We made it!!! Thanks to everyone for your prayers of support! We really don’t think we could have made it without those prayers. My original goal was to make it in 33 days – one day for every year Jesus spent on Earth! Some do it faster and some do it slower. We purposely walked a very few short miles our first day, so if you count that one, it took us 35!
The last day into Santiago was different than I had expected! First of all, we left very early in the morning with the goal of making the noon pilgrim Mass. But first we had to go to the bus station to get our tickets to Fatima (because we couldn’t for some reason buy them on-line?? Erg!). Luckily it was only a couple of blocks off our route. Second, we didn’t have to, but we dropped our backpacks off at the albergue and took a quick shower. After waiting in line a short while, we got to Mass with five minutes to spare!
As expected, the Mass was in Spanish. But the ‘atmosphere’ of many people during Mass was almost festival or circus like. Of course it probably didn’t help that we were standing, couldn’t be nearer the front, and could see all this. You see, immediately following Mass, (if there is a large crowd and there have been enough donations made previously for the day – primarily by the tour groups/companies – as I’ve been told) they light and swing the giant incense burner (the Botafumerio).
It seemed to me that a lot of people come to the Mass just to see that. Granted, it was something unique and interesting to watch. In the old days, the incense burner was done before Mass to cover the smell of the stinky pilgrims.
The Cathedral is very unique also. I won’t go into all the history, but suffice it to say it is very old
Besides the incense burner, another ritual is to walk up some steps behind the altar and lay your hands on (or hug) the statute of Saint James (Santiago). In addition, below the alter you can descend a few stairs and venerate the remains of the Saint. These rituals are opportunities for all pilgrims to thank and ask for the Saint’s intercessions regarding your intentions for your pilgrimage!
We were no different, but I think the pilgrims run a gamut of emotions! You did it! You’re thankful it’s over! You’re sad that it’s over! You want to see the friends you’ve made, but you only find a few in all the crowds of people! Yes, such a crowd of people. But then you also realize that virtually everyone there is a pilgrim in one way or another!
After Mass, we had the good fortune of finding an English speaking priest (from New York) who blessed the many items (from some of those we are praying for)we brought along on this pilgrimage!!
Finally, we waited and got our Compostela certificate (proof of having walked the Camino). We provide our evidence by having collected stamps on a ‘credential’ from the albergues (and other places such as churches) each day we walked.