What a lovely Sunday. Unexpected. I find that the best things usually are. This one had us back in Santiago with new friends and it couldn’t have been more wonderful.
Santiago has a lot of churches and chapels. I was not aware of them all – mainly focused on the Cathedral in the square. This experience has me looking at unsuspecting buildings in a whole new light. We attended Mass at Igrexa de Santo Agostiño – Xesuitas. It’s a Jesuit church and college, with boarding for students preparing for university. They come in from the surrounding areas on Sunday night and go home on Fridays. In summer, when school is out, the Jesuits operate an Albergue for Pilgrims in their dormitories. A quiet, cool peaceful place to end your Camino. Away from the area around the square. And if you are so inclined to donate during a visit, they do good works.
Our new friend, John Rafferty, had invited us to attend the service. He plays the organ and his good friend, Stephen, sings at their services on a regular basis. It was a lovely service. I understood some of what the priest was saying, so we are making progress on the español front.
The church and cloisters were built in the 15th century. And they are impressive, if unusual. Not the typical gothic architecture I would expect. More geometric in design. But still with niches of saints and scenes from the crucifixión of Christ. John invited me to the confessional. But I told him no one has that kind of time😉. We’d be there for a week.
After the mass, John walked us through a part of the old city I had never been in. Where the campus of the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela is located. Started 526 years ago. No kidding. The ‘new campus’ is on the other side of the Parque de Alameda. It’s considered new but is still 200 years old. The last remaining gate of the old wall that surrounded the city is still here. Back through the ages, each Pilgrimage route to Santiago entered the city through a different gate in the old wall.
On our walk we made our way to a wonderful place for lunch – Restaurate San Clemtente. Over an excellent meal with even more new friends, we learned that our Scottish host is an author, on top of other many other things. And we were gifted with two books. The first It’s About Time by Johnnie Walker aka John Rafferty. It’s his story of being led to, and the lessons of walking, the Camino. Reading it, his story is so close to my own. Corporate burnout. Material burnout. The usual distractions no longer worked. And the story of others who felt the pull toward pilgrimage and to take the first step on The Way. This book is a must read (or reread) if you are planning your Camino. Or if you need inspiration after testing your rain gear while standing in the shower. 😉 And Martin Sheen, the acclaimed actor of the movie The Way, writes the Conclusion. All proceeds go to charities that support Pilgrims and Pilgrim organizations.
The second book is a gorgeous photo essay of the Camino by talented photographer, Angelika Schneider and with words by John Rafferty, titled The Beauty of The Camino. Over lunch she explained how she put it together. A labor of hard work and love. It’s stunning and crafted in a foldout that, afterwards, we all commented it feels like a Pilgrims passport in photos. I love how it captures the small, quiet moments of the Camino. Those that are indelibly imprinted upon you.
This is not an infommercial, but check out the website if you’d like to view more of the images and to order your own. Here. Again, all proceeds go to Pilgrims charities.
After an hours long meal, we were stuffed as we waddled out of the restaurant. Thoroughly sated and with new, unforgettable friends. The best kind of Sunday lunch. You can say what you want. Call it coincidence, but I think not. A wise man recently told me that ‘goodness attracts goodness’ and I believe he is right. And somehow, for whatever reason, these days I feel we are swimming in it.