The Stones we Carry

Stage 22: Foncebadón to Ponferrada
Official: 26.78km // iPhone Step Count: 26.9km

Rising before the sun we walk. In silence, our steps trace up the mountain’s peak. Carrying in hand a rock, taken from home, symbolizing the weight we carry through our life.

For some the stone represents something negative: doubt, pain, depression, anxiety, a past mistake or grudge.

For others the stone may represent something positive: hope, new life, a transition, or symbolically marking their place in the world. 

Each pilgrim, each person, carries an untold number of stones. Carrying them we are all burdened by their weight. These stones build a barrier between ourselves and the person we are called to be.

What stones do you carry?
What burdens weigh you down?
What are your pains, stresses, and worries
What prevents you from being your true self? 

With the sun rising behind our backs, the Cruz de Ferro emerges above the tree line. This centuries old cross is supported by the thousands of stones placed from pilgrims of the past. Beneath the foot of this cross, men and women bend and bow, falling to their knees as they relinquish their burdens upon this sacred mound.

Each stone bears a weight far greater than its mass. Its true weight known only to the person who finally relinquishes it and feels the tension ease from their bodies. 

What do you need to relinquish?
What tension is holding you back?
What are you carrying? 

On a retreat once, I heard a counselor describing an experience of working with a person struggling with suicide. He mentioned to this person, “You’re right. There is something in you that needs to die. Your pain. Your depression. Your broken self-image. All of that needs to die.” 

The truth is, we all need to die. 

Change is an inevitable constant that flows through our lives. With the turning of the seasons, change evolves before our eyes. Brown bare trees blossom into vibrant colorful life. As days transform into weeks, months, and years, our bodies age, our minds wonder, and our hearts widen. This inevitable uncomfortable tension bares a heavy burden on our lives. 

The truth still remains, we all need to die. 

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”
(1 Corinthians 13:11)

For a boy to become a man, his boyish ways must end.
For a girl to become a women, her girlish ways must end.

What childish ways do I need to end?
What’s holding me back from maturing? 

Aside from maturing, we carry and cling to things that we need to release.

“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”
(Thích Nhất Hạnh)

Old grudges that prevent friendships.
Ignorance that holds us back from knowledge.
Painful relationships we insist on staying in.
Old memories we keep trying to relive.&
A death of someone we fail to mourn.
Mistakes we fail to forgive. 

What in my life is impermanent that I struggle to make permanent? 

Digging into the soil, I placed a stone I received my first year as a teacher at St. X. Mr. Kresse gave me a geode, that he promised would be cracked by the time I left this place. During my six years, the rock set on my desk, and frequently I’d pick it up and knock it against random objects hoping the crystals would be revealed.

On nights with I couldn’t figure out tomorrow’s lesson. BANG. I’d wack the rock against the wall. 

On days, when I’d be troubled by how to respond to a particular student’s struggles. BANG. I’d toss the rock against the floor. 

On evenings, when I couldn’t find to words to say on retreat. BANG. I’d peck at the rock with a larger stone. 

In six years, the rock never cracked. 

But it wasn’t the stone that needed to crack, it was me who needed to crack. 

My insecurities. My doubts. My arrogance. My faults. My pains. 

That rock, that I worked tirelessly to crack, symbolized everything I hoped and failed to be at St. X. By casting it aside and burring it beneath the Crux de Ferro, I was finally able to relinquish the burden of my time at St. X.

The rock didn’t crack, but I did. 

At the Cruz de Ferro, pilgrims bring all these burdens and struggles and relinquish them before this cross. Their stone becoming one of the thousand of other stones upon this pile. Humbled by the quantity of stones, we each recognize the burdens we all carry.

My stone is not their stone.
My burden is not their burden. 

Yet, upon this pile, each our stones, burdens, and pains unite in this transformative experience. In the death, laid forth upon this pile, we are lightened and reborn. The Pascal Mystery coming alive in our humble gesture.

The truth is, we all need to die. 

The real truth is, we all need to be reborn.

The profound truth is that we are called to become ourselves.

“For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.”
(Thomas Merton)

Whether walking the Camino de Santiago, or walking through life, may we all find the courage the relinquish our stones, feel the released tension it provides, and move more fully into the men and women we are called to be.


  1. Congratulations, Luca and Max, on your journey; not the outer one which you are about to finish, but on the inner journey you have just begun. It is indeed a high honor to walk with Christ, and to discover your true self as a co-creator with God.


  2. Bobby,
    Again another great read. I do wonder why you feel you cracked at St X because I believe you stood on solid ground, just as you will continue to do wherever you go with God.


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