Book Review: Limping to Santiago

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Limping to Santiago

by Patrick Francis Dillon
Self-published, 2023
328 pages
on Goodreads

Reviewed by Fr. Jim King, C.S.C. | Notre Dame, IN

Limping to Santiago book review, with book cover.

An enduring memory of my first Camino is walking into an albergue on the Francés that reminded me of a podiatry clinic. There were about twenty beds, half of them occupied by peregrinos, most of them tending to feet that looked like they had spent the day trudging through fields of broken glass. The title of Patrick Dillon’s Limping to Santiago is quite apt. 

From the outskirts of Porto on the first day of the Camino Portugués, the author painfully hobbles his way toward collecting his Compostela afflicted by a giant blister that won’t heal. Slowed to such an extent that he “did not pass a single pilgrim all the way to Santiago,” it is even more impressive that he persevered. It will not surprise Camino veterans that a number of fellow wayfarers provide the food, directions, medical assistance, and fellowship that enable him to do so. Dillon comes to realize something that eventually dawns on most pilgrims: “I was by myself, but I was never alone.” 

The first few chapters movingly frame the decision to do the Camino from the perspective of a practicing Catholic invoking the assistance of saints and carrying religious medals while walking to take upon himself the sufferings of others as an offering to God. While the effects of the blister overwhelm a good portion of the narrative that follows, Dillon discovers one of the true blessings of the Camino: that Good Samaritans come in many guises. By the end, he realizes he has been borne to Santiago by a mobile communion of giving and receiving despite never having had a conversation about religious faith with anyone he encounters along the way.  

The book highlights how fortitude is a form of human capital both acquired and expended through dealing with adversity. It is a testimony to Patrick Dillon’s faith that he managed to tap into a reservoir of devotion to faith, family, and friends built over a lifetime to keep moving forward beyond the point where most pilgrims would have thrown down their walking sticks and booked a flight home. His personal memoir affirms that whatever internal strengths we draw upon, those are inevitably replenished by encounters with others who pick us up and mirror the love of Christ when we cannot walk alone.

Dillon persevered on the Camino Portugués. Check out our Camino Portugués route overview to learn more.

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