Sunday, 1 December 2013

Say No to Stunt Caminos

No, I do not like Stunt Caminos. I find them offensive and vulgar.

In the last couple of years, athletic people with ego needs and TV crews have taken to using the camino as a backdrop for their attempts at "fastest bicycle camino,"  "longest continuous roller-blade camino" or "ultramarathon camino."  Others do the 500-mile path on camels or driving pony carts or pedaling tiny clown cars. Still more are doing the month-long trek with a webcam strapped to their heads, directing in their own streaming broadcast to the waiting world!

So a lot of people say "that´s wonderful, your camino is all yours, no judgement, we all have to walk our own path, etc. etc." And they would be right, if the "pilgrims" were skating and camelling along, say, Route 66.

The Camino de Santiago is not just a special road.  It is a holy place. It should be treated with respect.

I believe the Camino is made sacred by the faith and prayers of a thousand years of pilgrim traffic. It´s a bit like a battleground, hallowed by the blood of people who gave their all for some greater good.  It´s a national historic site, the Waterloo Memorial or the Taj Mahal or the Western Wall, a place key to the identity of a country. You don´t have to be a citizen of the nation to be respectful of their sacred places.

The Camino is also a Christian pathway, deeply Roman Catholic in its architecture and iconography, its tradition of hospitality and its harsh demands. People who don´t like Catholics do not like that the Camino is a Catholic kind of place, but it is, undeniably. And people really ought to respect one another´s religious shrines and holy places, even if they don´t believe in religion. It´s just a matter of civility.

They should not do their sensational record-breaking stunts on the camino, any more than a dog-and-pony show should set up inside a mosque. 

It is disrespectful. It is unneccessary -- there are plenty of places to ride bikes fast, or ride camels slow, or live-stream your blistered feet and what you had for your lunch. Stunt caminos are not pilgrimages. They are vulgar photo-ops and ego exercises that abuse the holy hospitality of The Way.
They are in poor taste, and I do not like them.

And that is how I see it.     

Patrick has been laid-up with a bum leg, and I´ve had to take over a lot of the chores he usually does. It is not all wood-chopping and dish-washing. Every morning at dawn, I get to walk six dogs over a few miles of rolling countryside. It is sharply cold out there, but sunny, and these days the fields sometimes have hunters in them. But we take it slow and take it easy. I am not a morning person, I probably never will become one, but I can see the appeal.

I can think, and consider, and wonder as I wander. 

And I get to see greyhounds run in the mist.


Fr. Christopher Cantrell SSC said...

We are in total agreement on this one. And running greyhounds has got to be a marvelous sight.

Anonymous said...


The Solitary Walker said...

Well said.

CaroleH said...

Well said Reb. The camino is not a TV stunt (Ian's words).....

EileenHamer said...

Right on, Reb. Stunt caminos suck,no doubt. Prayig Paddy will recover soon, walking six dogs is beyond my comprehension. Could be worse, could be six kids.

Matthew Mutch said...

I didn't realize this kind of stuff was going on...sad to find out

Jim G said...

I've seen arguments break out over whether one's camino is somehow more or less 'authentic' based on the level of effort exerted.
In that sense I don't mind the notion of riding the Camino on a bicycle. It's more effortful than riding a horse, and that seems an accepted notion, and for some folks that seems to matter greatly. That seems to be a slippery slope.... with arguments about where you started from, how you got there, why you didn't row across the ocean..... I find those arguments problematic.

As you say, I find discussions about intent more useful, even for the non-catholic folks, and especially when debating those that walk or ride or pedal or push their wheelchairs. When I hear about people riding the entire Camino Frances in 8 days, I wonder what they were thinking along the route. Were they just missing potholes or experiencing something deeper? When I see someone get out of a taxi on the bridge into Portomarin, I wonder where their head is at.

For me, these stunt caminos ring false because they are not experiencing the camino, they are experiencing themselves.

Sil said...

I don't mind the pony carts or the mules and wagons! In 1963, Antonio Roa Irisarri, Jaime Eguaras Echávarri and José María Jimeno Jurío, members of the newly formed association of "Los Amigos de Camino de Santiago" in Estella, made a pilgrimage to Santiago dressed in Capuchin habits and leading a mule with a wagon. (It was they who designed a Pilgrim's Credential which was approved and blessed by Cardinal-Archbishop of Santiago Archbishop Fernando Quiroga Palacios. The cover design with a walking cane, gourd and scallop shell was adopted at the first international Jacobean conference held in Jaca in 1987.)

tio tel said...

We don't mind how they get there, but you are so right about their state of mind Reb. Well said. Pilgrimage is not a 'stunt'.
Equally there should be respect for this being Christian/Catholic and not 'just a hike', even though non-Christians are obviously welcome to walk.
T & V