Parishioner Ginny Underwood

Reflection on the Way of St. James

With Fr. Gerard’s blessing at a morning Mass, daughter Gigi and I left Saturday, September 16th for Leon Spain. Our goal was to walk the 200+ miles from Leon to Santiago, to visit the tomb of St. James the Great, one of the apostles of Jesus. We had dreamed of making this pilgramage for a long while, although the actual planning was accomplished over a 3-month period—aided in large part by the enthusiasm and knowledge of Harry Kelsey, Frances Inafuku, and Gary Miller.

As all our worldly goods are carried in our backpack, we took very little. We were often asked if we did a lot of preparation for the pilgrimage, and we had to admit that we walked a total of 2 local hills with our packs and poles, and wore our boots during frequent neighborhood walks. We figured we already knew how to walk, and our Angels would keep us healthy. The walking was, while arduous at times, totally doable.

The path took us through empty fields of wheat, small towns with more cows and sheep than people, steep mountain paths, vistas that went for miles over seemingly empty land, and stone walls that were hundreds of years old. We passed many old churches that were humble, but filled with the Holy Spirit. We saw many crosses of all kinds, and even wire fences where pilgrims had constructed crosses from branches. The spirit of the pilgrims from centuries past up to the present is everywhere and the walking becomes a continual and communal prayer.

The walk through Santiago was long and steep, but toward the end, the spires of the Cathedral of Santiago De Compostela appear. We turned down a narrow street, and there was the plaza and the actual Cathedral. The 12 o’clock Pilgrim Mass was packed with people that reassured us that our faith is alive and well. Afterwards, we walked behind the altar and up steps to embrace the statue of St. James, and under the altar to view the silver urn with his remains. Our walk was over, but our pilgrimage will continue forever, and we now have St. James to walk it with us. Thanks be to God.

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