Thursday, 12 June 2014

When the Saints go marching in...


For the two months of April and May I went to church every day. I can almost hear your gasps of surprise. I’ve written before about my ambivalence about religion and the Catholic Church in particular and my difficulties with the certainty of faith. But as you know, like most other pilgrims, I have also been profoundly affected by the spiritual power of the Camino. So at 9am every morning I have been going to the Cathedral and with an ancient key I have opened the heavy gates to a chapel where I have lit candles, turned on some soft music and I have just sat there. It has been one of the very best things I have done in my life.

Let me tell you more.
     
On the left hand side of the Cathedral as you enter from the Plaza Inmaculada the door to one of the side chapels has been open for the last 10 weeks. It will remain open until October. The chapel is open from 9am every morning until 7pm. It is a quiet place of prayer and reflection for pilgrims. It is the place where there is Mass in English at 10.30am every morning.
The Chapel is named after Our Lady of Soledad, Our Lady of Loneliness, and there is a powerful depiction, in typical Spanish style, of the mother of Jesus mourning the loss of her son. It is also a deeply serene space in the busy and bustling cathedral. It lies in one of the oldest parts of the building and some of its stones are more than 800 years old. In candlelight it is very peaceful offering pilgrims a quiet place to sit, to think or pray, to talk or to be silent. Or all of these. This is the place where every day the saints of the Camino come. Not saints who have been canonised by the Catholic Church. They are the saints who through their struggles and journey along many Camino paths have thought about their lives, who want to reflect more on where they are going , and who perhaps want to resolve the burdens they may have been carrying for years. Above all they are pilgrims trying to be better people. That’s what pilgrims do. The Mass which begins at 10.30am is remarkable.

The priest begins, “Good morning and welcome. I’m Joe from Cork in Ireland. I’ve walked the Camino and I’m here for a month to talk to pilgrims and provide Mass and confession. Where are you from?”  And so a beautiful pilgrims’ litany begins...”I’m Anne from Colorado, I walked from Sarria”, “We are Ivan and Irena from Russia, we walked from Saint Jean”, “I’m Alan from Australia, I walked from Ferrol”. There is huge laughter when someone says “I’m Tony from London, England, I walked here from my hotel” or “I’m Fiona from Florida, I came by cruise ship.” And even in these first few minutes of mass there are poignant moments, “I’m Mary from Ireland and I’m here to pray and wait for my daughter who finishes her Camino in the next few days”. “I’m  Ian from South Africa I walked from Pamplona in memory of my wife who died last year”.
As the service proceeds there is a tangible feeling of solidarity when the priest makes reference to the Camino experience as both a physical and spiritual journey. He raises a smile when he mentions blisters and knowing looks when he mentions the moments of reflection every pilgrim is drawn to.  Heads bow when he invites people to think of those they met, they kindnesses they experienced, the joy of arrival. Everyone knows the challenge which lies ahead is applying these lessons to the pilgrimage of life which is to come.
I sometimes think about how all of this began. Last year for the first time there was regular Mass in English in the cathedral for the first time when we organised three priests to come at their own expense for 6 weeks.  It was an instant success. This year I wondered if we could do it for longer. Would we get priests? Could we also get religious sisters or brothers to also come and help. I wrote about it here on this blog. On Facebook. I put an advertisement in a religious magazine, “Priests and religious wanted to minister to pilgrims in Santiago. Give up your time. Pay your own way.” 20 pilgrim priests applied. 24 religious said they wanted to come. And so we have a new ministry and a Place of Prayer in the Cathedral for more than 6 months.
The chapel is small and intimate although we’ve had almost 80 people there for Mass one day. The altar is simple. The cross is two pilgrim walking sticks lashed together. From the start we simply put out some paper and pens and a bowl. The pilgrims spontaneously began writing their prayers and leaving them in the bowl. For some these anonymous “intentions” as they are called in the Catholic tradition are prayers. For others they are wishes. They can be “to do lists”, heartfelt desires, expressions of faith or expressions of doubt. The bowl soon filled and the pilgrims started laying their petitions on the stone shelves and on the sleeping stone statues. The chapel has become covered in these pilgrim prayers which we have decided will remain there until the ministry closes in October.
There is always someone in the chapel. One of the team. Sometimes pilgrims talk, sometimes they are upset. Finishing the Camino brings a mixture of emotions as we think of the journey past and the return to reality which lies ahead. Sometimes a decision has been taken to deal with something in their lives. To heal a broken relationship or to finally let it go. Opposite the chapel the priest who says Mass in English is also available for confession or just to talk.
Now another priest and two sisters are here. They open the chapel every day.  I miss those hours of silence and being with the pilgrims. But there are volunteers to be organised and Compostelas to be written! When we close a final Mass will be said for all of the intentions of the pilgrims and then they will be burned. But the memories will linger for a long time to come.
On 3 May the Chapel was busy. During the introduction a group of women from Ireland explained they were walking with the mother of a young lad, Jack Kavanagh, who had been paralysed in an accident.  A Russian couple said they were walking to pray for peace, particularly in the Ukraine. The entire chapel  burst into applause when at the front a young couple from Australia, Jenny and Chris,  told us that they had walked the Camino Frances and would be married in this place that afternoon.
Not every day is quite so dramatic. But every day the pilgrim saints come and write their prayers. They are folded pieces of paper and anonymous. But the other day I saw a scrap of paper under a chair and reaching down to lift it up amongst the other petitions I couldn’t help but read the childish handwriting: “for my Dad, help him kick cancers butt”.
Despite all of my doubts I cannot deny the power of these expressions of faith and of hope. Into that chapel the saints keep coming in. Trite as it may sound, I want to be in that number.  
     
