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Andrew McCarthy Wrote a Book About a Father-Son Pilgrimage. His Son Gets His Say.

Andrew McCarthy Wrote a Book About a Father-Son Pilgrimage. His Son Gets His Say.

In the ninth century, the Catholic Church announced that the remains of the apostle James had been discovered in the far western reach of the Iberian Peninsula, at what would become the town of Santiago de Compostela. It further declared that anyone willing to make a pilgrimage to the spot would receive plenary indulgences, or the remission of punishment for their sins. The faithful came running, er, walking. The Camino de Santiago sprang into existence and has been traversed, with varying degrees of popularity, ever since.

The Camino passes over the Pyrenees Mountains and bisects desolate plains; it leads through villages of a few dozen inhabitants and sizable cities (Pamplona, León). Often under blistering sun.

I first walked this path a quarter-century ago. There was no religious call to my walk, but like so many pilgrims through the ages, the Camino produced in me a transformative — dare I say spiritual? — experience. I’d always wanted to return to the Camino and in the summer of 2021, I invited my then 19-year-old son, Sam McCarthy, to join me. Sam, an actor and a native New Yorker who has appeared in such shows as “Dead to Me” on Netflix, surprised me by saying yes. We arrived in Spain in late July and walked through a scorching August to Santiago de Compostela. And then, while I sat my weary body down, Sam continued on, for 50 more miles to the sea, ending his journey in the village of Finisterre.

I’ve written a book, “Walking With Sam: A Father, a Son, and Five Hundred Miles Across Spain,” that tells the story of our journey from my perspective, but what did it mean for him? Why would a teenager say yes to a month of walking with his father?

“It didn’t really feel like a big decision,” said Sam. “It was something you’d always talked about, and it intrigued me — the idea of walking across a country. I didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, now I’m going to walk and do this thing with my dad so we can get closer.’ It wasn’t really like that for me.”

“But I’d say it did draw us closer,” I said.

“Of course,” he said.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Before you set out on something like the Camino, at least for me, the idea of completing it or finishing felt kind of amorphous. I didn’t know what to expect. But there’s a great strength that comes with an achievement like doing the walk. It’s kind of unshakable. It’s a tangible thing that you completed that…

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