My Camino, 10 Years Later -- Lessons from Santiago My Camino, 10 Years Later -- Lessons from Santiago

It’s official.

As of this weekend, it’s been ten years since my dear friend Pat Stankus and I marched into the city of Santiago de Compostela—culminating  23 days of walking the ancient pilgrimage across northern Spainel Camino de Santiago.

Pat and I made sure that our final day would only require a short walk into Santiago in order for us to arrive at the Cathedral in time to register at the Pilgrims' Office, and attend the legendary Pilgrims' Mass and blessing. Every Pilgrims' Mass begins with reading the number of pilgrims who have been received (in the prior 24 hrs) in the Pilgrim's Office, where the pilgrims come from, and where they started their pilgrimage.

Serendipitously, and by that I mean providentiallymany of our Camino friends also arrived to Santiago at some point that morning. This in spite of the fact that we had been separated from one another at some point along the way during that final week.

One woman from Germany, with whom Pat and I had only been able to communicate by means of smiles, hugs, and hands, made her way through the ocean of pilgrims to our pew in order to sit next to us that morning. We held hands off and on throughout the Mass.

And yes, on June 22, 2003—the feast of Corpus Christi—our Pilgrim Mass included the incomparable Botafumeiro, the largest censer in the world. It only took eight red-robed guys, tiraboleiros, to pull the ropes and get it going into a full swinging motion across the enormous Cathedral!

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Aware of how smelly and dirty I felt in spite of having access to modern albergues with running water, I giggled when I got a whiff of the delightful incense aroma.  A thousand years ago, that incense fragrance must have had a very practical use at the Pilgrims’ Mass! 

From my Camino journal, 

Things I have learned this final week on the Camino:

  1. a country church bell can be rung softly or loudly. I did both!
  2. all of creation is an open book (St. Benedict), symbolically expressing—and   portraying, the sacred
  3. at least for this pilgrimage, I was not meant to walk in boots, but in sandals
  4. people in Spanish churches sing loudly, even at daily Mass
  5. my grace is sufficient for you
  6. eucalyptus leaves are a piece of heaven—and nothing like the ones you find at Michael’s
  7. sheep don’t like to be sheared
  8. I can still sing the lyrics to songs I learned in my childhood and have not sung since then
  9. The butterflies and wildflowers play silent music with their colors. Remember!
  10. I love Spanish food
  11. I love Spanish wine
  12. I may never fully understand why I did this
  13. Bidden or not bidden. God is present
  14. There is always shit on the path ahead. Old or new, shit always stinks
  15. Every Camino experience, like every relationship, is different, unique. Every pilgrim will go home describing a different experience
  16. Threading your blisters with a needle & thread and betadine really does work
  17. You can get blisters on top of blisters
  18. Creation’s beauty does not cost or weigh anything
  19. Your heart sees and recognizes joy as well as sin in a cloister community through its mere presence
  20. I doubted the guidebook. But, yes, cheese can be shaped to look like a breast with a nipple
  21. I love Spanish cheese
  22. Yo soy el Camino 

View Maria's entire post here to see her amazing travel photos from the Camino

Copyright 2013 Maria de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda