Benefice Newsletter July
For our long six week holiday this year we travelled the Camino to Santiago - The Way of St James, a pilgrimage trail that starts in France and goes through various routes to Santiago Compostela in Spain. I would like to say that we walked it but if you know me at all you would know that I was telling a 'porkie'. No, we followed the foot trail as best we could in our motor home along with Moses (our cat) along the back roads and high roads, passing hardy pilgrims walking or cycling the whole distance with enormous back packs. We started really in Lourdes as we took a detour there as we were so close - thank you Caroline - it was she who pointed Lourdes out on the map and said,' why don't you pop in on your way'. - so we did. The Camino we took started in St Jean Pied de Port, France and we were off along the coast trail to Santiago, or so we thought. If ever you see a sign post on the French /Spanish border saying IRUN, do just that and run, it was a place from hell!!! Once in one could not, and I mean not find the way out again. There were lorries everywhere, traffic jams to beat Piccadilly and signs that defied description; and to add insult to injury a very nice Polish lorry driver showed us how to dodge the lorry jam and a French woman how to find the road we needed. Out at last! We found a different trail right through the middle of Spain and it was the best decision we made as we could follow the walking trail for a good deal of the way. What did we find on this pilgrimage- lovely cathedrals with gold and silver, priceless paintings and relics but not much to do with the spirit. In fact I was not only disappointed but also outraged to find that in Santiago Cathedral most of the chapels had iron grills in front of them and they were locked. What did touch the soul though was the wildlife we saw along the way - a crane nesting atop an electricity pylon in a huge nest; two eagles soaring above us, breath taking views across the Pyrenees and of course the real pilgrims walking all the way. In fact the joy of being alive filled us deep inside and this was reinforced in Santiago Cathedral Museum where we stumbled across a fairly small statue of Mary with a toddler Jesus at her feet, laughing and skipping along with His arms waiving in the air. It took my breath away as I had never seen Christ depicted in this way before - the joy in His face of just being alive. As we stoically wound our way up to the tapestry room this message was reinforced when there in front of us was a small 18th century tapestry showing small boys playing leap frog! We started out not knowing what we were searching for, if anything, but what we kept coming up against was a message that clearly said that life is for living, get out there and enjoy it: That, after all, is why we were created in the first place.