The Pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago


The Pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago

Steve Patton


While on a tour in Barcelona last week, our tour guide related a church tradition dating back to the middle ages.  On the northwest coast of Spain is a Catholic cathedral that claims to have the bones of James the apostle.  For a thousand years people have been making pilgrimages across Spain to this church to seek forgiveness for great sins.  Our tour guide told us that if you walked “The Way of St. James” across Spain to this church by the sea, you were to pick up a shell and carry it to the cathedral. They would give you a certificate confirming your pilgrimage and you would be absolved of your grievous sin.  Thousands make this pilgrimage annually.


Jesus spoke out about the traditions of men on several occasions. (See Matt. 15:2-16)  The traditions he was speaking about were binding religious teachings that went beyond what God had taught and, in some cases, actually caused people to violate God’s Word.  He had no use for such disrespect for what God said.  The pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago is a perfect illustration of a tradition that is not found in scripture yet is kept by thousands of people who believe such an act gains forgiveness.


The story made me reflect upon what we often refer to as traditions in the Lord’s church.  Actually we are often referring to something that has become a custom, such as how many songs we sing in a Sunday worship service or the order of the service itself.  Though we should be careful not to let customary practices lull us into less than acceptable worship, let’s not confuse this with what Jesus is condemning as traditions in His day.  When traditions of men actually cause us to violate the teaching of scripture then we are really in trouble.  That we must constantly guard against.  We must respect the authority of God’s Word.