Camino de Santiago - page 12
Table of Contents:
A Pilgrim's Progress: Fr. Stephen Sanchez, OCD, on the Camino de Santiago – 2018 - page 12
Amenal to Santiago
We woke up at 6, met at the café at 6:30 for coffee and a croissant. It would be a short day of 17kms (a little over 10 miles).
But the first couple of miles was going to be a steep and difficult climb.
We put on our headlamps and left without saying goodbye to the cats - they were probably dreaming of tuna, eggs, and potato chips.
My shin was still a little tender, as were my feet, so i took the steep climb a little slower - a snail passed me up on the left honking his horn and yelling something in Galician, probably 'Pilgrims!'
It was mostly a climb through forests and hills. The sun broke through the early mist but the trees kept shedding the accumulation of dew from their leaves.
The tranquility was broken by those of us gasping as we climbed.
We started going through some farmlands and before we knew it we found a small chapel in San Paio dedicated to San Pelaio. Then we found that we were at the outskirts of A Lavacolla. In the Middle Ages this is where the pilgrims would bathe before getting to the Cathedral - 'lava cola' means 'wash [your] derriere' - there is a river that runs through it and I assume that is where pilgrims would wash themselves - if they washed themselves. As we walked through there was a group of pilgrims stopped at the bridge crossing the small river. As we got closer we saw that they were stunned to see an older woman, a grandmotherly sort, thigh-deep in the river doing laundry.
We kept moving while the group stood their mouth agape.
We found another small chapel in A Lavacolla itself before taking a left around the chapel and uphill again. We hike on - thinking, praying, observing - then we found ourselves skirting the Santiago de Compostella airport. We must be close!
We continue our hike, relieved that Santiago must be somewhere close.
We continued our trek after passing an industrial park and then up a small hill and found ourselves climbing to an overlook which is Monte de Gozo - Mount of Joy - because it is from here that you can the spires of the cathedral in the distance. The there is a valley at your feet and the beginnings of Santiago to your right on the horizon, and the spires behind that.
Here on Monte de Gozo there is also a monument to St. John Paul II and the world youth day held here. There is also a plaque to St. Francis who was also a pilgrim of Santiago.
We visited the small chapel of St. Mark and then headed downhill to find our way into the city.
As we climbed up into the city we lost sight of the Cathedral. As we kept following the yellow arrows we found ourselves descending a small hill and we caught sight of the spires again. We continue to walk, losing the spires and finding them again.
We walk and find ourselves passing in front of an old Benedictine monastery that now serves as the Major Seminary and pilgrim hostel. There is a small side entrance to the cathedral in the plaza opposite the Seminary. We continue walking and finally find ourselves on the grounds of the main plaza in front of the cathedral. BUT our trek isn't over: 1 - You can't enter through the main entrance because of restoration work (you can stand in-line for hours to go up and see the Portico of Glory); 2 - You are not allowed into the Cathedral with backpacks. So we take in the scene for a minute and continue on to the Pilgrim Welcome Office to get our final stamp in our Pilgrim Passport (your 'passport' gets stamped at every albergue or church along The Way), and get our official 'Campostela' certificate declaring that we have officially completed our pilgrimage.
We stand in-line for a very long time but excited that we have made it this far.
Finally I'm interviewed by a young man, in English because he likes practicing English. He asks me what my favorite city was - I say 'Burgos! I could have stayed th here for weeks!' - his eyes get wide - he says "Burgos!?!? - that's where my mother is from!!" We chat a little bit in Spanish and then he shows me his arm - he is so emotional about Burgos that he has goosebumps and his eyes tear up. I ask him his name, he responds "'José' - it's very Spanish!" - I say, "Very beautiful name! Husband of the Virgen, protector of the Church" - he smiles from ear to ear and nods. I get my certificates - which will go in my personnel file - and another shell, this one with the red Santiago cross on it and we exit.
