The last step.
Despite it was still more than an hour before the start of the Mass at noon, the cathedral was already packed with the usual multicolored crowds. Outside all the entrances, guided tours were queuing for their chances to enter and pay their respects to Santiago but likely also to shoot endless pictures of the rich decor in the main altar area. Even on a second look, the cathedral is lacking spirituality and seems another example of religious speculation perpetrated over the centuries to impress simple people with opulence and display of power.
Still in this state if mind, I took a seat in the area reserved for pilgrims, and noticed Father Xavier sitting on the bench just in front of me. We hugged each other, and then I sat quietly waiting for the beginning of the Mass.
All around me, on the streets, in the hostel, in bars and restaurants, all pilgrims look for each other to congratulate and compare plans, impressions, projects.
I simply cannot understand the reason for all this joy. I am annoyed by all this superficial rejoicing which seems to me just a bragging for something with marginal merit. All the road is marked with millions of yellow arrows making practically impossible to get lost even in the darkest wooded areas; everyone wears supertechnical garments that limits the weight and are also quick dry to reduce the need of backup clothing; shoes are sophisticated pieces of engineering tooling; there are Albergues, food and drinks every 2 km or so apart from only few cases; there is abundance of blessing from the Lord and guidance from the Apostle James. Everyone just needs to use legs and a bit of endurance to get the Camino going despite blisters, tiredness and some degree of discomfort.
To my experience, the Camino is only an excellence exercise of patience and humility, with nothing to brag about and nothing to impress other fellow pilgrims.
The rejoicing, I thought, should come from other places. From the physical effort standpoint, I am happy to be here today after having having been on the road for 38 days, walked for 35 and covered 864.8km since. Mentally, I have been focused and determined to continue despite my share of obstacles. Spiritually speaking I have done a number if good starts, but none or very few I have been able to develop to a level of contentment.
While I was there, reflecting, it occurred that during the past many years, I never confessed in front of a priest, in his primary role as doctor of the soul. All of a sudden I desired to take the Holy Communion rightfully, which is going through the ritual of the Holy Confession.
I leaned over to Father Xavier for an advice, whether I could approach the Communion just through an act of repentment in front of God. He beamed back, and asked me if I wanted to take Confession instead.
I could not refrain a bout of commotion which started very deep inside me, and without being able to confirm it with words, my wet eyes in his, nodding in confirmation, that, yes, this was what I wanted but I did not know how. He motioned me to move out of the benches and there we were leaning against one of these massive stone pillars, sitting on the base capitel, Father Xavier and me, in our walking clothes, accomuned by our mutual pilgrim smells, reciting prayers and exchanging vows of repentment and absolution, using Italian, French and Latin in a mix of feelings which were transcending the languages, nationalities and roles. He thanked me for the last step I finally completed, one last step which is worth of thousand of kilometers and thousand of years.
I did the assessment of my conscience for all these kilometers and many days, preparing for something but not knowingly that finally my purpose could have been achieved just on the last step.
Now I finally have come to the end of my journey. Along the road, not far from Santiago, one of these unknown hands wrote:
“La fine del Camino, es il principio del tu Destino (The end of the Camino, is the start of your Destiny)“
I think now I can understand the meaning and will be a subject for further meditation during the next few days.
I am adding a few pictures of the monastery that has been our home for two days.
Tomorrow we shall leave to continue towards Muxia and Finisterre, at the border of the mighty Atlantic Ocean through a mystical land dotted with Celtic, Pagan and Catholic remains.