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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 July 4, 2020

Many people [in authority] oppose us, persecute us, and woul...

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July 4

Many people [in authority] oppose us, persecute us, and
would like even to destroy us, but
we must be patient.
As long as their commands are not against our conscience,
let us obey them, but when the case is otherwise,
let us uphold the rights of God and of the Church,
for those are superior to all earthly authority.

St. John Bosco


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

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

Frassati beat the intruders off single-handedly, chasing the...

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Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

Pier Giorgio was born on April 6, 1901 in Turin, Italy, of a prominent family. His father, an agnostic, owned the liberal newspaper, La Stampa, served in the Italian Senate and later became an ambassador to Germany.

Of a different frame of mind and stance of soul than that of his father, young Pier Giorgio was deeply spiritual. The Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary were the two devotions around which revolved his prayer life, a life he never hesitated to share with his friends.

While pursuing a mining engineering degree, he became involved in Catholic youth groups, the Apostleship of Prayer, Catholic Action and was a Dominican Tertiary. He helped establish the paper Momento based on Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum. In 1918, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and spent much of his time helping the poor by sharing with them his allowance and even the clothes off his back.

Pier Giorgio was strongly anti-communist and anti-fascist and never hid his political views. In a Church-organized demonstration in Rome he rescued their banner from the hands of the police and, holding it high, used the pole to ward off blows. Arrested with the demonstrators, he refused special treatment because of his father’s position, and was jailed along with his friends. On another occasion, when a group of fascists broke into his family home, he beat them off single-handedly, chasing them down the street.

The young man loved art and music, and often frequented the theater, the opera and museums.  One of his favorite sports was mountain climbing, and he often organized expeditions with his friends, never failing to lead them to Mass or in the Rosary.

Just before receiving his engineering degree, Pier Giorgio contracted poliomyelitis, possibly caught from the sick he tended. After six days of terrible and intense suffering, the holy young man died on July 4, 1925.

His funeral was a triumph. His family was amazed as throngs of the poor and needy of the city lined the streets, many of whom in turn were surprised to realize that their “angel of mercy” was the heir to the influential Frassati family.

When on May 20, 1990 Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio, he called him the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

I walked into the kitchen and saw my mother hang up the phon...

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Miraculous Recovery

I walked into the kitchen and saw my mother hang up the phone, a worried look on her face.

“What is it, Mom?”

“It was your sister. She said one of the ambulance drivers for the medical office she works for is in a deep coma because of a gas leak in his trailer last night.”

“Wow… Will he recover soon?” I asked hopefully.

But as the weeks wore on, the young man failed to give any sign of life, and the doctors began to lose hope. The next time my mother asked after him, the decision had been made to disconnect life support.

Hearing of this decision, I felt a sudden rush of confidence: I remembered America Needs Fatima was launching a national drive to promote the Medal of Our Lady of Graces, a special devotional given to St. Catherine Labouré in an apparition of the Blessed Virgin in 1830. Coined to the exact specifications of Our Lady, so many blessings, graces and miracles have been granted to those who wear it, that it has consequently become known as the “Miraculous Medal.” 

“We need to get a Miraculous Medal to him!”  I told my mother. She enthusiastically agreed. My sister thought it a good idea, and asked a colleague of the sick man to deliver a medal to the hospital to be placed under his pillow (regulations forbade any metal on patients).

As we prayed, and shortly after the devotional was placed under his head, something incredible happened: the comatose began mumbling! The decision to disconnect life support was put on hold.

A few weeks later, the young man was released from the hospital and soon returned to work. He warmly thanked my sister for sending him the devotional and confided in her that he believed the Miraculous Medal saved his life.

By Andrea F. Phillips

 

Click here to your free Novena and Miraculous Medal

I walked into the kitchen and saw my mother hang up the phone, a worried look on her face. 

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