Each pilgrim journey has its own unique gifts and graces, for as the normal routine of life is left behind and the pilgrim steps out onto the road, there is a new freedom that awaits. Mary and Mark Diggins share their own experiences of freedom and grace experienced on their Ignatian Camino in 2018.
Their Camino experiences that have inspired them to offer On the Way – Spiritual Exercises for Everyday Pilgrims, which is an international online retreat in daily life.
Letting God walk with me each day
“The call of the Camino grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go” reflects Mark Diggins, JISA Canisius and Being with God in Nature Spiritual Director
“My desire to walk the Camino was sitting with me for at least six or seven years, before we finally embarked on our first pilgrimage. Fellow pilgrims usually find that somehow in the process, the right time emerges to walk their Camino, and so it was for Mary and I.”
“We set off to walk our first pilgrimage, in September of 2016, walking the Way of St James, from the French Pyrenees across Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostella, taking about 7 weeks. And to be honest, I came back from that one a bit lost.” Mark remembers, “I got so used to following the yellow arrows every day, that when I returned home, I missed the simplicity of the purpose of walking the Camino.”
It took Mark a few years and a few walks to get a deeper sense of being on pilgrimage. While he had many transforming moments, across multiple Caminos both in Spain and in South Australia, it wasn’t until walking the Ignatian Camino in Spain, with his wife Mary, and their daughter Bridget, that it started to make sense.
“I was not lost when I came back from the Ignatian Camino. I was given a sense of the dynamic of what it opened in me; it was an intensely profound experience of God, and Jesus walking with me, each day.”
“This was a lesson to let go and trust God, one of the lessons I still carry with me every day, the need for taking control diminishes and letting God walk with me increases.”
“This sacredness of God within me. It took me three Caminos to get a real sense of how to live each day… waking up with God and having the awareness of God accompanying me in the everyday.”
Letting God love me
“Having left Loyola behind a few days before, I walked out of the Basque mountains to face a new horizon – in my life, career and vocation, contemplating how Ignatius had turned to face these same roads and a new horizon also” says Mary Diggins, as she recalls a transforming moment along the Ignatian Camino in 2018.
“The following day, after resting in the hilltop medieval town of LaGuardia, I found myself looking out over the wide valley of Rioja stretching towards Navarrete in the distance. I was contemplating Jesus’ words, ‘I am the vine, and you are the branches.’ I was noticing all the different stages of the vines in growth, as I walked amongst them, and marvelling at the beauty of each stage and how these were reflected in my own life experience. As I did, I felt myself begin to let go and with each step I was coming back into myself and my being.”
Mary found herself that morning walking well ahead of her husband Mark and daughter Bridget with whom she was making the Ignatian Camino. “I was walking in this little bubble and I could swear I could hear this music! What’s going on here? I thought to myself.”
“I looked up and there was a bit of a rise, and the music was getting louder and louder” remembers Mary. “I play the guitar and sing, but I did not expect to see what emerged as I got closer… Here was this Spanish man sitting under the tree playing the Spanish guitar! I was astounded. Why should I have been surprised? God seems to find me through Music!” Mary exclaims.
“Here I was in the midst of these beautiful vines and given such a beautiful gift of loving presence in the most ordinary way. This was indicative of the whole journey, ‘letting go and letting God’ along the Camino, and being in tune with every step. I was invited to let go of the worry over all my questions about my life in the future and just savour being in the present.”
This was such a transforming moment for Mary, it paved the way for the rest of that day, the journey to Navarrete, as well as her experience of the Ignatian Camino to Manresa and beyond. “I came home, and I made a decision to conclude my full-time work and step into Ignatian formation and retreat work. This was my heart’s desire and to explore my music more, something I thought I had no time for. I’m now learning to play the harp!”
“This was God’s reminder to walk my life’s journey in my own way. I now reflect back and wonder about that Spanish man among the vines, who was so fully present, in the moment and fully alive, sharing his gift of music for the sheer love of it. In that moment I was being invited to let go and let God love me.”
Both Mark and Mary Diggins are a spiritual directors with JISA Canisius and the Being with God in Nature ministry. They offer many retreats in nature and online. For the Ignatian Year they are offering On the Way – Spiritual Exercises for Everyday Pilgrims, an international online retreat in daily life.