In Santiago de Compostela for the Feast of the "Big Flower"
Oct 15, 2015 / Written by: Andrea F. Phillips
Feast Day: October 15
October 15th, 2015 two pilgrims arrived in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Granted, Cyndee, a work colleague and I did not walk with pilgrims who yearly make the famous “Way of Santiago de Compostela” or “El Camino”, but this was indeed a “pilgrimage” to us.
Cyndee from Atlanta, and I from California, came to Compostela by way of Fatima, Portugal where, a couple of days before, we helped deliver 14,108 red roses and more than 6,000 white roses to the Fatima Shrine in the name of a multitude of ANF Rosary Rally Captains and supporters.
It was a dream of Cyndee’s to make the “Camino”, and I had long heard of the famous shrine and burial place of the great apostle of Spain, Saint James the Greater.
One of the first twelve apostles, St. James was martyred in Jerusalem in 44 A.D., and his body was immediately translated back to Spain, where he had preached the Gospel of his Divine Master.
History having erased the memory of the place of the saint’s burial, in 813 a shepherd boy saw a star that guided him to his tomb; hence “Compostela” or “Field of the Star”.
A cathedral was erected over the place where the apostle’s body was discovered.
So here we were, two non-Spanish-speaking-just-arrived-by-bus pilgrims handing the taxi driver a slip of paper with the address to San Martino Pinario Hotel. He smiled understandingly and we were off.
San Martino turned out to be a sixteenth century stone building, more like a monastery with a dining area, lounge and patio-garden – bonus: directly across from the Cathedral of Santiago or St. James.
While in the taxi, I noticed teenagers walking along the streets in band uniforms. Once in my room, looking out of my ancient stone-recessed window, I saw them again, but now heard canon volleys and fireworks. I needed to find out what was going on.
Walking outside, we watched a procession of altar servers emerge from the cathedral holding aloft a float with a beautiful statue of Saint Teresa of Avila. I joined the procession, which wound through the cobbled streets for forty minutes to the prayerful cadence of the Rosary.
I finally discovered we were headed for the Carmelite Convent where the “Big Flower”, as the Spaniards lovingly call their Teresa, was crowned in honor of her 500th anniversary which was being celebrated on her feast day that very day and hour (October 15, 2015).
Did I feel like a pilgrim now....You bet! And so privileged to have “crashed” such an auspicious celebration! It felt like a special blessing after so many that week.
The next day, at 7:30 pm, was the Pilgrims’ Mass where the famous incensor or thurible called “Botafumeiro” (Flame Thrower) is used. This was a sight to behold!
Six men dressed in rich maroon cloaks worked in unison to swing the huge thurible so high that it almost touched the soaring ceiling of the cathedral as it delivered clouds of incense.
In Compostela, we met many people from all over the world from Denmark to New Zealand, from America to Africa. They all had come to walk or bicycle the “Camino”.
There were priests, religious, couples, singles, some Catholic, some not, but all there for the same reason: looking for God.
All to whom we spoke, commented on the uplifting, spiritual experience they had while walking the Way of St. James of Compostela.
Though physically hard, the walk was an experience that brought them closer to God and gave them a better understanding of self.
For us, pilgrims hailing from California/Atlanta/Fatima, it was also an unforgettable experience. And considering we had just been to Fatima to deliver thousands of roses to Our Lady, arriving for the celebration of the “Big Flower” felt like a not-so-far-fetched bonus blessing.
Saint Teresa's Secret Informer
A recount from the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila about her talking to a statue of St. Joseph, who would report everything the nuns had done during her absence.
Saint Teresa of Avila
October 15: Teresa was brought up by her saintly father, a lover of serious books, and a tender and pious mother. Several books were written by Teresa which give an account of her spiritual life. She is known as "The Big Flower."