"More pilgrims in 6 days than in a third of July"
Thus screamed the newspaper headlines. The number they are talking about is the 11,201 pilgrims who have arrived since I last posted. At times it has been very busy, but no more so than usual at this time of year. Newspaper hyperbole apart, the August rush is well under way. As you can see pilgrims are still overjoyed at their arrival and although they say there have been queues at some albergues there have been beds available on all of the routes.
Santiago has been busy with visitors particularly this week because of the Feast of the Assumption on the 15th and the Feast of San Roque yesterday. On the 15th the cathedral was packed as people streamed in for the Solemn Mass of the Feast which began with a procession accompanied by the Cathedral choir and medieval musical instruments the chimirias. They continued to play as the great botifumeiro swung at the start of the Mass. If you wish to hear them click here
In August more groups arrive than in any other month of the year and so far we have had: scout groups, girl guides, youth groups, church groups, seminarians, pensioners clubs and a large group of the children of soldiers serving in the Spanish army (below).
It is busy but there is always room for one more. Still room for the lone pilgrim who arrives in the square and mounts the steps to the Pilgrims' Office. Still room for moments of individual joy and reflection on a journey well made.
It was a privilege for us to meet Roswitha who had walked from her home in Germany to Santiago, 10 times the distance of many pilgrims. When we asked her what her Camino had meant to her she reached into her rucksack and presented us with a piece of paper. "This says it all for me" she said. We've tried to translate it...and maybe it does say it all:
Pilgrim, do not look back, do not turn around
For that would discourage you.
Instead look to the road in front of you where I am calling you.
Do not think about how far away the goal is and how little you travel walking each step.
Instead live each step. I am walking with you.
Throw out everything you don't need, don't carry extra weight
Throw out all your cares and everything that worries you
Let go and travel light. I will give you everything you need.
Don't compare yourself to others as you go. Find your own rhythm as you continue onward.
I love you as you are.
Follow the road carefully so that you can see the signs that will lead you in the right direction
I will guide you.
Be cautious of taking shortcuts as they may turn out to make the journey longer.
I am the Way.
But if you make a mistake and take a wrong turning do not lose heart these things are also part of your journey. I am always by your side.
When you are tired or stumble do not be afraid. Get up again.
I will hold you.
Do not look down at your feet all the time trying to avoid obstacles. Look up and admire the beauty all around you. I will keep you safe.
Accept all that happens to you on the road; bad weather, hunger and thirst, illness, unpleasant people...your own weaknesses. I am your goal.
Take time to give thanks, but do not waste time. Use every opportunity to praise, to sing, to dance and to celebrate. When you do this, I love you.