We arrived in Santiago just before nine am and promptly went to get breakfast. It was starting to rain and the front of the cathedral is being renovated (read as: there is ugly scaffolding and tarps everywhere) so we found a warm spot for a celebratory breakfast and to wait for the cathedral to be open for mass. Pilgrim's Mass starts at noon, so just before eleven we ventured in to grab our seats. It is fun to attend a mass that is being held in your honor -- so much praise and admiration and love is shown to the pilgrims! At the end of mass, a team of men gathered in the front of the church and swung the giant incense burner across the front of the church (though it isn't the actual big one -- they only use that in special occasions which tomorrow happens to be; so we will attend mass again tomorrow!). At mass we ran into the Hungarian couple that we met at Tomas's "cabin" -- what a fun surprise!! We arranged to meet them later for drinks before their plane leaves this evening. After mass, we went to find an Albergue. We chose one that was least expensive, so it was a two kilometer walk from the center of town; but it is clean and not very full, so that is nice. After a short rest, we marched back into the city center and went back to take a look at the cathedral. This is when the end of my Camino really took shape for me.
So at the completion of your Camino, tradition says that you are supposed to attend mass, go to confession, and pray before the relics of St. James the Apostle for the Holy Father, and then you receive your compestella (thus eliminating or greatly reducing the time you spend in purgatory). When I entered the cathedral for the second time, the atmosphere was different. The holy building wasn't packed with pilgrims and tourists who wanted to watch the incense burner swing and take pictures, but rather with pilgrims who were there for prayer and to take in the beauty of the old church. The center alter is amazing -- St. James is displayed prominently in the altarpiece, sculpted in gold surrounded by Christ, the Blessed Mother, and so many angels. The side alters and chapels compete for most beautiful with moving depictions and sculptures of Christ and Mary; my favorite side chapel, however, was one that seemed devoted to pilgrims: St. James in the altarpiece and seashells adorning the walls (this side chapel also had a really fabulous ceiling). I had already attended mass, so next was prayer before the relecs of St. James. We descended down into the crypt, and behind the glass was a beautifully ornate silver casket that holds the body of St. James. I knelt before it and prayed and lit candles for myself and for my family. I then went to confession -- Fr. Marcus from Italy said that my five hundred miles was penance enough. haha
After I had completed all of these things (plus placed my hands on the shoulders of St. James and thanked him for such an amazing journey) it was time to meet up with the Hungarian couple for drinks -- it is so nice to see familiar pilgrims!! And then, we made our way to the Pilgrim's Office to stand in line to receive our compestella. They write your name on your certificate in Latin -- my name in Latin is apparently close to Genevieve Marrium ... who knew? And with a stamp and a smile and a congratulations, I became a certified finished pilgrim. Wahoo!!
We next headed to dinner, just Vera and Jarek and Gosia and I, and ate a pilgrim menu, of course! And now we are back at our Albergue.
Here are a few pictures from today:
Tomorrow will be really hard, for it is the day of the first good bye: Jarek and Gosia will wake up tomorrow and continue walking to Finnesterra. I can't even express how much I will miss seeing them every day or how badly I want to keep walking, too. Though we have only known each other for three weeks, it seems like a lifetime. They have both helped me so much on my journey in ways they don't even know. Please pray for them as they continue their journey. I will stay in Santiago for a few days (as will Vera) -- I am excited to spend some time in prayer in the cathedral tomorrow. Thank you so much everyone for your prayers and support -- I know they helped me reach Santiago!!