Another tradition for peregrinos (pilgrims) who walk the Camino de Santiago is for them to go to their priest or pastor before they leave and receive the ‘traditional pilgrim blessing’ (see below). Through Brian’s involvement with the Catholic Worker we had met Father Peter Gyves, a Jesuit priest with Our Lady of Guadalupe Church which serves a predominantly Spanish speaking population. Before he became a priest Fr. Peter served as a physician in El Salvador. I think that really spoke to both Brian and I because of our Peace Corps experience. We also learned that he’d been at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, where Brian got his degree, and where Brian developed an affection for the Jesuits. We contacted Fr. Peter who told us to come to the 9 am mass yesterday, which was in English and at which he’d be officiating. We met him about 15 minutes before time and he explained that he would call us up to the front of the church after communion and do the blessing then. (That is often the time that he does other blessings, babies, anniversaries, etc.)
What an incredible experience this whole mass was! To start, the processional was led in by a mariachi band, who provided all the music and singing during the mass. Fr. Peter’s homily was about what happened after the resurrection. He talked about how the apostles traveled out to spread the gospel, including St. James who went to Spain where he is called Santiago, and how pilgrims, since about the 9th century, had followed the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, to trace his journey and honor his spirit. He mentioned that after communion he’d be giving a blessing to two people who were about to start out on this 500 mile journey. After communion and the announcements, he called us forward and explained to people what we would be doing. He asked everyone to pray for us, and asked us to pray for him and for the parishioners. He raised his hand above our heads, and asked the parishioners to extend their hands toward us while he read the blessing. At the end of the blessing, he gave us each a big hug to the loud applause of the parishioners!
What an incredible send off!! I still feel a glow from this very emotional experience, which I have to confess, brought tears to the eyes of this non-Catholic! If you have never been to this church, it is certainly worth a visit. A very welcoming place! http://olgsd.org/
We were also really delighted to have Catholic Worker friends, Betsey and Howard, there to support us and join us for breakfast following mass. And tomorrow it’s off to Paris!
“Oh God, You who took up your servant Abraham from the city of Ur of the
Chaldeans, watching over him in all his wanderings.
You who were the guide of the Hebrew people in the desert, we ask that You deign
to take care of these your servants who, for love of your name, make a pilgrimage
Be a companion for them along the path, a guide at crossroads, strength in their
weariness, defense before dangers, shelter on the way, shade against the heat, light
in the darkness, a comforter in their discouragements, and firmness in their
intentions, in order that, through your guidance, they might arrive unscathed at the end of their
journey and, enriched with graces and virtues, they might return safely to their
homes, which now lament their absence, filled with salutary and lasting joy.
Through Jesus Christ Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, descend on you.