Thoughts after the Way

It is now just over a week since we arrived back from our various pilgrimages to Santiago – 45 of us on the coach, 11 walking the Way to Santiago. It was lovely at the Choral Eucharist yesterday in Southwark Cathedral to meet fellow pilgrims. We were welcomed back with joy and it was amazing taking to so many people who had been following this blog and so felt as though they had taking part in the pilgrimage themselves.

Over the past few days I have been receiving pictures and reflections from a number of pilgrims.

You may remember that after the Eucharist on Trinity Sunday which we celebrated in the wonderful church at Roncesvalles, Rachel distributed the pilgrim biscuits that she had made at home on Anglesey for us and brought with her to sustain us on the journey. She sent a little explanation and the recipe, as well as the pray that she prayed for us before the final blessing.

Rachel on the Camino

Rachel on the Camino

Aberffraw Cakes were first made by Llewellyn’s wife in their royal palace at Aberffraw, on Anglesey, to sustain Welsh pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages. Her recipe is tooth-breakingly hard & was baked in a scallop shell. I have adapted the recipe as my biscuits do not have to last indefinitely!… but I have kept St James’ shell idea, pressing the back of the shell into each circular biscuit, before baking.

Rub together:-
8ozs plain flour [brown, if you like to be more authentic]
6ozs margarine/butter
4ozs white sugar

Form a ball of dough. Roll out about 1/4″ thick. Cut into 3″ circles. Press the back of your scallop shell into each, to mark them clearly. Cook on a greased, baking tray, 25mins,at 180 degrees C, till lightly golden & crisp. Sprinkle sugar over them. Leave to cool….Enjoy!

Several of the pilgrims also asked for a copy of the Celtic prayer I used from the North Wales, Bardsey Island Pilgrimage’s service book. Here it is :-

Bless to us, O God
The moon that is above us,
The earth that is beneath us,
The friends who are around us,
The rest which is before us. Amen.

One of the pilgrims, Chris, was reflecting on the journey. He wrote this to me:

There were a number of things that stood out for me.

The first was the walk to San Martin in Fromista. The walk along the canal was just a sublimely peaceful experience. It was one of those occasions when the rhythm of my footsteps seemed to make everything else disappear.

Walking along the canal

Walking along the canal

Secondly, I’ve been thinking about the arrival of pilgrims in the cathedral square, Santiago. Just as we got there were a couple of pilgrims with backpacks, sticks and walking boots who for about the last twenty metres of their journey sprinted in with the sheer joy of arrival. They threw down their packs and knelt down in front of the cathedral, kissing the ground. Their excitement was simply infectious.

And finally, buying Pilgrim Cake from the Benedictine nuns. Just the sight of people queuing at the little window, buying cake from a nun in an enclosed order who spoke no English was something to see. Wendy said it was like a betting shop!

Form an orderly queue!

Form an orderly queue!

Finally, for this blog, there is a ballad from Harvey.

So why did you go to Santiago?

to pray at the grave of a son of thunder
to find consolation in the nearness
to touch, to draw upon a passion
to harvest strength that grew from strength

and fill an emptiness

What did you find at Santiago?

there was a queue that never ended
there were a thousand silences
in a thousand tongues
a heavy cape with many jewels

a tomb silvered with aspiration

Why did you go to Santiago?

to offer thanks, to repair a fault,
to cure a wound, to curse an curse,
to remember a face, a caress of flesh
bereft of jewels

to reclaim a dream

What did you find at Santiago?

heavy stones and many tombs
mighty battles won and lost
altars and gods and enemies slain,
hands stretching out against the darkness

angels dancing in the street

Why did you go to Santiago?

because I had not been before
because the path was waiting for me
to see if I could walk in that direction
to see if my body could feel again

the pulse of yet another spring

What did you find at Santiago?

there were clothes hanging out to dry
boots broken by stone and mud
a column of fire burning before me
and columns of smoke that hid my back

heavy rain to cleanse the soul

Why did you go to Santiago?

to be close to, to be touched by
to be in another place that was not here
to join history, to escape geography
to review, to find again, to admire

to expect miracles

What did you find at Santiago?

a god perhaps? a people? a place to lay down
and to take up, to remove, and put on again,
a fire to burn soiled clothes and prayers
to hold before my smoked-filled eyes

a mirror to behold a stranger’s face

Why did you go to Santiago?

because there was no other way
because it had always been there –
I went to reach the end of earth
where shells were waiting on the sand

for me to take upon my journey

What did you find at Santiago?

that the body has its needs
that the soul will not be forced
that little is required
that the living need their rest

as do the dead

that the dead also need to move

as we the living do.

I am grateful to everyone for their thoughts. I too need to reflect a little more. There is so much to think about, so much that will remain with me and so much that will mature. And I keep finding signs of the Camino everywhere. For instance on the Monday after my return I had to go to Rouen Cathedral in France. There, in the ambulatory was a statue of St James, and there was the sign, the shell. The journey continues …

St James the Pilgrim in Rouen Cathedral

St James the Pilgrim in Rouen Cathedral

Lord God, we would not seek you,
if you had not found us in Christ.
In this our earthly pilgrimage,
enlarge our hearts,
enlighten our understanding,
that we may walk with you the road of life
in freedom, hope and joy;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.