 


Monday, 2 June 2014

All the pilgrims numbers from Santiago January – May 2014


More and more Americans!

Today the sun is shining in Santiago and pilgrims are pouring into the city. We now have the numbers for May and the first 5 months of the year. They make interesting reading and raise some questions.

Last year was remarkable when the number of pilgrims from the USA rose by 43%. Not only has the number remained high but in the period report 6.6% more Americans have arrived than last year.

Over the last few years the growth rate in pilgrims numbers overall goes up between 10 – 12%. However the growth rate in the first 5 months of this year is lower than the previous two years. Is growth slowing down? We don’t know yet. This is a trend to watch.

The Amigos are in place welcoming long lines of pilgrims. I’ll tell you more about them soon.

May arrivals

During the month of May 27354 pilgrims arrived at the Pilgrims’ Office. This compares to 25206 who arrived in the same period in 2013. This is an 8.5% increase.

The year to date

Number of pilgrims who have registered at the Pilgrims´Office from 1 January 2014 to 31 May 2014:  49,728

In the same period in 2013: 46,156

This represents 7.7% increase between 2013 and 2014

But is growth slowing down?

However the growth in the same period between 2012 and 2013 was 9.9% and between 2011 and 2012 it was 9.1%

How are the English speaking countries doing?

The number of Americans rose by 43% to over 10,000 last year. Since then numbers have continued to rise – with another 6.6% increase in this period.

January – May

Country
 2012
2013
 2014
Growth %
Australia
463
760
  929
22%
Canada
687
795
  754
-5%
Ireland
1223
1541
1726
12%
South Africa
179
174
 146
-16%
United Kingdom
908
1089
 1180
8%
USA
1489
2360
 2517
6.6%
New Zealand
72
102
 130
27%

Full analysis of the 49,728 pilgrims who arrived in the first 5 months of the year:

Routes followed

Camino                       Number of pilgrims
Camino Frances          33587 (67,54%)
Camino Portugues       8987 (18,07%)
Via de la Plata             2353 (4,73%)
Camino del Norte       1988 (4,00%)
Primitivo-Camino        1354 (2,72%)
Ingles-Camino             1190 (2,39%)
Otros caminos             149 (0,30%)
Muxia-Finisterre          120 (0,24%)


