This is the last in a series of posts from Alexander Garoutte on his journey on the Camino de Santiago. You can see all his posts here.
You crest the final hill – it’s steeper than you thought it would be. You look out and finally see the city below. You have made it to Santiago. Though you can’t yet see the Cathedral, you know the Apostle is near. On this final day, how does your body feel? Do you still feel the pain in your feet? The ache in your joints? Perhaps it has passed away by now, the anticipation of meeting Santiago melting all pain away.
As you walk down into the city you continue along the Way through the busy streets wondering how long it will be until you finally get to meet St. James, the man that walked by Jesus’ side and followed in his ways. Passing through a street filled with shops, cafés, and tourists, you see it – the spires of the Cathedral. This is it. This is what you came for.
You walk a bit farther along still and lay your eyes on the façade of the Cathedral. It’s magnificent, better than anything you could have imagined. What do you feel on this final day of walking? As you realize that you have come to end of a journey, what fills your heart and mind? Gratitude? Joy? Disbelief?
You lie down in the Praza do Obradoiro and must decide whether to go in. When you enter this place and finally meet the Apostle, the one you’ve been anxious to see for days, months, or years, what will it mean for you? How will you feel about this journey that is unlike any other?
Of course, you do eventually decide to enter the Cathedral – all things must come to an end. Are you able to pass through the “Portico of Glory”? Or is it still under construction? The first thing that captures your eye is the canopy behind the altar. You see the magnificently ornate statue of Santiago that sits directly above his bones. Walking closer to the altar you notice the people behind the statue giving him a hug and whispering into his ear. This is a tradition of the Camino – to tell the Apostle what you’ve been waiting to say after all this time.
You join the queue to meet the Apostle as well. You can feel the energy that surrounds you – this is the moment that so many have been waiting for. As you think about what you would like to say to Santiago, you think back to the millions of pilgrims that have walked this path for centuries before you. You are connected with them in a special way – the community of those who have sought peace, God, wholeness, or health on the Camino. What do you imagine them speaking to St. James?
It is now your turn to speak the Apostle. As you wrap your arms around this larger-than-life statue, what do whisper into his ear? What have you been hoping to tell him all this time? Perhaps it helps you to make this experience a prayer – what do you have to say to God?
As quickly as the moment came, it passes you by and you are headed down to the crypt to pray with the reliquary that holds his bones. You step down into the small chapel below and see the silver box that holds the bones of this Apostle. Do you kneel down to pray? Do you thank God for getting you through this journey? Do you have a special intention to pray for? Are you looking for healing?
After spending however long you need in the crypt, you emerge out the other side and remain in the Cathedral. You take a moment to pause and reflect back on your time with the Camino. What insights did you gain while on this journey? How has God moved in you? How have you been stretched, grown, and changed?
Your experience on the Camino is coming to a close. What is next? Perhaps you will stay in the Cathedral for the Pilgrim’s Mass and sit in awe at the number of pilgrims from all over the world. Perhaps you will begin your return journey home. Perhaps you have a new destination ahead. Now that you have made it here, will your life look different once you return to your homeland?
No matter what is next, you realize that this experience of Pilgrimage is life-long. This Way of Discipleship is a continuing process that you will continue walking for the rest of your life. What does it mean for you to keep going? What are your hopes for your continued journey ahead?