Friday, October 18, 2019

Camino 13: Going Home

Camino 13
Thursday, 17th October, 2019.

"May the fire be in our whole being, in our legs and in our feet.
Enable us to walk the earth with reverence and care
So that we may walk in the ways of reverence and truth
And be protected from what is not truth."

From the last of Fr Michael's daily reflections.

We came down to breakfast in dribs and drabs, as everyone had different flights out of Santiago, or else were staying on for a while.  My two "buddies", Irene and Veronica, left early for early flights.  Thank you for being my buddies.

I left with the contingent who were flying to Barcelona, where I would connect with a flight for London (Gatwick).  Michael tried to attach the Harvest pennant to the front of our car.

At Santiago airport: Pearl, Jenny, Ned, Philip, Irene, Jan, Liz, Pat, Janny.

Flying into Barcelona.  Sagrada Familia is almost directly behind the tall white building at the front.

At Barcelona airport (with the Harvest pennant).
Back:  Pat, Irene, Philip, Jan, Janny.
Front:  Pearl, Liz, Jenny, Ned.

Although I haven't been a "genuine" pilgrim, walking hundreds of kilometres from France, carrying everything on my back, and hunting for basic accommodation at the end of each day's walking, doing this Harvest pilgrimage has been ideal for me:

  • Travelling with a group of like-minded fellow pilgrims.
  • Having our lovely Spanish guide Val to look after us, explain local history and customs, give us tips etc.
  • Having our bus to take our luggage (and us if we wanted/needed to be taken).
  • Having our friendly, helpful bus driver Alvaro to check us off along the way and make sure no one got lost.
  • Having (sometimes quite luxurious) accommodation waiting for us at the end of each day. (Oh the joy of a hot shower and a soft, comfortable bed.)
  • Fabulous food!  All breakfasts and dinners provided, and sometimes lunches, or recommendations from Val of great local places to eat.
But especially it was wonderful having our chaplain Michael travelling with us.  Michael said daily Mass and led us in morning prayers.  He provided a daily beautifully presented four-page reflection which included the day's gospel and psalm, which we prayed together, as well as relevant excerpts from papal documents, current theological writings and much more.  I will treasure these reflections for years to come.  Michael encouraged "full, conscious and active participation" in all liturgies, inviting different people to be responsible for choosing readers, gift presenters, servers etc.  He fully acknowledged Peter'sincerely s role as a deacon - catching him by surprise sometimes I felt, but Peter always rose sincerely and gently to the occasion.  Michael assigned us all a "prayer partner" to pray for during the walking and beyond.
Michael encouraged us to fully live each moment of our pilgrimage, to reach out to others in our group and beyond, and also to walk in meditative silence.  In any group gathering, he included everyone, especially the shy ones, and always made people laugh. 
Thank you Michael.

Goodbye to everyone.  Thank you for your friendship as we all begin this next chapter in our life's journey.  Buon Camino!

Camino 12: Finisterre, the End of the World

Camino 12
Wednesday, 16th October, 2019.

"I don't know who I am.  And I don't think people ever will know who they are.  We must be humble enough to learn to live with this mysterious question.  I am a mystery to myself.  I am this pilgrimage from the moment that I was born to the day to come that I'm going to die.  What I have to do is to honour this pilgrimage through life.  I am this pilgrim."  (Paulo Coelho).
From Fr Michael's daily reflections.

Today we drove an hour and a half west of Santiago to the seaside town of Finisterre on the rocky Costa da Morte (Coast of Death) named because of the large number of shipwrecks along these shores over the centuries. (Val told us that the sea here is "untrustable".)  It was fortunate that we went by bus, as it was pouring with rain.

 The untrustable sea.

We walked through the wind and rain (mainly up) in the beautiful town to the church where Val had been told we could have Mass.

Waiting for the church to be opened.  The reason the church was not open was because, without telling Val, it was decided that we should use a different church.

 Walking through more wind and rain to the next church.  Cherie is lovingly protecting her guitar.

 At least at this church there was some shelter from the rain, if not the wind.

The sacristan arrived with the key.  She had been cooking for her family.  We entered by a small side door.

Although simple on the outside, the church was very beautiful and colourful inside.  During Mass there was a hammering at two of the still-locked doors.  Two busloads of German pilgrims had arrived early for their Mass and to go to the toilet).  Despite the fact that they didn't speak Spanish or English, Val eventually managed to persuade them to go off for a coffee until we had finished.

This was our final Mass for the pilgrimage.  What will we each take home with us ?  How will we be changed?  How can we be changed? It will be different for everyone.

We then drove to Cape Finisterra, the "end of the world", one of the most western points of Spain.  This is the last cross of the Camino, where pilgrims used to traditionally burn their boots or unwanted clothing at this optional extra section of the Camino.  (This is not allowed now, due to fire danger, not that there was any danger of fire today.)  There does seem to be a little bundle of something at the foot of the cross.  Imagine the wind and the rain here.  I took this photo without realising that it was Michael contemplating the cross in these blustery conditions. 

