Some of you may already know that I recently returned from a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Throughout history thousands have made this same pilgrimage, including our own St. Francis of Assisi. Presently, our world is very different from when this pilgrimage first began in the ninth century, as are people’s motivations for making it. However, in the end, the purpose remains the same, to visit the Apostolic Tomb of Saint James the Great, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ our Lord.
    The apostle St. James was one of the three most intimate friends among the Apostles of Jesus Christ. It is highly probable that he was related to Jesus. James was very vehement, spirited, and enthusiastic man who became a very courageous messenger of the Word of Jesus Christ. Thus transmitting to all whom he encountered the most important news of humanity: “Death has been defeated, Jesus Christ has been resurrected”. Preaching this, he arrived from Jerusalem to the land of North West Spain, the end of the world as they knew it to be. St. James then returned to the Holy Land and it was there that he was captured and executed under the reign of King Agripa I.
    In order to offer him an honourable burial, his disciples brought his remains back to what today is known as the city of Santiago de Compostela. His shrine, perhaps, was a stronger voice than were all his preaching during his lifetime. His life was a testimony of service to the announcement of the Christian message that allowed the seed of faith to grow. It is for this reason that approaching St. James, is an opportunity to indeed approach God as well. It is a general characteristic of every pilgrim and of “The Way”. This is how a fellow pilgrim came to understand his pilgrimage:

    “the Way to Santiago is as life itself, it is as He who gives us support, it is a marvellous experience. It has no end, because when you arrive you realize that you have to keep on walking towards St. James, towards the others, towards your inner self, towards God. This will only be finished when the life that we enjoy day by day comes to an end.”

    EMBRACING ST. JAMES

    The manifestation of ones commitment with the Kingdom of God and the completion of the journey takes place with the embrace of the statue of St. James that presides at the main altar inside the Cathedral. By doing this, the pilgrim accepts the following circumstances:on the one hand, the fulfilment of the promise made to St. James to visit his tomb; and on the other hand, the intention to approach in a more profound way the Christian message that he brought to us and that he left as a legacy of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Under the main altar, inside a silver urn, is the Tomb of St. James.It is where his mortal remains, together with those of his disciples St. Athanasius and St. Theodore, rest in peace. This is such a perfect place to bring the culmination of prayer that has been brought along the way, in front of one of the favorite Apostles of the Lord. Finally, in an office at the Cathedral the pilgrim receives the “Compostela” which is a certificate which states that you have completed the pilgrimage for motives of devotion and piety (“pietatis causa”).

    THE PILGRIM MASS

    The Pilgrim’s Mass is the best time to consolidate ones commitment with the Kingdom of God, together with all the other pilgrims that walked, or biked, along the Way. The celebrant begins the liturgy with a litany of the home countries of those who sucessfully completed the pilgrimage the previous day. It is remarkable to look over the crowd to see so many familiar faces of those whose lives you crossed in various ways in the days previous to the gathering along The Way; people with whom you perhaps shared a greeting, a story, a swig of cold water, a bit of someones life. In turn it causes you to reflect on all the lives of those at home, whose lives you have encountered along lifes journey. What a wondeful occasion to form and bond a lasting friendship while accepting and receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

    I have enclosed some pictures of my time along The Way. I began the pilgrimage at Leon on April 26, 2012, and I arrived at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela on April 30. Enjoy.