Ultreia is a word connected with the Camino. It is a Latin word meaning “beyond” and is a rallying call, either said to another or shared in song, to carry on, to keep reaching beyond ourselves, conveying the idea of surpassing oneself, both physically and spiritually, while on The Way. One of the most beautiful experiences of the Camino was the night I stayed in a hostel run by nuns. It was recommended to me by a fellow pilgrim who had stayed there the previous night. I had encountered this fellow several times and through our discussions, gleaned that he was not on the Camino for “religious reasons”. Yet, as he described his experience, he was rather in awe about one of the young nuns, whose singing had left quite an impression upon him. He said, “I don’t even know how to describe her…..just love. She was love and beauty.” He wasn’t wrong. The night that I stayed there, the hosts gathered together all the pilgrims for a time of sharing and singing. Her voice was angelic and she taught us the “Ultreia” song.
Now I find myself on the eve of another journey, heading to Rome, another place of pilgrimmage, and planning to complete a marathon (42.2km) and this same song and word are running through my mind. It has been almost a year since I walked the Camino, a year in which I have struggled to “carry on”, life feeling as cold and dull as the winter. But spring is here and the warm sunshine, like the birds, has returned. My mood is shifting like the seasons. I am determined to keep going, keep reaching beyond, keep moving onwards. I am inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who expressed this same idea. “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward“. Ultreia!