At our farewell dinner, Peter, our deacon, made a presentation to Val and Michael, thanking them for guiding us through this very memorable pilgrimage.  As well as cards featuring the Cathedral of Santigo de Compostela, the presentation included kiwi tea towels Cherie and Erling had brought from New Zealand.

A girl at the next table was celebrating her birthday, so Michael decided to give her a birthday kiss on behalf of us all.

I think she thought her dreams had all come true until he told her he was a "padre."

 Our celebratory dinner consisted of a never-ending succession of tapas dishes.  This is potatoes with brava sauce.

 With Cherie, my prayer partner from New Zealand.  I will continue to pray for you.

Walking back to our hotel in the rain.  Water ran in rivers over the stone-paved streets.  What a night! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Camino 11: Pilgrims' Mass

Camino 11
Tuesday, 15th October, 2019.

"Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer."  Catechism of the Catholic Church  #2691.  From Fr Michael's daily reflections.

Traditionally, the pilgrims' Masses are held every day at 12 noon in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. 

A feature of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is the famous Botafumeiro, a large incense censer which disperses incense amid the congregation. Weighing 53 kg  and measuring 1.5 metres in length, it is one of the largest in the world and is suspended 20 metres above the congregation via a system of ropes and pulleys. On special occasions, and during some Masses, the Botafuemeiro is released by team of eight tiraboleiros who swing it across the cathedral at great speeds of up to 68 km/hr. It is thought that this tradition was started in order to cover up the smell of the thousands of pilgrims arriving at the cathedral after their exertions.
I know that my friend Kathy has seen it at the end of her Camino walk (as some Japanese pilgrims paid for it) but many people have not.
Thank you Jan Jones for lending me your copy of the DVD The Way as those people in the movie were lucky enough to have seen it (and so has everyone else, including me, who has seen that movie).

Here are Veronica and Marianna providing us with our Botofumiero experience.

As the Cathedral is undergoing repairs, the pilgrims' Masses are now held in the Church of San Francisco, traditionally founded by St Francis of Assisi during his visit to Santiago de Compostela in 1214. 

Val had us all installed by 11.30am, which was just as well, as we were able to get seats.  I don't think I have ever been to a Mass with so many people.  They just kept pouring in.

The Mass was concelebrated by priests of several different nationalities, but was of course mainly in Spanish.  We were very proud that Michael was able to join them, the only English speaker for the Mass, although an Irish lady spoke during the welcome.  Michael offered one of the general intercession prayers, reminding us that it was the feast day of St Theresa of Avila, and praying for women, and that their potential for roles within the church should be recognised and encouraged (or something like that).  Go Michael!
Michael also read the pilgrim's blessing, which was along the lines that Santiago de Compostela had a secret - that our pilgrimage has not ended, but was just beginning. That we were to go back to our daily lives, renewed, to do as much good as we could, and that love was to be the basis of our lives from now on (or something like that.)
A most inspiring Mass.
While I was expecting to feel much fitter after all that walking, it was a great disappointment to find that I actually currently feel worse, probably owing to my tumble out of the bus onto my tailbone at the beginning of the trip, and general fatigue. There was a guided tour of the Cathedral in the afternoon, but I opted to stay in my very comfortable hotel room and catch up on my blog - which I have nearly done.

Before dinner, Val gave us our Compostela certificates (in Latin) which certify that we have walked a minimum of 100kms on this pilgrimage.  Val kindly obtained them for us as a group, so we wouldn't have to queue up for them individually.

Val had also bought Camino Tshirts for Michael and also for Pearl, who has done a lot of running round for her. 
Tomorrow we go to Finisterre, (by bus!) on the coast, once believed to be the end of the world.


Camino 10: Monte Do Gozo to Santiago De Compostela (5km - 117km total)

Monday 14th October, 2019.

"Pilgrimages have always been a significant part of the life of the faithful, assuming different cultural forms in different ages.  A pilgrimage evokes the believer's personal journey in the footsteps of the Redeemer:  it is an exercise of practical asceticism, of repentance for human weaknesses, of constant vigilance over one's own frailty, of interior preparation for a change of heart."  (Pope John Paul II Incarnationis Mysterium #8).   From Fr Michael's daily reflections.

The final day.

The last day's walk was from Amenal to our final destination Santiago de Compostela.  I had achieved my goal of walking 100kms, and was still feeling quite shattered from the day before, so decided to do a part of the day on the bus.  The only way to do this would be to take the bus to Monte de Gozo, the only check point for the day, as Val wanted us all to walk into Santiago together.  I felt a bit guilty as this meant taking the bus for 12kms and just waltzing in, nice and fresh, for the last 5kms.

The three "buddies" (Veronica, Irene and Jan) waiting to board the bus in Almena.  Michael had asked us to have one or two buddies to check on to make sure we didn't get lost.  You'll notice I couldn't even drag myself to my feet for the photo.  Pat, who took the photo, pointed out that we each had an angel over our heads.
I have to admit that I did enjoy being warm, dry and still in the bus waiting for the others to arrive at Monet do Gozo watching other sodden pilgrims trudging past.  But I did feel guilty when our lot arrived - apparently it had rained torrentially along the way, with some very steep sections.  They all arrived drenched.

