Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Camino de Santiago: Pilgrim's Progress
Greetings from Santiago de Compostela! I finally arrived here at 10 am yesterday after hiking almost 800 km for 27 days starting at the Pyrenees mountains in France, across the plains of Northern Spain and the mountains of Galicia. I've done most of it barefoot, but I also wore my sandals when the trails and roads got harsh and hot especially in the afternoons. The last week week in the Galician region was easier for barefoot hiking due to the cooler climate and a lot forest cover.
The last 3 days was for me an experience of agony and ecstasy. It was agonizing because my right ankle and shin was very painful while hiking through the beautiful forest paths. I cried out to God to take the pain away. Finally the other day I felt a cold air from the ground entering my feet and the pain disappeared. I felt the intimate presence of Someone whom I engaged in a dialogue within my heart. I was crying in the middle of the forest savoring the experience.
Yesterday at 2:30 in the morning I started hiking barefoot to Santiago de Compostella without any pain in my ankle and shin. I gazed at the dark sky and saw the stars. I began to understand the meaning of Compostela - the field of stars. I walked very slowly, savoring every step, knowing this was the last day of my hiking pilgrimage. I reached Santiago at 10 am and lined up outside the Pilgrim's Office. When the pilgrims saw me barefoot they clapped their hands and allowed me to get ahead of the line to get my pilgrim's certificate. I followed Fr. Alessandro - an Italian pilgrim priest I got to know along the way. I was welcomed by John Rafferty at the office who kindly took care of my accomodation for the night and escorted Alessandro and me to the sacristy of the cathedral so that we can concelebrate at the noonday mass. I heard confession before the mass and concelebrated barefoot. I put on my sandals after the mass.
In the evening I had dinner with other pilgrims who became my friends along the way- Ed & Letizia, Angela, David. We shared about our experiences until 11 pm.
This morning I walked barefoot around the center of the city and took a last look at the cathedral. I will be taking the train to Madrid at 1:55 this afternoon.
My pilgrimage has ended but my life's journey continues.
I hope to do this again when I make my Sabbatical 11 years from now during the Xacobeo.