We decide we want wash up before going to the Cathedral. We wind our way to an apartment that Deacon Peter rented for the night. We are too early so we wait around in front of the door that leads to the apartment - a young girl shows up leads us up to the apartment - there is an elevator thank God but it is small - we finally make it to the 2nd floor and are shown the apartment - spacious!! 4-bedrooms! We leave our things and go back downstairs and wait for the cleaning woman to show up and clean the apartment. We decide to have something at the café next door to the apartment entrance. Our waiter resembles Adam Levine - lead singer for Maroon 5. We see the cleaning woman arrive and over an hour later finishes and leaves. It's barely 3pm - time for shower, laundry, nap and get to the Cathedral for the 7:30 pilgrim's mass.
We wake up from our nap and the washing machine is still 'washing'! We mill around the machine - there are no instructions - just symbols on the machine. Finally we try adjusting the settings and still it goes on washing - we decide to head-out to the Cathedral for mass. We find our way there and find ourselves at the end of a long line to get in to the Cathedral. Some are in line just to get in the Cathedral, some are in line for mass. We get in around 6:30 and every pew is full, people are milling around, we are taking-in everything we see. It is part Romanesque, part Gothic, part Baroque and cruciform in shape, the top part being the main altar and canon's choir. We finally find a little niche in the left arm of the cruciform. Sitting at the base of one of the supporting columns. Mass begins, no more 'visitors' are allowed in it seems because the milling around begins to lessen. There is a long line waiting to abrazar el Santo (embrace the Saint) which is part of the tradition of the pilgrimage. As soon as mass is over I grab Deacons Peter and Ron and take them to go down into the crypt while there is no line. After praying before the relics we exit and think about the abrazo but the line is already a block long. We decide to wait to give St. James a hug.
We head back to the apartment a little dizzy with the fact that we've come to end of the pilgrimage. We go into the apartment and find the washing machine still 'washing'. We fiddle some more and get it to start rinsing! Progress!! Finally it stops and we decide to take the clothes to a laundromat to dry. The laundromat is only a block-and-a-half away! Clothes dried, we head home to sleep!! My feet are still sore and tingling, they spasm a little before I fall into a deep sleep - a comfortable twin-size bed, no flies, no skeeters, no braising in the heat! Blessed be God in His Angels and in His saints!
Happy Feast of St. Dominic!
We got up around 8am and put our things together to move to the Minor Seminary hostel - several blocks away from the cathedral - we wished we could stay at the apartment another night since it was so close to everything. But we had reservations at the Minor Sem. 3 separate private rooms.
We go downstairs have a cafe con leche and try to hail a cab. We find one - takes us to the Minor Sem. Its 11am. We are given keys to our rooms to leave our things but can't 'move-in' until after 1:30pm. The seminary is HUGE! We walked forever on the second floor trying to get to our rooms. We walked through several open dorms trying to find our rooms. They were in the very back of the floor.
We begin to settle in and then other pilgrims come in chatting loudly, excited, and clueless that there are others trying to rest. Eventually they settle down.
We decide to go to the noon pilgrim mass. Again stand in a long line - moving quickly this time - to get into the cathedral. Again pews are full - we work our way around to the gospel-side of the cruciform.
A religous sister in a black habit - they are the sacristans for the cathedral - comes to the microphone on the altar and leads us in practicing the opening hymn and the responsorial psalm. After practice we stand to begin the liturgy.
The same priest that presided yesterday is presiding today - later we come to the conclusion that he must be the Rector.
He preached very well - building his homily on "with age old love I have loved you" and "woman great is your faith" then connected it to St. Dominic.
We went back to the crypt, walked around the cathedral for a while, had lunch and headed back to the seminary.
It felt so strange not to be hiking.
We napped for a bit - since pretty much everything shuts down for siesta - then got up and went out for dinner - Deacon Peter also found us a great little ice cream shop where I indulged in cup of pistachio, mango, and lemon sorbets.
We headed back to the seminary.
Again another batch of noisy excited pilgrims walking down the hallways, looking for rooms and bathrooms. It takes a while but they too begin to settle-in.
It begins to rain, then begins to pour, the rain becomes a soothing lullaby to hum us to sleep.
Thank you Lord!