Just Another Pilgrim by Canon Jim Foley

Just Another Pilgrim by Canon Jim Foley


by Canon Jim Foley

No le hagas caso. Es otro pelegrino, nada más.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 — 1847) famously wrote ‘Songs without Words’ and I intend to follow his example in this sketch. I offer no running commentary on what follows; no moments of unrestrained hilarity or near disaster; no attempt to translate my spiritual experiences along the way for the edification of others who may chance upon these pages and have promised themselves that, one day, they would walk somewhere. The literature on the Camino of St James is vast and readily accessible. I have no plans to add to it.

With the approach of the 40th anniversary of my ordination at Easter 1995, I felt it was high time I asserted my identity, in the spirit of Vatican II, as a member of a Pilgrim Church and what better place to begin than the ancient shrine of my Patron Saint James at Compostela in Galicia. I placed one condition on my undertaking. I would travel alone. After forty years in the ministry I had discovered that the good Lord is not the only one who knows when I stand up and when I sit down. Everybody knows. The disciples may have been commissioned to go out in pairs, but I gave myself a dispensation and set out alone into the sunset on my pilgrim way to Compostela. The only baggage I was prepared to carry was a ten kilo haversack on my shoulders, five kilos of which I dumped at Astorga.

I invested in a stout pair of boots, collected a repeat prescription, and set off under the alias of `Jacques l’Ecossais’. This would surely guarantee open-handed hospitality.

My Pilgrimage to Compostela was undertaken on foot.   I declined the option to travel on horseback or on donkey or on mountain bicycle and made the pilgrimage during the month of July, the hottest month in the year, and  the month during which my Patron’s Feast Day falls, and was spread over a period of six years. On arrival at each location along the way, my Pilgrim Passport was signed and sealed by the appropriate authority, civil or ecclesiastic, to establish my identity as a genuine pilgrim who could lay claim to a corner in the nearest Refugio. To view a selection of these seals in PDF format click here.

A small selection of these hard-won seals is published below.  They give some indication of my route.   In passing, I would draw the reader’s attention to the fact that, the larger and more pretentious the local seal, the smaller and less comfortable the accommodation.  However, nothing can diminish the splendour of the vistas on offer each day.   To view a random collection of photographs taken along the way click here.

The mother and father of all thuribles.


I leave the last word to the parish priest of Navarrenx (Bayonne) who added the following words to his signiture on my Pilgrim Passport:

‘Jacques, I am delighted to have met you, myself Basque, I recognised in you, a Scotsman, a brother.   Is it not the priesthood of Jesus Christ that we share that brings us together and renders us so close to one another?

Thank you for your visit to Navarrenx.

Sebastian Ihidoy’

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