By: Jessica Larson
What is a Camino?
The word “Camino” is Spanish, meaning “path,” “trail,” or, more generally, the “way.” In Spain, the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) is a religious pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James. There are many starting points, but the most common trail is 500 miles long and can takeapproximately five weeks to walk.
In the Diocese of St. Augustine, the Order of Malta American Association has developed a Baby Steps Camino™, a shorter three-day beach-walking pilgrimage from Jacksonville Beach to the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine, Fla., Dec. 8-10, 2023, covering 30 miles. However, like the Spanish trail, there are many starting points, and pilgrims can choose a shorter distance.
Pilgrims are welcome to join for one, two or three days of the pilgrimage. A guided “mini pilgrimage,” the Bambino Camino™, a two-mile walk from Vilano Beach to the shrine, is available on Dec. 10, the final day of the pilgrimage. It is an easy walk for pilgrims of all abilities. Non-walkers are also welcome on the final day of the events at the shrine.
What is the purpose of a Camino?
A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion. It is more than taking a tour and a pilgrimage is more than a journey. A pilgrim travels with the spiritual purpose to be closer to God.
The Baby Steps Camino™ pilgrimage is designed as an ancient method of sojourning in prayer, reflection, sacrifice, worship and fellowship. It offers pilgrims experiences such as Mass, confession, and Holy Hours.
To sojourn means to stay for a time or to live temporarily in a place. As Christians, we believe that this life, our triumphs and sufferings, draws us closer to God our Father. As people of faith, this world is not our home, it is merely a temporary journey toward our heavenly home. By setting time apart to walk, pray and step outside our daily lives, we join worldwide pilgrims to commune with God on our way to a holy place during Advent.
Devotees proceed by their own callings, at their own pace, to each his own intention or burden. Yet each is united in spirit for these few blessed days set aside for God. By the end of our pilgrimage, it is hoped that “the way” will unite each person with enriched faith, nourish friendship, and better prepare us for the coming of our Lord.
Where do Travelers Stay Overnight?
If devotees are local, they can return to their homes at night. For pilgrimage outside the area, there are a variety of hotels and B&Bs from Jacksonville Beach to St. Augustine.
Motorcoach transportation is available to return pilgrims to their cars for a suggested donation of $10 per person, per day. On Sunday, a complementary Old Town Trolley Tours ride between the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche and the Cathedral Basilica is available.
What is the Order of Malta?
The Order of Malta was founded in the Holy Land about 1048 AD by Blessed Gerard, who established a hospital to care for pilgrims in Jerusalem after their grueling and dangerous journey of Faith. Pilgrimage is the heritage of the Order and remains a primary focus. The worldwide Order organizes pilgrimages to Lourdes, the Holy Land, and holy sites worldwide. Including America’s first parish and the site of America’s oldest Marian Shrine, the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre De Dios in St. Augustine, Florida.
The Order of Malta American Association presents the Baby Steps Camino™, fusing prayer and physical exertion, solitude, and fellowship in pursuit of sanctification in the holy season of Advent.
To register and for more details such as the schedule of the event and items to bring, visit babystepscamino.com.