Though pilgrims of old often journeyed solo, they were not alone on their journeys.
Their communities journeyed with them vicariously, sending the pilgrim off with prayers and encouragement as the pilgrim willingly set off into the unknown. The knowledge of this support from afar fueled the pilgrim along the path, serving as a reminder that this was a journey worth making when they needed it most.
We, too, can benefit from the support of Journey Companions. Whether we are traveling on pilgrimage abroad or journeying through everyday life, Journey Companions accompany us in spirit and in presence, sharing our desires for the journey and joining us in solidarity and intention each step of the way.
Journey Companions can be pastors, mentors, spiritual directors, close family members, or treasured friends. The Celts had their own term for this—an anam cara or “soul friend”—a person with whom our shared connection is deep beyond words. Whatever the relationship, a Journey Companion should possess these five essential qualities:
1. a supportive presence
A Journey Companion is someone who is willing to come alongside you at any stage along the path, offering a supportive and compassionate presence each step of the way.
2. a listening ear
Listening—the act of offering full attention to another—is both an art and a gift. A Journey Companion understands the power of listening in relationship and is always ready and willing to offer a listening ear when you need it most.
3. an open mind
A Journey Companion knows that through their offering of companionship, their role is to listen with an open mind free of judgment, bearing witness to your journey with sincerity and curiosity rather than imposing their own.
4. a prayerful heart
Even when you are not together, a Journey Companion is always there in spirit, joining with you in your intentions through spiritual practice and prayer.
5. a pilgrim soul
A Journey Companion understands that life takes us on many paths and meaning can be found in any part of the journey. Through their supportive presence, listening ear, open mind, and prayerful heart, they become a fellow pilgrim in this quest for meaning as you together seek connection with the True Self and the Divine, follow the lead of the Sacred Guide, and courageously journey into the unknown.
Who are your Journey Companions? Are you a Journey Companion to others? If you feel that you do not currently have a Journey Companion, what action will you take to seek one out? Even if you don’t have relationships of depth in your life, a spiritual director—the original “soul friend”—is always available to offer support on your journey. Find a spiritual director in your area using Spiritual Directors International’s Seek and Find Guide here.