This month is the 5th anniversary of my Camino walk. The Camino was life changing and I miss it often. Enjoy this lovely memory with me. My daily posts on the Camino can be found in the archives in May and June 2014.
My book Pilgrimage: A Modern Seeker’s Guide was inspired by my walk on the Camino and many other pilgrimages around the world and close to home. The e-book is now priced at $5.99. Check it out at Amazon.
It wasn’t until the last week on the Camino that I could even think about Santiago, yet that was always the goal. Every day I concentrated on the next 20 km or talked about the next big town, Pamplona, Burgos, Leon. After Astorga, Santiago started to come into focus. There were rumors about a celebration in Santiago about the time I planned to get there. That was when I realized that if I arrived one day early I would be in Santiago for Pentecost, a holy day and a guaranteed Botafumeiro, the mammoth swinging incense censer in the nave of the Cathedral. See a video of the Botafumeiro here.
Pentecost is the graduation day for the Apostles, including St. James, after Christ’s Ascension. The Holy Spirit came to them in the Upper Room and sent tongues of fire to anoint them to go preach the Gospel. No more perfect day to finish my pilgrimage and graduate to the next stage of my life.
While Alexandra slept I spent Pentecost with St. James. I first listened to the beautiful chant of the Rosary. Next the Botafumeiro made its mighty journey through the Cathedral to the sounds of the organ and choir. I dreamed of this moment along with the centuries of pilgrims who had dreamed that same dream. I went to a chapel to celebrate Mass in English with an Irish priest. He read the story of Pentecost and we sang songs and lit a candle for all of the continents and peoples. I joined the main Mass where the Archbishop presided over Confirmation. I was having my graduation ceremony. I had completed my task.
I didn’t realize how much I was going to need those extra days in Santiago to process my experience. I saw pilgrim friends I hadn’t seen in weeks and we hugged and congratulated each other on a job well done. It was special to be at Pilgrim’s Mass with my fellow travelers, a shared experience to the end. I saw everyone I had hoped to see again and exchanged contact information.
I went to dinner with my friends and we talked about our favorite and least favorite Albergues, tales of the food, injuries and blisters and things we learned. One pilgrim was in tears because he finally forgave his father, others had come to terms with their past or had new hope for their future. We were all proud of our strong bodies and loose hiking pants. I cherished every moment of the language of the pilgrim, I miss it so much.
The next day my friends arrived by car with clothes for me and to share my triumph. It was hard to move out of the pilgrim world. The first day I put on a new shirt. The next day I put on different shoes but still wore my hiking pants. I had to reenter the world gradually. We went to Mass together and they were treated to the Botafumeiro, and I was glad to see it another time. We went behind the altar to touch the statue of St. James and went below to the crypt where his bones are kept in a silver casket.
All of my pilgrim rituals where complete and it was time to go. I left my worn out shoes and some clothes I couldn’t bear to wear again and a piece of my heart in Santiago.
Worn out shoes