25th July is the feast of St James who is special to all pilgrims and attracts thousands of pilgrims arriving on various trails across Spain from France and Portugal in the Camino de Santiago.
About St. James the Apostle
St James as a pilgrim with a shell on this bag
St. James and the Scallop Shell
The Scallop Shell has many grooved lines that lead from the outer rim to a meeting point at the base, representing our life journey that might look different from the outside, but all of them lead us back to one sacred soul.
The shell itself represents the many different spiritual pathways that lead to the same place, to the universal centre of all life-forms, the spirit, the soul. When pilgrims carry the Scallop Shell it represents our personal journey, the sacred path that we must take within. We are all on the outer rim of the spirit, struggling to find our way back to our centre.
Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, ‘Nuestra Señora del Pilar‘ in Zaragoza, Spain, where the Virgin Mary appeared to St James in his missionary journey in Spain.
What can we learn from St James pilgrimage?
Pilgrimage is physical travel in pursuit of a spiritual goal and it is a microcosm of the soul’s lifelong journey to God – the greatest of all adventures
A pilgrim lives each day with radical intentionality to depend upon divine providence. When he leaves the comforts and security of home behind, illusions of self-sufficiency and control quickly dissipate.
The pilgrim crosses unfamiliar terrain, encounters new people and customs, and sleeps each night in a different locale. He is vulnerable to the elements and the road’s many pitfalls.
The pilgrim experiences his own physical limits and recognises the necessity to journey with bare essentials and live a simple life making one open to the Holy Spirit.
In this struggle of the journey, the spirit of the pilgrim is taken over by prayer, progress , encouraged by new people and the natural beauty that surrounds him.
These lights and challenges involved in the pilgrim’s physical journey point to greater spiritual realities, leading to life-changing lessons.
In life’s journey we are all pilgrims and like St James we can travel light, detaching ourselves from that which is temporary and unnecessary of the past, to pray in difficulties, to depend on divine providence, to travel with and help others yet focus on one’s own journey, and be open to life and the works of the Holy Spirit.