Stage 5: Puente la Reina to Estella
Official: 21.99km // iPhone Step Count: 22.26km
Stage 6: Estella to Torres del Río
Official: 29.3km // iPhone Step Count: 28.9km
Celebrating daily communion is a humbling grace.
Gathered around the table, familiar words are spoken in a language I do not understand. Words and phrases are parsed together and delayed responses exchanged. Sitting and standing, we kneel before a sacred meal. As eyes glance we understand one another, signaling and smiling with hands outstretched we recite the proper incantations as bread is broken and wine is poured.
This sacred ritual has occurred daily with a community of strangers from around the world. Over bread, wine, water and a meal we share with one another a true communal sacrament. As plates pass and portions shared, blessings are served for our daily journey. “Salúd! Proost! Santé! Salute!” We “cheers” each other as an observance of the sign of peace. While we cannot fully communicate with one another we come together as one in this traditional moment.
Food is important on the Camino. Walking nearly 25-30 kilometers a day wears your body thin. Chorizo, Iberian ham, cheese, bread, Spanish tortillas, cover a table as we pick together a meal to refuel during a midday rest. Pasta, fish, chicken, potatoes, salads and soups line dinner tables as pilgrims stock up for the day ahead.
Regardless of the meals repetitive nature, we arrive with eager frequency. This hunger for food and fellowship is often the daily highlight for pilgrims as we laugh over wine and song. The meals predictable nature helps as we struggle to make sense of our respective vernacular. With hearts and bellies overflowing we stumble back to our albergues ready for another night’s sleep.
While I do not wish to undermine the essential sacramental blessings of these daily communal experiences, I must also share the frustrating delight of daily mass and the unitive and divisive natures of both tables.
Moving through regions of France then Spain the Liturgical Vernacular shifts almost daily. Standing, kneeling, and sitting adds to the confusion as each town maintains different customs to match their personal preferences. Songs and Chants carry familiar tunes, yet nonetheless the words are still lost. What were once robotic responses are now mumbled jargon often spoken out of place and out of turn. Even the Our Father is forgotten as you’re inundated with a cacophony of international noises. The line for the Eucharist is varied too as the queue does not assemble in the familiar orderly fashion. The universal “Amen” is my only sanctifying grace.
Lost in something that once felt like home provokes a hunger that is strange and new.
I imagine generations of Catholics have felt this similar isolation. Our collective Body of Christ, often feels dismembered and excluded from the table. Stifled by a cacophony of dogma, we loose sight of the Our Father and fail to “forgive others” and thus are lead into the temptation of judgement and persecution of others. The divorced, remarried, gay, lesbian, transgendered, heterosexual couples living together outside of marriage, individuals who have had sex before marriage, and so many more have been excluded from Christ’s Table Fellowship.
Is it any wonder why I feel a more sacred and intimate connection to my aforementioned communion meal?
And yet, the ritualistic repetition of the sacred liturgy draws me back. I eat, drink, and celebrate the joy these Cathedrals provide and refresh my soul for another day’s journey.