Religion teacher spends summer on The Way of St. James


photo courtesy of Joe Pedersen

Religion teacher, Mr. Joe Pedersen, spent 30 days on The Way of St. James, eventually reaching his destination of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where St. James’s bones lie.

Anne Arnason, Staff Writer

After walking 800 kilometers through the Pyrenees mountains, from a small French town towards the Atlantic ocean, Mr. Joe Pedersen arrived at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela for the conclusion of his 30 day spiritual pilgrimage. During part of his two month stay in abroad, Mr. Pedersen walked along The Way of St. James, across Spain, with people he met from Australia, Germany, South Africa, England, the Netherlands, and Italy.

The Way, a series of 1,000 year old walking paths across Spain, accommodates thousands of travelers each year. It was an especially important Christian pilgrimage during medieval times, but still maintains great relevance for spiritual journeys today, including Mr. Pedersen’s. “It gave [me] a lot of time to reflect, to pray for people I care about, to think about them, and time to just be still”, religion teacher Mr. Pedersen said.

Walking five to six hours daily, Mr. Pedersen met an interesting range of people, including a priest from Slovakia, a Dutch man who publishes magazines on golf course maintenance, a theology professor from his alma mater, Notre Dame, and a man who began walking 6 months prior from his front step in Frankfurt, Germany. Mr. Pedersen stays in touch a few of the people met via email.

At night, tired and sore, Mr. Pedersen stayed in the “albergues,” or hostels, that serve those pilgrimaging on The Way. Only possessing what he could carry on his back––two outfits and a small bag of toiletries––he truly embraced a simple lifestyle. “It’s a really inexpensive trip, it only costs 5 to 8 euros per night,” Mr. Pedersen said. 5 to 8 euros is roughly 6 to 10 US dollars.

Mr. Pedersen ended his 800 km expedition at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where St. James’s bones lie to this day. According to legend, the apostle’s bones traveled to the current-day city of Santiago de Compostela by boat from Jerusalem when he died in 44 AD.

Everyday at noon this cathedral hosts a mass for the pilgrims arriving at the end of their journey. Each mass fills the spacious Cathedral with pilgrims from countries on nearly every continent. The most memorable part of Mr. Pedersen’s pilgrimage was the incensory at this mass, which hangs from the vaulted ceiling by a pulley operated by six men. “Seeing the smoke…and all the people are there together, it’s almost like standing at the gates of heaven with all of these people from all around the world,” Mr. Pedersen said.

However, this fulfilling month long journey on foot is not easy. “Everyday I’m sore, everyday I’m tired; I missed my family and the people I love, but not being with those people made me realize how special and important those things are.” Mr. Pedersen said.