A Spanish teenager with an intellectual disability received an encouraging letter from Pope Francis after walking the Camino de Santiago this month.
Álvaro Calvente, 15, walked the traditional pilgrimage route with his father and a family friend. They carried prayer intentions with them and documented the journey on social media.
After arriving in Santiago de Compostela, the end of the pilgrimage, on July 13, Calvente’s father sent a letter to Pope Francis telling him about Álvaro and their experiences on the Camino.
Pope Francis responded with a letter July 20, thanking Álvaro “for having the courage to walk and inviting many to walk with you.”
“In the midst of the pandemic which we have to live with, with your naturalness, joy and simplicity, you were able to set in motion the hope of many of the people you met on the road or on social networks,” the pope wrote, according to a photo of the letter posted on Twitter.
Le agradecemos al Santo Padre esta carta que acogemos con verdadero amor. Hoy estamos de peregrinación en el lugar de nacimiento de Sto Domingo de Guzman. Aquí hemos leído la carta y hemos rezado por Su Santidad como hace Álvaro todos los días y a todas horas. ¡Dios lo bendiga! pic.twitter.com/ayHnpOBqvZ
— El Camino de Álvaro (@CaminodeAlvaro) July 21, 2020
Calvente, who is from Malaga, Spain, is the seventh of 10 children. His family is part of the Neocatechumenal Way Catholic community.
The Camino de Santiago, sometimes called “the Way of St. James,” is a network of trails across Europe which lead to the tomb of St. James in Santiago.
Calvente and his companions hiked from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela, more than 62 miles of the Camino trail known as the “the French Way.”
¿No sabes qué camino elegir en tu vida? Yo lo tengo claro: "buscad el Reino de Dios y su justicia y lo demás se os dará por añadidura". Yo voy a Santiago a buscarlo... ¿Te vienes? pic.twitter.com/ri7kYh8DUJ
— El Camino de Álvaro (@CaminodeAlvaro) July 11, 2020
“You made a pilgrimage and caused many to make a pilgrimage, encouraging them not to be afraid and to recover their joy because we never go alone on the way,” the pope wrote to Calvente. “The Lord always walks by our side. Thank you for your testimony and prayers.”
“May the Lord bless you and Our Lady of Mount Carmel cover you with her cloak,” Francis concluded. “Greetings to your parents and siblings; and please don’t forget to pray and to ask them to pray for me.”