Pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago often experience unexpected acts of kindness along the way. A hand profers an apple, a barra de pan, a cupful of water, a place to sit in the shade or out of a torrential downpour. Often these gestures are accompanied by "Un abrazo por el Apostol": A hug for the saint. On occasion something fortuitous happens, seemingly for no reason. Synchronicity? Who knows?
But these things are not limited to while one is actually walking the Camino. Pilgrims seem to trail some sort of air of, dare I say, sanctity? Joy. Pilgrims cut the path that many others would love to follow but do not, or cannot. They take wishes, prayers, blessings with them, often unknowingly.
Just this past trip, these four things happened:
1/ I was admiring a game about Galicia in the 26th of July cafe in Santiago(opposite the new Police Staion - great breakfasts). I asked where I could buy one and the response was disappointing. It seemed it had been the result of a promotion by a local radio station some years ago. "But you can have it if you really like it," Noria said.
2/ My hosts at the Hostal Alameda (rua San Clemente - really recommended and very central) looked after my other luggage when I went to Muxia. Upon my return, Rosa gave me a beautiful book of old photos of Compostela. "It is Antonio´s favourite," she said. "He wants you to have it." Inside where these words:
Que esta visión al pasado sea una inspiracion para tu futuro
I doubt I need to translate but it means:
That this vision of the past will be an inspiration for your future.
It was signed by Antonio, Rosa, and Lia their granddaughter whom I have watched grow up year by year.
3/ Seeing my interest in having a go at reading Rosalio del Castro's poems in Galego, the bookseller at the stall by the park gave me a little book about colours for children in Galego. "For your grandaughter," she said.
4/ My car's electrics were playing up most of the time. In Muxia it seemed to get worse. I asked the lady cleaning my room for a local garage. I figured it was something small like a fuse (it was) "Nothing in Muxia," she said, "but if it won't start tomorrow, you can take my car and go to the next town". I had met her just 5 minutes earlier!!!
And then there is Portugal. Five times in the past years I have found myself looking for something I can't find, and five times someone has either walked with me or jumped in the car or their motorcycle and said "Follow me!"Whenever I am in north Portugal I stay at the house of Fernanda Gomez Rodriguez and her husband Jacinto and their daughter Mariana. Fernanda treats every pilgrim who comes up her steps, weary and thirsty, as though they are the prodigal son, or daughter. Such love and kindness I have never ever seen elsewhere, though there are some which come very close along the Way.
Today in the mail I got a packet. I did not recognise the address. Three weeks ago I was presenting my books Pilgrimage to Heresy and the new book St. James' Rooster (Peregrinos de la Herejia y El Gallo de Santiago) at the II Encuentro Mundial de Peregrinos in Villafranca del Bierzo. I got talking with Jacob from Barcelona, or near it. "The Holy Grail was in Montserrat," he told me. I said that I thought this was actually a later Catholic myth designed to cover up that it might have been in Montsegur. He was insistent. I demurred, and then said how I had been looking at every flea market and yard sale for years for a figure of the Black Virgin of Montserrat. "I'll send one to you," he said.
Well, I had truly forgotten about this til she stepped out of her wrappers in all her Black is Beautifulness. She is in front of me as I write. That search, at least, is over.
Thank you, Jacob. So much.
I wonder about these phenomena. Do we radiate something angelic while on or close to the Camino which makes others WANT to help us? Draws them to our innocence? Are we in some sort of state of grace that others can feel our weariness and our joy?
I don't know. But I sure do like it!