I walked into Santiago early this morning in a beautiful mist, giving the city a mystical aura. I found myself getting my first glimpse of the cathedral tower while making my way through a narrow street. My heart neatly fell because it was clear and real: I made it!!!!
I found the Office For Pilgrims to receive my final stamp or “stella” on my pilgrim passport. And then I received my Certificate , written in Latin , that statescI completed the journey by walking across Spain on the Camino Frances; even my name was inscribed in Latin. The moment was deeply moving and important for me and my spiritual journey.
I immediately went to Confession and vested to concelebrate the Pilgrim’s Mass at Noon. Seeing many of my fellow travelers along the journey sent my spirit soaring. After the Mass, they commented how great it was seeing me on the altar as priest. I guess that moment spoke clearly that I really was a priest. For the past five weeks I looked and smelled like a pilgrim. On the altar, I looked somewhat beleaguered and disheveled in my soggy boots and distinctive odor, which the beautiful red vestments couldn’t mask.
The priest celebrant warmly welcomed me and didn’t care a bit about my appearance. He made certain that I spoke part of the Eucharistic Prayer in English and that I offered one of the Prayers of the Faithful in English. A wonderful priest indeed!!!
The famous Rite of Incensation with the massive “botofumeiro” occurred after Holy Communion. It was a marvelous site to see and be a part of, with the 400pound silver Censor being swept over the congregation. We were God’s holy people, being carried up with the incense into the arms of this magnificent and beautiful God we call Love. This is Liturgy at its best when a rite that could have been just a spectacle of spectators, became an experience of ritual in which we were the participants!!!! It was pure JOY!
We all left the Liturgy with a bounce in our steps and a lift in our spirits. And then the shock: A young woman came up to me after Mass and asked if I was “Fr. Frank?” Of course, I told her I was and asked the obvious, “How do you know me?” It happened that she was on my first camimo two years ago and she and her boyfriend ended up sharing a small room with me in one of the albergues. I distinctly remember joking with them that it must have been a dream of theirs to end up spending the night with a priest in the next bed!!! This young woman decided to do the camino again at the exact same time and she ended up at the Pilgrim’s Mass I concelebrated!!! This was NOT a coincidence! What a gift we were given: a brief encounter two years ago made a difference. She was so happy and took the time to see if I really was that priest of two years ago. We all have had an impact on someone else’s life and are never aware of it. This young woman gave me a beautiful gift I will never forget.
Remember: YOU are God’s gift to another human being, who will experience the Living God through their encounter with you. We all have that power to make God present.
Buen Camino. Padre.