Status

Status                          Number of pilgrims
Employed                    11541 (23,21%)
Retired                        8083 (16,25%)
Students                      7203 (14,48%)
Self employed             6703 (13,48%)
Technicians                 5285 (10,63%)
Teachers                      2856 (5,74%)
Public workers            2456 (4,94%)
Housepeople              1234 (2,48%)
Directors                    1160 (2,33%)
Manual workers          1047 (2,11%)
Unemployed              1023 (2,06%)
Artists                        471 (0,95%)
Religious                    215 (0,43%)
Priests                         196 (0,39%)
Farm workers              144 (0,29%)
Sailors                         79 (0,16%)
Sports                         27 (0,05%)
Oikoten                       5 (0,01%)


Ages

Age                 Number of pilgrims
30 - 60             27947 (56,20%)
< 30                 11517 (23,16%)
> 60                 10264 (20,64%)

Gender

Gender           Number of pilgrims
Male               27629 (55,56%)
Female             22099 (44,44%)

Method of travel

Method           Number of pilgrims
On foot           44202 (88,89%)
Bicycle            5243 (10,54%)
Horseback       250 (0,50%)
Wheelchair      33 (0,07%)

Reason for making the pilgtrimage

Reason                        Number of pilgrims
Religious or spiritual   26326 (52,94%)
Religious                     20435 (41,09%)
Sport or tourism          2967 (5,97%)


Country          Number of pilgrims

Spain              19417 (39,05%)
Alemania         4670 (9,39%)
Portugal           3877 (7,80%)
Italy                 3067 (6,17%)
USA               2517 (5,06%)
France             2364 (4,75%)
Ireland             1726 (3,47%)
UK                 1180 (2,37%)
Korea              1047 (2,11%)
Holland           957 (1,92%)
Australia          929 (1,87%)
Brasil              901 (1,81%)
Canada            754 (1,52%)
Austria            451 (0,91%)
Denmark         431 (0,87%)
México            414 (0,83%)
Belgium           358 (0,72%)
Switzerland     352 (0,71%)
Poland             339 (0,68%)
Argentina        322 (0,65%)
Finland            245 (0,49%)
Norway           244 (0,49%)
Japón               236 (0,47%)
Suecia              233 (0,47%)
Russia              219 (0,44%)
Colombia         176 (0,35%)
Venezuela       174 (0,35%)
Hungría           171 (0,34%)
Rep Checa       170 (0,34%)
China              158 (0,32%)
Sudáfrica         146 (0,29%)
New Zealand 130 (0,26%)
Slovenia          121 (0,24%)
Lituania           80 (0,16%)
Bulgaria           79 (0,16%)
Eslovaquia       77 (0,15%)
Rumania          69 (0,14%)
Ecuador           69 (0,14%)
Chile               59 (0,12%)
Malta               54 (0,11%)
Perú                 50 (0,10%)
Filipinas           48 (0,10%)
Uruguay          48 (0,10%)
Puerto Rico     38 (0,08%)
Estonia            37 (0,07%)
Letonia            35 (0,07%)
Costa Rica       32 (0,06%)
Luxemburgo    29 (0,06%)
Ucrania            29 (0,06%)
Israel               26 (0,05%)
Grecia              24 (0,05%)
Andorra           23 (0,05%)
Singapur          20 (0,04%)
Croacia            19 (0,04%)
Islandia           19 (0,04%)
Taiwán            18 (0,04%)
Bolivia             16 (0,03%)
Paraguay         16 (0,03%)
Vietnam          14 (0,03%)
Rep. Dom        14 (0,03%)
Cuba                13 (0,03%)
Malasia            11 (0,02%)
Guatemala       10 (0,02%)
Honduras        9 (0,02%)
Turquía            9 (0,02%)
India                9 (0,02%)
Líbano             9 (0,02%)
Marruecos       8 (0,02%)
El Salvador     7 (0,01%)
Indonesia        6 (0,01%)
Armenia          6 (0,01%)
Panamá            6 (0,01%)
Serbia              5 (0,01%)
Angola            5 (0,01%)
Brunei             5 (0,01%)
Namibia           4 (0,01%)
Bielorrusia       4 (0,01%)
Chipre             4 (0,01%)
Sudán              3 (0,01%)
San Marino      3 (0,01%)
Nicaragua        3 (0,01%)
Irán                  3 (0,01%)
Tailandia         3 (0,01%)
Tuvalu             3 (0,01%)
Mozambique   3 (0,01%)
Dominica         3 (0,01%)
Omán              2 (0,00%)
Islas Feroe       2 (0,00%)
Mauritania       2 (0,00%)
Moldavia         2 (0,00%)
Siria                 2 (0,00%)
Pakistán           2 (0,00%)
Barbados         2 (0,00%)
Myanmar         2 (0,00%)



