from whatever is harming me to whatever is good for me. Peace, peace, peace. As I walk with others, or alone, peace makes a home in me. I meet others and feel their peace; their peace spreads over me, within me. Peace grows peace. Also when I meet pilgrims who are distressed I know that a peaceful heart can absorb some of the pain which bleeds from wounds. On the Camino I have met many people of peace and felt this power to heal just by their being peaceful. We don’t have to fight for peace, it is better to emit peacefulness. Silence and solitude is the seedbed for peace and I have found these plentiful on my Caminos.