August 27, 2008 Santiago Rest Day

The previous night Gail and I had eaten at a small restaurant near the hotel then headed back to the hotel for an early night in our comfy room. The next morning we enjoyed a Hotel Altair breakfast (croissants, ample fruit, great coffee, exotic jams and jellies) and then went to get Gail’s completion certificate, the compostela. After a little exploring and time taken to greet other pilgrims we’d recognized from our walk, we headed to the cathedral for the noon pilgrim mass. The place was jammed, even though we’d arrived early. At the end of the mass, seeing that the famous botafumeiro (a large censor, lit with fragrant incense and swung on a long rope from transept to transept) was not to be used in the service we went back to the hotel. We heard from people afterward that the botafumeiro had indeed been used, but just at the end of the service. The funnest part was left until the end.

Through the day we enjoyed shopping along the narrow streets of the old city and meeting pilgrim friends over cervesas or red wine. We took the short walk to the bus station and arranged a ride to Finisterre the next day and I arranged a hotel at the tip of Capo Haro, just at the end of the famous cape that earns the nearby town it’s Latin name, “End of the World.”

As Gail took a well-deserved nap that afternoon I returned to the cathedral for some quiet time on my own. I walked down into the crypt to view the small sarcophagus where tradition says Saint James’ (Santiago’s) bones are kept. I prayer to God a prayer of thanksgiving, then headed back up to the nave to think and prayer and remember. I decided to pray for every single pilgrim I’d met during the walk and to give God thanks for the memories of our meetings. So I prayed for them all, and as I prayed tears of relief and joy and loss streamed from my eyes. The camino had reminded me of my love of discovery — discovery of foreign lands and discovery of the joys of friendship. In this church I came to realize that God is indeed present on a pilgrimage — present each step of the way, present in the laughter and embrace of pilgrim friends, and present in the traditions of an ancient Christian community that calls us to live beyond ourselves, stepping from our comfortable lives into God’s joyful embrace.

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