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The Original Way - A Journey to Santiago de Compostela

By Michael Gorre

 

From time immemorial, men have made pilgrimages. Every year, for example, the Holy Family made the 100-mile pilgrimage from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.

For two thousand years, Catholics have journeyed to the Holy Land to see and touch the very places where Our Lord Jesus Christ shed His most precious Blood for our salvation. Pilgrimages reached their height during the Middle Ages when millions left their homes to venerate holy relics in cities such as Cologne, Canterbury and Rome.

The Crusades were combative pilgrimages to free the Holy Land from the Muslims who persecuted pilgrims.

One pilgrimage site that still holds a special place in the hearts of Catholics is the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, the burial place of the Apostle Saint James the Greater. The evangelizer of the Iberian Peninsula, he planted the seeds of Faith in countries that would become bastions of Catholicism.

 

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In 44 A.D., Saint James became the first of the Apostles to be martyred when Herod Agrippa ordered his beheading in Jerusalem. The apostle’s disciples took his remains back to northwest Spain, where after some time their exact location was lost.

Map - 230 miles from Oviedo to Santiago de CompostelaIn the year 813 A.D., Bishop Theodemir of Iria Flavia in Galicia informed King Alfonso II of Asturias that Saint James’ body had been found.

A hermit named Pelayo saw a dazzling star over a field—thus, the name “Compostela” which means “field of the star.”

Upon inspection, the field yielded the long-lost remains of the apostle. Hearing the good news, the pious King Alfonso, known as “the Chaste” because of his exemplary purity, became the first pilgrim to the site of the holy apostle’s tomb and ordered the first church to be built over it.

Since then, countless pilgrims have journeyed to Santiago de Compostela to ask for Saint James’ intercession.

 

The Cathedral of Oviedo

Water Jar from the Wedding at CanaAlong with two good friends and fellow TFP members, Peter Shibler and Kenneth Murphy, I had the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of King Alfonso the Chaste by walking the 200-mile pilgrimage known as the “Camino Primitivo” (the Original Way) from the Asturian capital of Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela from May 14 to 26, 2019. 

There is an ancient saying repeated especially by the inhabitants of Oviedo that “he who goes to Santiago but not San Salvador [Cathedral of Oviedo], visits the servant and not the Lord.”

When we entered the Cathedral of Oviedo, we understood the saying. It houses the Holy Sudarium, the cloth used to wipe Our Lord’s face when He was taken down from the Cross. The blood markings exactly match those on the Shroud of Turin.

Among other relics, the cathedral houses a sandal belonging to Saint Peter the Apostle, a piece of Saint John the Baptist’s skull, and the Cross of Victory held by Don Pelayo during the miraculous Battle of Covadonga.

In a niche next to the altar of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is one of the six water containers from the Marriage Feast of Cana that Our Lord used to change water into wine. To our amazement, the massive stone jar holds 26.4 gallons (100 liters), proof that Our Lord was not stingy in His miracles!

The ancient custom is that pilgrims touch the stone vessel with their staffs, which we did with care and veneration. We could not think of a better way to start our pilgrimage than to have first greeted Our Lord in Oviedo.

 

Why a Pilgrimage?

Descending the Hospitales RouteOnly about 4% of the total number of pilgrims who walk to Santiago de Compostela go on the Camino Primitivo. That is because, while not as lengthy as other caminos, it is the most mountainous and rugged of them all.

The extreme elevation changes make it difficult, having to climb up and down steep mountains and valleys day after day. The mountain paths can be very uneven and rocky, while the forest trails are quite muddy in the rain. Furthermore, towns with restaurants or grocery stores can sometimes be sparse.

One of the primary purposes of doing such an arduous pilgrimage should be to pray and do penance for one’s sins and for the sins of others. Our Lady of Fatima told Sister Lucy that many souls go to Hell because they have no one to pray for them. The act of doing penance is a special form of prayer that benefits our souls and the Communion of Saints.

We spent many hours praying rosaries for poor sinners and for various intentions, especially for the repose of deceased relatives and friends. We also prayed and made sacrifices in reparation for scandalous sins such as the “Drag Queen Story Hours” and for the sin of abortion.

One special intention we offered up was for all the “Rosary Rally Captains” of America Needs Fatima and for their continued success in praying the Holy Rosary in the public square.

We made an effort to treat this pilgrimage as a spiritual retreat. We would read parts of Saint Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary. This pilgrimage was to be a renewal of our consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary as slaves of love.

To maintain the spirit of sacrifice, we established some rules for ourselves. For example, we pledged not to complain. Whether we were hungry, suffering from sore feet and blisters or encountered any practical inconveniences (no hot water, hard beds, etc.), we would not voice our complaints. If we had to tend to a legitimate need, we would just say “I need to fix something.” Comic relief came, however, whenever Mr. Murphy would blurt out, “My feet feel great!”

 

Navigating a muddy trail and resting by a marker 

Captivating Beauty

Perpetual Adoration at the Cathedral at LugoWith the hardships, came great benefits. We were privileged to be able to experience the ancient Catholic culture of Spain.