Starting point

Starting point             Number of pilgrims
Sarria                                      12786 (25,71%)
S. Jean P. Port                        5706 (11,47%)
Oporto                                     3111 (6,26%)
León                                        2382 (4,79%)
Tui                                           2118 (4,26%)
Cebreiro                                  2026 (4,07%)
Roncesvalles                           1653 (3,32%)
Ponferrada                              1544 (3,10%)
Valença do Minho                  1278 (2,57%)
Ferrol                                       1168 (2,35%)
Pamplona                                1095 (2,20%)
Astorga                                   991 (1,99%)
Le Puy                                     825 (1,66%)
Burgos                                     781 (1,57%)
Sevilla                                     772 (1,55%)
Oviedo - C.P.                          732 (1,47%)
Ourense                                   687 (1,38%)
Resto Portugal                        588 (1,18%)
Vilafranca                               522 (1,05%)
Irún                                         484 (0,97%)
Triacastela                               452 (0,91%)
Ponte de Lima                         452 (0,91%)
Lugo - C.P.                             435 (0,87%)
Francia - C.F.                          425 (0,85%)
Resto C. León C.F.                 419 (0,84%)
Lisboa                                     377 (0,76%)
Samos                                      332 (0,67%)
Braga                                       239 (0,48%)
Resto Asturias - C.N               220 (0,44%)
Porriño                                    218 (0,44%)
Ribadeo                                   190 (0,38%)
Bilbao                                      189 (0,38%)
Logroño                                  188 (0,38%)
Oviedo - C.N.                         167 (0,34%)
Chaves-Portugal                      165 (0,33%)
Barcelos                                  143 (0,29%)
Somport                                  131 (0,26%)
Santander                                131 (0,26%)
Rates, S. Pedro                       127 (0,26%)
Salamanca                               115 (0,23%)
Nájera                                      113 (0,23%)
Gijón                                       105 (0,21%)
Vilalba                                     99 (0,20%)
Zamora                                    95 (0,19%)
Avilés                                      91 (0,18%)
Sahagún                                  91 (0,18%)
Alemania                                 82 (0,16%)
Madrid - C.F.                          80 (0,16%)
San Sebastián                          71 (0,14%)
Puebla de Sanabria                  65 (0,13%)
Guimaraes                               65 (0,13%)
Jaca                                         65 (0,13%)
Finisterra                                 62 (0,12%)
Fonsagrada - C.P.                   60 (0,12%)
Arles                                        58 (0,12%)
Muxia                                      58 (0,12%)
Resto País Vasco - C.N.         57 (0,11%)
Holanda                                  55 (0,11%)
Verín                                       54 (0,11%)
Coimbra                                  53 (0,11%)
Francia - C.N                          51 (0,10%)
Resto Asturias - C.P.              51 (0,10%)
Madrid - V.P.                          50 (0,10%)
Viana do Castelo                    46 (0,09%)
Bélgica                                    45 (0,09%)
Lourdes                                   43 (0,09%)
Resto Europa                          41 (0,08%)
Resto Cantabria                      41 (0,08%)
Com. Valenciana - C.F.          41 (0,08%)
Resto Andalucia                     41 (0,08%)
Valencia O.C.                         40 (0,08%)
Rabanal del Camino                39 (0,08%)
Vezelay                                   38 (0,08%)
Granja de Moreruela               36 (0,07%)
Molinaseca                              35 (0,07%)
Xunqueira de Ambia               34 (0,07%)
Gudiña                                    34 (0,07%)
Suiza                                       33 (0,07%)
Frómista                                  33 (0,07%)
Resto C. León - V.P.              32 (0,06%)
Vigo                                        31 (0,06%)
Vega de Valcarce                    31 (0,06%)
Zaragoza                                 30 (0,06%)
Castilla la Mancha otros          30 (0,06%)
Puente la Reina                       30 (0,06%)
