When asked what kind of music they were talking about, Conley said the three were inspired by the music and life story of Brian Wilson, which has been the subject of several recent films. The Beach Boys co-founder has struggled with mental illness throughout his career.
“We talked about his life and what a fascinating musician he was,” Conley said, adding that when they weren’t praying or talking on the Camino, they were listening to folk music, especially Bob Dylan, Weezer and the Avett Brothers.
Along the way, Conley said there were many opportunities to evangelize, although he said he believed up to 80% of those they encountered were non-believers.
When asked why he thought they were there, Conley said, “I think there’s something in the human heart that’s a longing for a quest, something that’s difficult, that’s physically demanding, but which at the same time has a kind of spiritual element. .”
“And those we’ve walked the Camino with who don’t have any particular religious affiliation, I think doing it for those reasons – it’s challenging, it’s physically demanding, it’s painful. And at the same time, it there is a spirituality to it,” he said.
“A lot of times they don’t know the whole story of why this Camino exists – the fact that there is someone at the end, who is buried there, who was an apostle of Jesus Christ and a friend of our Saviour,” he continued. “And that’s the reason this trail, if you will, has been trodden for hundreds and hundreds of years.
“And so they kind of have a vague understanding that it’s important, and it has a deep history. But they don’t really understand how important this has been throughout the history of Christianity, dating back to the 9th century, when the tomb of St. James was rediscovered by the bishop, through this miraculous star field , “Compostela”. “said Conley.
After traveling so many miles, when people finally arrive at the cathedral where St. James is buried, it’s “a pretty moving moment”.
“But [for many] it’s not really for Christian reasons,” he said.
The Camino, however, might hit them later in ways they might not have anticipated, Conley said. He noted that a young Franciscan priest he met used the Camino to reach unbelievers.
“He gives everyone at the end of Mass this little pebble with a yellow arrow on it,” like the arrows found on the shell-shaped signs that help guide pilgrims on the Camino.
“He basically said, just remember that God loves you and has a plan for you, and this arrow shows you the way,” Conley said.
“You see [something happen] with people, especially those [who] maybe they haven’t even darkened a church door in years. I noticed that there were even people crying because it is a beautiful church, the candles are lit, there are beautiful songs. It’s a real spiritual moment for them,” he said.
“They can put a pebble in their pocket and go on, but one day they can pull that pebble out and look at it. Especially if they are going through a crisis in their life. It could be a source of strength and consolation for them,” he said.