+ Day 6: Camino de Santiago
So this morning I departed A Rúa early for my final trek to Santiago de Compostela.
Once I arrived I entered the city via the Porto de Camino. I made my way through the narrow paved streets until I came to the main square, the large and impressive Praza do Obrodoiro.
I turned to my left to find the majestic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Situated in the heart of this wonderful medieval city, the first thing I noticed was how the Cathedral’s towers dominate the skyline. I was disappointed that the towers were under restoration, engulfed by scaffolding. Nonetheless I paused momentarily to savour the grandeur of the Cathedral and that of my pilgrimage, I had finally arrived.
I stood in awe of my location, oblivious to the noise around me, lost in my own world. This place feels special. I was aware that at midday, every day, there is a special mass to welcome pilgrims to Santiago. So I made my way into the Cathedral to take my place front and centre.
The Mass began with the reading out of a long list of the nationalities of pilgrims. When Australia was announced I smiled and felt proud. I’ve travelled a vast distance to be part of this moment. Mass was celebrated by priests from different parts of the world. Very inclusive and a reminder that together, we are better.
Then the moment arrived. The famous swinging of the world’s largest incense burner - Botafumeiro. Eight tiraboleiros pull the ropes and the giant thurible moves in a swinging motion, almost touching the roof of transept. Thick clouds of white smoke bellow out, filling the air with the aroma of the incense. WOW!
I found this moment and receiving communion very emotional today. At this point my heart was filled with pure love. As I lowered my head in prayer, eyes closed, I could visualize every family member and friend as I quietly made special intentions. It was so vivid. Gratitude filled my soul. Water filled my eyes.
After Mass I made my way to the Pilgrims Office to collect ‘La Compostela’, the certificate of completion of El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The wait was just on 2hours as many pilgrims joined the queue. I meet a group of American doctors that have devoted their skill and time supporting the health and wellbeing of Guatemalan women and children. Their story was yet another profound encounter on my Camino. Their selflessness, for zero financial remuneration, was more than altruistic, it was a calling.
At this moment I recalled two constants in life - love and fear. When we are not prepared to listen to the ear of the heart we come from a position fear. It manifests as self doubt, or we don’t have enough time, or what’s comfortable. It takes great courage to listen to the heart. It’s never wrong and most humbling.
The American doctors are keeping the dangerous memory of Jesus alive. They are motivated by the Kingdom and the attainment of hope. This comes from a place of love. They are travelling on a road less travelled, courageously, with purpose, with humanity, from a place of love.
I’m a firm believer that today’s Gospel is realised through the witness of action. Jesus’ mission has a church, and the American doctors are a shining example of people who have made a passionate pledge to serve the voiceless through real action.
The Romans called the northern-west region of Spain “Finis Terrae”, meaning “end of the world”. They were wrong. It’s the beginning. It is where ‘The Way’ animates an alternative to a world in crisis.
El Camino offers the perfect landscape in which to dedicate contemplation, complemented by the footsteps along the well-trodden path of St. James. The road offers very little to hide behind. Forced to reflect on your mission in life.
I hope that one day I can resonate with the young people I encounter every day, through my example of action and active participation in life. Our humanity toward ourselves and others is what ultimately defines us. “For what a man sows, that he will also reap” ~ Galatians 6:7. Let us never forget that authentic power is to serve.
And finally we don’t choose life, we live one.
I will leave you with one of my favourite John O’Donohue quotes that best sums up my Camino experience, enjoy:
“When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with your self. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning.”
Ps: I’m staying at Hotel A Tafona Do Peregrino on Virxe da Cerca www.atafonadoperegrino.com. Excellent accommodation for my final night in Galicia. I also had dinner at the phenomenal O Curro da Parra. A degustation meal that has to be experienced. Brilliant service. I sent a bottle of champagne over to a table celebrating a birthday.
That was my Camino gift. Buen Camino.