Self-Knowledge and Discernment
Pilgrimage is a religious journey to visit a holy site or holy person, and such journeys are found in many religious traditions. In Christianity, and in the Jesuit tradition particularly, pilgrimage has long had a central place at times when people are passing through major growth stages and seek to encounter God and to know themselves in a more profound way. St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, went on pilgrimage to the shrine of Montserrat when he had a major conversion experience in his life. All Jesuits since St. Ignatius themselves make pilgrimages as part of their formation. Students at Jesuit schools have made pilgrimages for nearly 500 years. This course continues that long tradition, by offering an experiential learning opportunity in which students can study the theology, philosophy, and history of pilgrimage in the Christian tradition, particularly the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and then make a pilgrimage together as a class.
We know that taking a walk can clear our heads, help shake a headache, prompt the emergence of previously unexpected solutions, or set a rhythm for stimulating conversation. Walking sometimes goes together with thinking in a way that opens the mind while exercising the body. The western intellectual tradition has a long history of reflecting while walking and also reflecting upon walking, but some walks offer greater spiritual significance than others. For a walk to be a pilgrimage it should be a journey to a location of spiritual significance, but it must also be undertaken with an intentional openness to a transforming experience. We are the inheritors of thousands of years of historical examples of pilgrimage, in which walking became the model for living in response to God’s call.
In the speed of our contemporary lives, this deliberately slow mode of transit can guide us in our attempts to know who we are, what we ought to do with our lives, and the challenges that stand in our way. The practice of pilgrimage can have many facets:
- An opportunity to be alone with oneself, so as to ponder one’s condition and one’s calling
- A way of connecting with and reflecting upon the non-human world
- A place to encounter other pilgrims willing to slow down and strive for meaningful conversations
- A time to be deeply receptive to the experience of transcendence and our relationship to God
This course will provide some of the theological, philosophical, and historical resources needed to render an extended walk on the Camino de Santiago—one of the great pilgrimage routes of the Christian world—a time of reflection and discernment that we undertake as both as individuals and as a class community.
Enrollment and Commitment
The course is structured in several parts, all of which are required for participating students:
- 7-8 classroom meetings during the spring semester (approximately every other week)
- 2 night weekend retreat during the spring semester
- 17 day pilgrimage in Spain (or if Spain is not possible, alternate sites) beginning June 1
Because of the unique design and intention of this course, each of the above components is required for course credit and for building community and trust among the group. Additionally, this course requires participants to hike for approximately 15-18 miles each day for 13 consecutive days in rugged outdoor conditions.
The group will be limited to 10 undergraduates, (freshmen, sophomores and juniors only), the faculty instructor, a graduate student assistant and a chaplain (when possible, a Jesuit). Students will be approved for enrollment based on academic interests, grades, and previous relevant experience.
Admission to this course is by application, interview and faculty approval only. Please review the Pilgrimage FAQs for more information.