Rain, heat, unpredictable temperatures, rocky footing, steep hills and narrow valleys are only some of the terrain that every year hundreds of thousands come across as they make the pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago. Known in English as the Way of St. James, the Camino is a network of pilgrimages that lead to the shrine of the Apostle St. James the Greater in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, and one local production company has created a film to document the journey.
“Santiago: The Camino Within” records a pilgrimage led by Most Rev. Donald J. Hying, the Bishop of the Diocese of Madison, who made the life-changing trek in 2017 with a small group of fellow travelers. Outfitted with waterproof jackets, sturdy backpacks, comfortable hiking shoes and walking poles, the group journeyed together for five days on a trail that most will never encounter in their lifetime. The movie that captured it all premiered in late July on EWTN, Shalom World Media, Salt & Light Media and Formed.
“For many people, they won’t have the opportunity to go to Spain and walk the Camino, so this movie is kind of a virtual pilgrimage where they can encounter an experience through the absolute power of the film,” said Bishop Hying. “This film is so artistic and beautiful — it feels like you’re there.”
The Power of Storytelling
Invited to document the journey was Ahava Productions founder Erin Berghouse and her film team. A nonprofit organization on a mission to create films that will reaffirm the depth and beauty of our Catholic faith, their goal is to inspire and educate with magnificent movies that “will move your soul.” Together, they interviewed individuals they met along the way and captured the beauty of the Spanish countryside through wide aerial shots and close-ups.
Heralded by critics for its incredible cinematography and storytelling of the people Bishop Hying met on the way, the movie captures pilgrims of all ages and walks of life. Stretching 500 miles over hilly terrain, this northern walk typically takes 35 days for a seasoned hiker, but many choose to walk portions of the Camino as they are physically able to.
The movie begins with the telling of the story of St. James the Great, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. The brother of St. John the Evangelist, the two were called by Jesus as they worked in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. According to ancient local tradition, in AD 40, the Virgin Mary appeared to St. James on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta, while he was preaching the Gospel in Iberia, encouraging him to continue his journey. Following that apparition, he returned to Judea, where he was martyred for his faith by King Herod.
Known as the first Apostle to die, his remains were discovered and moved to a tomb in Santiago de Compostela. Today, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world make the journey of St. James to renew their faith.
In addition to breathtaking scenes, the film also contains original music written by Berghouse, and composed by musicians from Spain, Poland, Singapore and the United States. Vocal selections include “Song of St. James” by Luke Spehar, “Parce Domine” by Kitty Cleveland, “Santiago” by Edgar Muñoz and “Buen Camino” by Berghouse.
When asked what he hopes people will get out of seeing the film, Bishop Hying is hopeful that it will produce a spark of faith.
“I think the film will open people up to just the amazing example of one person’s life — that of St. James — who heard the call of Christ, became an Apostle, and evangelized an entire country,” he shared. “It shows the power of one life transformed by Christ, given in the service of the Gospel.”
From a family of six from Spain who walked the Camino as a way to become closer, to a married couple from South Korea who took a month off from demanding jobs in order to “find joy in life again,” viewers are able to get a sense of the people who walk the Camino each year searching for more. Each individual story ends with the person shouting “Buen Camino!” which translated means “good road” in Spanish.
‘Why Are We Here?’
Mixed within the film is commentary from Bishop Hying about the importance of an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, and acknowledgement that the human life is hard for all.
“All of us are on a journey of the heart, and so this external walking, this external journeying, is really a symbol of us moving towards God,” Bishop Hying explains during the movie. “As we walk the Camino together, we are compelled to ask ourselves: Why are we here? What are we looking for?” It’s a question asked to the pilgrims featured throughout the movie.
“The film speaks in general to the Catholic practice of pilgrimage and goes way back to when Christians would go to the Holy Land and pray in the places of Jesus — his life, death and resurrection,” he said. “Really, every time we go on a pilgrimage to a sacred place, it’s a microcosm of our pilgrimage to the Father’s house.
“Our whole life is a pilgrimage to heaven,” Bishop Hying added.
The Camino de Santiago is not just a physical 500-mile journey — it’s also a pilgrimage of the heart. Do you feel a calling to start your own “Journey with St. James”? Discover more about the film and those who brought it to life by visiting www.ahavaproductions.com/santiago.