Sto. Domingo de la Calzada   28 (0,06%)
Navarra                                   28 (0,06%)
Fatima                                     27 (0,05%)
Viseu                                       27 (0,05%)
Mérida                                     26 (0,05%)
Cadavo                                    26 (0,05%)
Cáceres                                    26 (0,05%)
Barcelona                                24 (0,05%)
Carrión de los Condes            24 (0,05%)
Grandas de Salime - C.P.        24 (0,05%)
Hendaya                                  23 (0,05%)
Com. Valenciana - O.C.          22 (0,04%)
Granada                                  22 (0,04%)
R.Pais Vasco C.F.                   22 (0,04%)
Resto Galicia                           21 (0,04%)
Cataluña - C.F.                        21 (0,04%)
Montserrat                               20 (0,04%)
Ponferrada. C.Inv.                  20 (0,04%)
Baiona                                     19 (0,04%)
Estella                                     19 (0,04%)
Hospital de Orbigo                 18 (0,04%)
Neda                                       18 (0,04%)
París                                        18 (0,04%)
Cast. la Mancha - C.F.            17 (0,03%)
Baamonde                               17 (0,03%)
Tineo - C.P.                             17 (0,03%)
Austria                                    16 (0,03%)
Povoa de Varzim                    16 (0,03%)
Aveiro                                     16 (0,03%)
A Guarda                                15 (0,03%)
Italia                                        15 (0,03%)
La Rioja                                  14 (0,03%)
Canfranc                                 13 (0,03%)
Lourenzá                                 13 (0,03%)
Castilla La Mancha VP           13 (0,03%)
Malaga                                    12 (0,02%)
Resto de Extremadura            12 (0,02%)
Laza                                        11 (0,02%)
Faro                                         10 (0,02%)
Esposende                               10 (0,02%)
Abadin                                    10 (0,02%)
Córdoba                                  9 (0,02%)
Huelva                                     9 (0,02%)
Mondoñedo                            9 (0,02%)
Castrojeriz                               9 (0,02%)
Allariz                                     8 (0,02%)
Irlanda C.F.                             8 (0,02%)
Valladolid                               8 (0,02%)
XFonsagrada                           8 (0,02%)
San Juan de Ortega                 6 (0,01%)
Badajoz                                   6 (0,01%)
Monforte de Lemos                6 (0,01%)
Cataluña - O.C.                       6 (0,01%)
Benavente                               5 (0,01%)
Cruz de Ferro                          4 (0,01%)
La Bañeza                               4 (0,01%)
Pontedeume                            3 (0,01%)
Roma                                       3 (0,01%)
Rábade                                    3 (0,01%)
XLa Rioja                               3 (0,01%)
La Mesa                                  3 (0,01%)
Guntín                                     2 (0,00%)
Eslovaquia                               2 (0,00%)
Murcia                                     2 (0,00%)
Resto Africa                            2 (0,00%)
Sobrado                                   2 (0,00%)
Paradela                                  2 (0,00%)
Vilabade                                  2 (0,00%)
Finlandia                                 2 (0,00%)
Luxemburgo                            2 (0,00%)
Vegadeo                                  2 (0,00%)
Fonfría                                    2 (0,00%)
Jerusalem                                 2 (0,00%)
Leyre                                       1 (0,00%)
XGrandas de Salime               1 (0,00%)
Reino Unido C.Ing                 1 (0,00%)
Reino Unido C.F.                   1 (0,00%)
A Rúa                                     1 (0,00%)
Andorra                                   1 (0,00%)
Vincios                                    1 (0,00%)
Grado                                      1 (0,00%)
mirallos                                    1 (0,00%)
Valcarlos                                 1 (0,00%)
Inglaterra C.F.                         1 (0,00%)
Salas                                        1 (0,00%)
Grecia                                      1 (0,00%)
Gonzar                                    1 (0,00%)
Ventas de Narón                     1 (0,00%)