Of pilgrimage and community and the film, The Way.

Today marks the beginning of the Christian remembrance  of Holy Week…the last week of Lent and the week where we remember Christ’s passion (Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and continues through Holy Saturday).

It is a week where it is easy to contemplate pilgrimages of faith and I took the opportunity last evening to view a powerful one in the recent film, The Way, a film about the Way of Saint James, the 500 mile route that pilgrims make across the French Pyrenees and Basque Spain to the Cathedral de Santiago de Compestela in Galicia, Spain. The route has history to the middle ages, when pilgrims made the trek one of the most important pilgrimage routes beginning in the 9th century in order to visit the cathedral where the belief is that the apostle James is buried (the cathedral was built in 813 on the spot where James’ remains were said to have been found).

The Way is written and directed by Emilio Estevez and stars his father, Martin Sheen. Actually, the “star” might be more readily identified as the “El Camino de Santiago” itself. The film explores the journey that Tom (Sheen) takes after discovering his son Daniel (Estevez) has died on the first day of his journey attempting this pilgrimage. The father and son had a strained relationship and the son had encouraged him to take the trip together but Tom wasn’t interested. Now, Tom takes the journey in an attempt to understand his son better and to take his son’s cremated remains so that his son will have traveled the length of the Camino de Santiago as well.

Tom expects to do this by himself and is surprised by travelers who each have personal journeys that come alongside his, adding measures of humor and pathos. Tom wants none of this and purposefully strides down the trails but the value of new found community begins to slip up upon him and he begins to develop friendship with several others he meets along the road.

Each pilgrim has reasons for making the journey and these reasons are unpacked along the way, culminating to their visit to the Cathedral of St. James (pictured below …I am including a link to the website of the Cathedral, which includes an audio tour in Spanish).

Just as the idea of lived community sneaks up on these travelers, I think the film sneaks up on the viewer. I enjoyed The Way very much and think you might too. The film is available at APU in our Media Center collection. The film is rated PG-13.

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