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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 October 1, 2020

The goal of all our undertakings should be not so much a tas...

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October 1

 

The goal of all our undertakings should be

not so much a task perfectly completed

as the accomplishment of the will of God.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux


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

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Hearing of a murderer, Henri Pranzini, who had been condemne...

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St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Marie-Françoise Thérèse Martin was born on January 2, 1873 in the town of Alençon in French Normandy. Her parents were Louis Martin, a watch maker, and Zélie Guerin, both beatified by the Church. Called Thérèse, she was the last of nine children, five of which survived to adulthood.

Growing up in a deeply Catholic family, Thérèse’s life was filled with love, consideration and kindness. A pretty, blond and blue-eyed girl, hers was a precocious mind, and passionate, willful, sensitive nature, a nature made yet more sensitive by her mother’s death of breast cancer when Thérèse was four.

After his wife’s death, M. Martin moved his family to the town of Lisieux, and rented a charming home, “Les Buissonnets”, where he raised his five girls in bourgeois comfort. Thérèse was his “Benjamin” for whom he had a special affection and whom he called “my little queen”.

For her mothering needs, the little girl turned to her favorite sister, Pauline, who took the rearing of her “child” seriously looking after her needs of body, mind and soul.

When Pauline decided to enter Carmel in 1882, the shock made Thérèse seriously ill. As the illness progressed, and as her family prepared for the worst, on May 13, the sick girl appealed to a statue of Our Lady by her bed. “Suddenly,” Thérèse writes, “Mary’s face radiated kindness and love…” and she was healed. To the family the statue became “The Virgin of the Smile”.

On Christmas Eve in 1886 at the age of fourteen Thérèse received a great grace. In one moment, she was cured of her hyper-sensitivity, and went through what she calls “her conversion”. From then on she decided to live no longer to please herself but for love. She felt her heart burn with the wish to help Jesus save souls.

Hearing of a murderer, Henri Pranzini, who had been condemned to death, but remained unrepentant, she set out to pray and offer small sacrifices for his conversion, and trusted that God would hear her against all appearances. She was elated when she read that though refusing a priest to the last, at the scaffold Pranzini suddenly turned and, snatching a crucifix from the attending priest’s hands, kissed it repeatedly. Thereafter, Thérèse always called Pranzini her “first son”– her course was set.

She entered Carmel at age sixteen, and though only living as a Carmelite for nine years, she rose to the heights of sanctity through her “little way” of serving God and others in everyday life, and doing everything, even the smallest things, with great love and child-like trust in her God’s paternal love, and mercy.  At the request of her sister Pauline who glimpsed her sanctity, she penned her autobiography, The Story of a Soul.

Struck with tuberculosis, Thérèse suffered greatly. Knowing she was dying she promised, “I shall spend my heaven doing good on earth … I shall let fall a shower of roses”.  Thérèse died on September 30, 1897, after a brief ecstasy. Her last gasping words were, “My God! ... I love Thee!”

She was canonized by Pius XI in 1925 and devotion to her quickly spread throughout the world. For her doctrine of “The Little Way” Thérèse was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort...

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The Rosary, the Devil and the Queen

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, he was known for his powerful, moving sermons on the Rosary, which led people to adopt this devotion to their great benefit.

Furiously jealous of the holy man’s success with souls, the devil began to so torture Thomas that he fell sick, and was so ill for so long that the doctors gave up on saving his life.

One night, when the poor man thought he was near death, the devil appeared to him in a hideous form, coward that he is, seeking to frighten Thomas into despair.

But, making an effort, the good priest turned to a beautiful picture of Our Lady near his bed crying out with all his heart and strength:

“Help me, save me, my sweet, sweet Mother!”

No sooner had he pronounced these words, the picture came alive and extending her hand, the heavenly Lady laid it reassuringly on the priest’s arm, saying:

“Do not be afraid, Thomas my son, here I am and I am going to save you. Get up now and go on preaching my Rosary as you did before. I promise to shield and protect you from your enemies.”

No sooner had Our Lady pronounced these words, than the devil fled in a hurry. Getting up, Thomas found that he was perfectly healed. 

Thanking the Blessed Mother with tears of joy, Blessed Thomas again went about preaching the Holy Rosary, now with renewed favor and gumption, and his apostolate and his sermons were enormously successful. 

St. Louis the Montfort concludes this story saying, “Our lady not only blesses those who say her Rosary, but also abundantly rewards those who, by their example, inspire others to say it as well.”

 


 

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In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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