In the city of Lugo, for example, the Cathedral of Santa Maria has had the Blessed Sacrament perpetually exposed for over a thousand years in reparation for the Gnostic-Manichean heresy of Priscillianism which denied the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

We felt goosebumps as we joined the daily Eucharistic Procession after the 8:00 p.m. Mass. All along the Camino, the many ancient chapels, churches and roadside crosses and shrines were evidence of a time when the majority of men put God at the center of their lives.

Though rugged, the nature of the Camino Primitivo has a captivating beauty. The ubiquitous wildflowers contrasted with the jagged rocks and lightened our spirits.

The grand panoramas of the mountainous regions were an invitation to meditation and contemplation. Sometimes the scenery was so beautiful that it was paradoxically painful, making us yearn for the Heavenly Home for which we are all made.

 

The Final Forty-Five

On the morning of May 25th, we were 45 miles away from Santiago de Compostela. After covering 155 miles in ten days, the Camino had fortified us physically and spiritually. We decided to do something more daring. We would walk the last 45 miles all day and through the night, stopping only for meals and short breaks.

Cross along the CaminoHour after hour passed interminably. Once darkness enveloped us, we used a headlamp to avoid stumbling on the uneven trail. We scanned constantly for the yellow scallop shell trail markers. As we walked in the dense eucalyptus forests, the only sounds we heard beyond the steady cadence of our steps was the sound of birds, startled by pilgrims walking in the night, and the distant barking of dogs.

At midnight, we prayed Saint Louis de Montfort’s Act of Consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary Most Holy. By 3:00 a.m., we climbed to the top of Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy) and beheld, three miles below us, the illuminated towers of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, sparkling like a diamond! Somehow we had pushed beyond our normal physical limits. Out of sheer exhaustion, we decided to take a nap on the ground behind a nearby chapel. At 6:00 a.m., we continued down the mountain to the cathedral.

It is difficult to convey what we felt as we entered the main square and gazed up at the cathedral spires. Joy, relief, exhaustion, gratitude, soreness and a profound peace all mixed together. Inside, we each gave the massive statue of Saint James the traditional pilgrim’s embrace. Then we descended to the tiny chapel that houses his remains to pray.

“Saint James, just as we successfully completed this pilgrimage, help us succeed in the Camino of Life. Help us persevere in face of adversities, through storms, mud, pain and exhaustion. Keep us on the straight and narrow path as we climb up and out of this valley of tears. Give us hope and confidence that, in the end, we will reach the Heavenly Cathedral to be with God, Our Lady and all the saints forever.”

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 25, 2020

“I will take away not the grace but the feeling of grace...

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May 25

 

“I will take away
not the grace but the feeling of grace.
Though I will seem to leave you
I will be closer to you.”

Our Lord to St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Pope St. Gregory VII

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cri...

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Pope St. Gregory VII

Pope Gregory VII was born Hildebrand in Tuscany, Italy. Little else is known of his early life. Hailed, historically, as one of the greatest of the Church's pontiffs and one of the most remarkable men of all time, his name, Hildebrand, meant “bright flame”. Those who hated him, which were many, interpreted the name as “brand of Hell”.

Hildebrand was a Benedictine monk, for a time living in Cluny, from whence he certainly gleaned the monastery’s ideal of societal reform.

As a cleric, he became chaplain to Pope Gregory VI, and a few years later, under Leo IX was made Cardinal Deacon. A man of outstanding energy and insight, Hildebrand became a power in Rome. It is greatly due to him that the practice of electing popes through a college of cardinals was established.

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cried out for the holy genius who had helped steer the Church for twenty years, “Hildebrand for Pope! Holy Peter wants Hildebrand, the Archdeacon!” Once before the holy monk had eluded the tiara but this time a proper college of cardinals, seconding the popular cry, induced him to accept an honor duly his.

Hildebrand assumed the name Gregory VII, and threw his energy and zeal into a continued reform, especially fighting simony (the sale of ecclesiastical posts) and clerical incontinence.

He confronted Emperor Henry IV head- on about his practice of choosing men for ecclesiastical positions. On meeting with dogged resistance, the pontiff finally had recourse to excommunication which drastically curtailed the proud monarch’s power, ultimately bringing Henry on foot to the Pope at the Castle of Canossa. Because of Henry’s rebellious obstinacy, Pope Gregory saw fit to leave him out in the cold for three days before receiving and reinstating the royal penitent.

But Henry failed to make any true personal reform and alienated his princes who elected another ruler. Still, he later rallied and went as far as electing another Pope, a Clement III, calling down upon himself another sentence of excommunication. He also attacked and entered the Eternal City in 1084, which forced Pope Gregory into exile. Henry had his protégée “pope” crown him Emperor. Ultimately repelled by an army fighting for the true pope, the Emperor Henry left Rome, but complications sent Gregory VII again into exile, this time to die.

His last words before his death were a summary of how he had lived, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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