This is our driver Alvaro.  (He is nice and dry because he has been in the bus too.)  Alvaro has guided our bus through the narrowest of villages, looked after our luggage, adjusted my (Helen's) hiking poles and showed me how to make my poncho into a waterproof cover for my backpack.  He was also there to check us off (by number, as that was easier for him than by name) when we arrived at each check point.  Alvaro was a very welcome sight as we arrived at each of our goals.

Beside the Pilgrims' Monument by Candido Pazos, erected in 2004 at Monte do Gozo.  At the base is a circular path formed by stones from the most significant villages through which the Camino de Santiago passes.  From the top of this hill you can see the spires of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, our final destination, but I didn't know this at the time.
(Waterproof boot covers courtesy of Pat.)

We celebrated Mass in this simple little chapel at Monte do Gozo.  Everyone who had walked was wet, and many didn't have time to change.

Inside the chapel.

I'm not sure who this saint is, but owing to the boots he is holding, he obviously has a soft spot for pilgrims.

Michael's clothes and shoes were sodden, so he quickly changed into dry clothes and dry socks lent by Pearl to preside at Mass.  He assured us that these were not his pyjamas but his surf shorts.

After Mass, we walked into the city together.  Santiago, we have arrived!
We stopped at a restaurant in the San Lorenzo area of Santiago and had a magnificent Spanish lunch.  When we tried to leave, Santiago put on something like a mini tornado for us, so we had ponchos flying every which way and rain driving at us horizontally.  We prudently returned to the restaurant until it had passed.

Poor Val, keeping us together was something like herding cats.

My first view of the Cathedral.

At last!  There we were, in the famous Obradoiro Square, in front of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  Amazingly, the clouds rolled away, and the sun came out.  Everyone hugged everyone else - it was a very emotional moment.

Pictures of our group taken by other people in the crowd:

Although the Cathedral is currently undergoing repairs, we were able to go up behind the statue of St James and touch it.  According to tradition, this is where the remains of Jesus' apostle St James are buried, and why this pilgrimage was established in the 9th century.
Normally, a pilgrims' Mass is held here every day at noon, but because of the repairs being made to the Cathedral, our pilgrims' Mass will be held tomorrow at the nearby St Francis Church.

Delightful to go to our very pleasant hotel, enjoy a wonderful dinner, reflect on everything that has happened so far, and not have to get up early in the morning.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Camino 9: Arzua to Amenal (23km - 112km so far) Made 100km!!!!!

Camino 9.
Sunday, 13th October, 2019.

"To go on a pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history.  To go on a pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves, in order to encounter God where he [sic] has revealed himself [sic], where his [sic] grace has shone with particular splendour and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe."  (Benedict XVI, Nov 6, 2010).

From Fr Michael's daily reflections.

We celebrated Sunday Mass in the beautiful little chapel of the Pazo de Brendeso. 

Then off on our second last walking day, into light rain, which was quite pleasant. 
While my left knee was complaining on our rest day, it had settled down again for the walk. 

Veronica and Pat in the rain.

Veronica, Jan and Pat in the rain.

In this section of the road, the branches formed a protective roof overhead, providing shade in summer
and keeping (some of) the rain off us today.  I think cyclists have a harder time than walkers.  Some of 
the paths are very rough and rocky, and some of the hills are very steep, both up and down. 

These little raised, ventilated structures were used for drying grain. 

Words of wisdom along the way:

We had to press ourselves into the wet bushes to let these cows go past. 

This bar was adorned with hundreds (probably thousands) of empty bottles. 
No, I didn’t contribute to the decor. 

Maybe these flower containers were contributed by pilgrims. 

Having a rest.

Veronica on the track.

Stands of eucalyptus trees, grown for the wood pulp industry.

Can you see the profile of a face in the trunk of this old oak?  Veronica spotted it and we could all see it. 

One step after another. Again and again and again and ......

Chestnuts on the ground. Millions of them. 

At last we arrived at the lunch stop. Pat and Veronica and barebecued pork. 

Val ordered three servings for four of us, as she said the portions were very generous. 
We couldn’t finish them. They came to the table on this little stove which kept them hot. 
By the lunch stop, I had completed 100kms, my personal goal, but the gentle rain was quite easy 
for walking, so I decided to carry on for the final 12kms. 

Guillermo Watt was a 69 year old pilgrim who died on the track, just one day from Santiago de 

Tall, straight eucalypts. 

One foot in front of the other.....
Veronica and Jammu in the rain. 
Still raining .....
Collingwood FC????
One foot in front of the other.....

Through the afternoon the rain became heavier, so the track became muddier. My shoes were 
keeping my feet quite dry, my snow pants were keeping my legs dry and my poncho covered the rest.  
So just keep going .....

..... and going.

Collingwood FC?

It was about 5.30pm by the time we trudged in to Amenal, almost the last of the group, 
exhausted, drenched and sore, but we made it!