"From Finisterre to Jerusalem", perhaps that is how it is now known. Carlota Valenzuela began a year ago to walk to Jerusalem, in a pilgrimage that has been, according to her, more of a spiritual journey.
Born in Granada, only 30 years old and with a double degree in Law and Political Science, she left everything behind to answer a call. She has granted an interview to Omnes talking about her experience.
How was the idea for the trip born and how has it changed throughout the pilgrimage?
-The idea of the trip was born as a call. I feel in a very clear and strong way that God is proposing the pilgrimage to me. It is not so much that he takes me by the hand, but that he puts it in front of me. Just the thought of doing God's will gave me so much joy and peace that I did not hesitate.
When the idea was born, I had no idea what it was going to be like. Now, with hindsight, I understand that I said yes and jumped into the void. I didn't try to have everything under control. I made a rough outline of the route and, grosso modohow long it was going to take me. Then, step by step, I made the pilgrimage.
What was the reaction of your family and friends?
-It was a dramatic moment, especially with my parents. I had all kinds of reactions. At one extreme were the people who were very concerned and thought it was crazy. Then there were the people who thought the idea was absurd. There were those who thought it was curious and then there were those who thought it was the best idea in the universe.
What surprised you most about the road?
-What surprised me the most is Providence. In our normal life we don't leave room for Providence, we have everything quite structured. When you start walking in the morning without knowing what is going to happen, without being able to meet your needs autonomously, you begin to see God in a very clear way. You have to leave room for Providence.
For example, one of the first days I arrived in a very small town where there was nothing. I started to worry about where to sleep and what to eat. I stopped to drink water to try to relax a little. Just then, an older couple came walking by. They asked me what I was doing with my backpack and I replied that I was on my way to Jerusalem. They immediately wanted to know if I had a place to sleep and when I said no, they welcomed me into their home.
Things like this happened every day during the pilgrimage. It is not a story, I have experienced it in my own life.
How was the spiritual pilgrimage?
-The physical path accompanies the spiritual one. It has been above all a path of trust. Jesus himself says in the Gospel "Ask and it will be given to you", "knock and it will be opened to you". I was letting go of everything, letting Him do.
Once you arrive in Jerusalem, what do you think?
-I had a plan to go to Jerusalem that I couldn't make in the end because my grandmother got sick and I had to move everything forward. I had been thinking about Jerusalem for a year. I had no great illusions but I had my plan of arrival, with a week of silence in the Garden of Olives.
One day, while in Ain Karem, I realize that I am next to Jerusalem and that my grandmother is dying. I wondered if I should move up the entrance to the city, but I didn't feel prepared. I felt like a student taking an exam without having studied.
To take some time off, I went to Bethlehem and there it became clear to me that I had to return home and enter Jerusalem.
I went to greet the monk who was going to welcome me in a church in the Garden of Olives. I told him of my concern that I was not prepared and he said to me: "Change the focus, the focus is not on you. You, obviously, are not ready, but this is not about you, it is about Him, about Christ". I replied that I had been walking for a year, waiting for the moment to enter Jerusalem, but the monk answered: "He has been waiting for you all eternity". There I had a complete change of perspective. It is not I who achieves things with my strength, it is Christ who does it.
In the end I entered Jerusalem. Honestly, I had my mind set on my grandmother. I spent three hours inside the city. My real Jerusalem was when I returned to Granada and spent with my grandmother her passion.
How do you pray after all this?
-With great joy. I have noticed that prayer has grown stronger like a muscle. I catch myself praising God or repeating ejaculatory prayers. It is something that has somehow become natural.
-I have no idea. God's will. I understand the background that my personal and professional life is oriented to God, I just want to work for Him. But I don't know the form yet, it's not a materialized idea.
My real Jerusalem was when I returned to Granada and spent with my grandmother her passion.Carlota Valenzuela
Does normality feel strange now that you are back in Spain?
-It's very strange for me to be here. I need to walk, nature, avoid the noise and the lights. Now I'm starting to settle in but the return has been very hard.
I don't find it hard to see God, but I find it hard to see myself. I have to get used to the idea that I am no longer a pilgrim. I'm trying to find a new routine, I'm making the transition. It's a very strange phase.
Do you recommend the experience?
-I believe that if I have been able to make this pilgrimage, anyone can do it. I am not an athlete, nor do I have the capacity for effort. What has surprised me most in my close circle is that I have persisted.
What I have done can be done in six months or two years. It is not a marathon, a matter of kilometers. It is a quiet project that you can do as you want, but you have to have the right motivation.
I'm sure you've been asked a thousand times. Do you plan to become a nun?
-I do not believe that God calls me to a cloistered life. If he calls me, here I am, but I think he calls me to a family life.