Update - 4
The Camino Francés is the most famous Camino route, walked by millions of pilgrims from all over the globe since the Middle Ages. More than just a pilgrimage, the Camino is a very unique social and cultural experience, and a truly memorable adventure.
Our parish priest, Fr. Simon Yong, SJ, is currently undertaking this journey and he'll be sharing photos of his pilgrimage when he can as he'll be walking most of the time and may not have Internet access on his stops.Do keep him in your prayers during this time.
Hola from Spain
Dear Parishioners from the Sacred Heart Cathedral
It feels like we have stepped back in time. In fact, it looks like we have retreated into the Celtic past of Galicia. And rightly so, all road in O Cebreiro must lead to this village church—an Iberian Romanesque structure of three sober naves, a rectangular apse and a bell tower. Founded in AD836 by the Cluniac Benedictines, the Santa María la Real (Royal St. Mary’s) is supposedly the oldest church along the Camino Francés. We are drawn by tradition to congregate here because of a 14th century miracle. As we experienced earlier when we arrived here, this locality can be buffeted by extremely strong winds. According to a local account, there was one peasant Juan Santin of Baixamayor who braved a winter storm to attend Mass celebrated by a disbelieving priest. Not only was the priest disbelieving, he was also contemptuous of this peasant’s devotion—“So much sacrifice for a little bread and wine”? At consecration, the host and the wine changed into flesh and blood. In fact, the blood was “expelled” out of the chalice and stained the linen. However, the bread that had turned into flesh remained on the paten for more than a hundred years until the year when Queen Isabella, one of the Catholic Monarchs, made a pilgrimage to Santiago. Passing through, she heard of the miracle and ordered a crystal shrine custom-made for the host to be placed there. One can view the reliquary on the right nave as one enters the Church. And it seemed that both the disbelieving priest and the peasant are buried side by side here.
If there is anything to be said of the Camino, it is truly and appropriately a miracle of the Camino. In fact, the heart of the Camino is deeply eucharistic. The word companion, meaning someone you journey with, might not highlight this eucharistic connexion which a French word does better. In French, a mate at school or a colleague at work is called a copain—its etymology derived from the French word for bread: pain. A companion or “un copain” is someone who shares bread with you.
As we know, the Last Supper is also called the Breaking of Bread, as the two disciples to Emmaus described to Peter and the Apostles in Jerusalem. It is fantastic that here in an obscure place, we encounter a miracle, a reminder of what the Camino truly is: Eucharistic. We pray that those who make this pilgrimage be graced to go beyond the sharing of stories and food, to the real encounter with Christ Himself who is Bread of Life and the true food of the Way.
Fr Simon Yong