October 20, 2022. At Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Dear Christine. When is a plan a prison? When one allows it to be.

Tina from Germany did not use those exact words, But the meaning came through when she shared her decision to forgo continuing on to the coast in favor of returning to Germany. While I was fretting the thought of enduring days of miserable weather, she was nonchalant in her decision to redirect her path. I realized that I had allowed my plans to become a “prison“. Furthermore, I was my own jailer oblivious that I held the keys to my release.

I have again checked the weather and there is no improvement.

Therefore, I am escaping my plan in favor of another. This afternoon I canceled my November flight from Santiago to Barcelona and I also canceled my November Santiago hotel booking. These were reservations that came into play upon my return to Santiago from Finisterra and Muxia. Instead, today I booked a series of train tickets from Santiago to Leon, Leon to Burgos, Burgos to Madrid, Madrid to Valencia, and Valencia to Barcelona. The total cost for those 1st class train connections was slightly less than €300.

I have secured lodgings as follows: three nights in Lyons, three nights in Burgos, four nights in Madrid, and three nights in Valencia. The total cost for those 13 nights it’s slightly less than $1000. I weighed this against the cost savings of not walking to the coast, not staying additional days in Santiago, and not paying airfare. My “new plan” is slightly more expensive than the old one, but the relief from the thought of endless trudging through torrential rains is priceless.

I am at peace with this transition from pilgrim to tourist: “God Grant me the Serenity to accept the things that I cannot change (like rain!), The Courage to change those things that I can (like my plans!), and the Wisdom to know the difference (thank you Tina!).”

Becoming a tourist begins tomorrow. I plan to spend the next two days in Santiago visiting a number of its historical and religious sites. Today I returned to the cathedral for the noon pilgrims Mass and was again rewarded with the spectacle of the swinging Botafumeiro.

First I entered the cathedral through the Holy Door, which is only open during a Jubilee year which is when the feast of Saint James falls on a Sunday. That occurred in 2021, but because of Covid it has been extended through 2022. This is the first time that the door has been open in a non-Jubilee year since the Spanish revolution.

This is the door from the outside where there is a constant line of pilgrims seeking entry. during non-Jubilee years it is gated and locked.
This is the door from the inside which is usually closed except during Jubilee years.

Tradition holds that a pilgrim entering the cathedral through the Holy Door receives a plenary indulgence, the forgiveness of all one’s past sins. Maybe tomorrow I will walk through the door backwards to see if my future sins are forgiven as well!

This time I brought my “real Camera“. I hope that the pictures prove it’s worth.

This is a larger than life sculpture of Saint James that is center of the altar backdrop. in times past there is a passage that allows visitors to stand behind the statue and embrace it, looking out into the church. It has been closed during these two days, perhaps because of Covid.
The pipe organ
With all of the glory of the cathedral, it is interesting to note that Saint Mary’s chapel is the oldest part of the church and the least ostentatious. It is actually a church that predates the cathedral and was part of a monastery. It dates to the mid-800s!

Here is a sequence of pictures of the swinging of the Botafumiero. I opted not to make a video as it would be too difficult for me to show you here. There are plenty of videos on YouTube:

Above is the framework from which the Botafumiero hangs. I believe this version dates to the 1600s. it is designed to allow the attendants to accelerate the swing with each pull of the rope.
Lit charcoal to which incense is added is placed in the Botafumiero.
The attendants prepare to pull the rope and begin swinging the censer.
Here the Botafumiero rockets over my head.
The swinging arch takes it from one side of the cathedral to the other.
Trailing smoke, it very nearly reaches the top of the cathedral

After dark I returned to the square to appreciate that it is at night that this old city really shines.

Love, your Husband.

PS. During Mass there were invocations to pray for the Pilgrims, especially those who endured sickness and disability to reach the cathedral, prayers that they return home safely, and prayers that the journey aided all to embrace peace in their hearts.

To this I say, Amen.

23 thoughts on “When a Plan Becomes a Prison

  1. Beautiful photos. I like the sound of your revised plans. We are heading out today from Leon to continue our Camino after a ten day hiatus due to COVID and are not enthusiastic due to the upcoming weather. This is our fifth Camino, we will see how things progress. Enjoy the rest of your time as a tourist.

  2. BRAVO!! What an excellent use of my beloved Serenity Prayer! I am proud of you – though I know that pride is not always a good thing. (insert smiley face). So on our last trip to Santiago – we looked for the constant pilgrim – a shadow that occurs near the Cathedral at night – which looks just like a pilgrim. Another is the scallop shell that also is shown at night – again near the Cathedral. My “Grands” have arrived – more later

  3. As usual; I love looking at the pictures. As I look at the richness and grandeur of the cathedral, my love of simple worship wants to criticize the $ spent to impress instead of helping others. I wonder if the planners are trying to impress God or other people. Then I chastise myself with the realization that this is also a beautiful art creation; and as such is enjoyed by millions and worth the cost. Then I tell myself to relax and enjoy. stay well.

    • Hi Laura. One must also remember that these constructions date back to the 800s. The richness you see it’s mostly from the 1400s to 1600s. The common people believed that glorifying God in this way was their path to heaven.

      • Yes. like the pyramids; I also have to remember the thinking of those spending their lives to work (whether forced or not) on at least one thing in their lives that will live and be enjoyed for many,many, years. Leaving something beautiful behind that marks their lives.

  4. As usual, beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing. Good choice for changing plans. Sometimes obstacles such as weather can seem like the enemy when in the end it is intended for good. You are protecting yourself from the unknown. Prayers for the rest of your journey.

  5. Michèle Angell says:

    Peter! I’m so happy you gave yourself Grace! I was always surprised to find pilgrims “judging” who was more devout on the trail when walking the Camino myself when ANY thoughtful step is a blessing in of itself. Enjoy your new path. PS your photos inside the cathedral are stunning!

  6. I really appreciate the “moral” to this story and pilgrimage – and your title sums it up so well. I have enjoyed following this story as it has unfolded, and salute your courage to pivot and make a new ‘next thing.’

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