*Pictures have been added!
Pilgrimage Days 4, 5, and 6
Wow, so much has happened since my last post… where to begin?!
Just hours after having reminded myself and you all of God’s perfect timing in my last post, I found myself really wondering if that was true! I had popped two Dramamine in preparation for my 11pm flight when I received a text from the airline that my flight was going to be delayed. The details were vague, but they promised to update us again within the hour. A while later, our gate was changed and we were alerted of another delay. After that, communication from the airline fell silent and we were all left waiting…
And waiting, and waiting.
Eventually, the lack of communication sent the hundreds of passengers waiting for our flight into utter chaos, confusion, and uproar. Eventually information began to spread word-of-mouth that we needed to go to arrivals to collect vouchers for a hotel and meals for the night, with no further information about if we needed to rebook our flights, or when they would reschedule us the next day. By this time it was about 1am and I was having to keep moving (with a full pack on my back and a smaller bag on my front) to stay awake and I was desperate for answers.
I found my way down to where hundreds of people were frantically searching for checked luggage and angrily lining up for vouchers. There were only 3 or 4 employees from the airline and progress was slow. Eventually I received a voucher and shared a cab with a woman from Sweden to the hotel across the city. Arriving at the hotel, we faced another long line of people checking into rooms, and I was told when I finally reached the counter that mine was the last available room. Feeling bad for the 12-15 folks remaining behind me, I asked the next woman in line if she wanted to share a room and she gratefully agreed. We walked into our room at 3:01am, almost 12 hours after I left the monastery to go to the airport.
I hardly slept a wink since we were told we could hear from the airport “at any time” with instructions to return for our rescheduled flight. What actually happened was our flight was rescheduled to Monday night at 10:15pm, 24 hours after the original flight. Feeling discouraged and out the money I had to pay purchasing another connecting flight from London to Madrid, I came very close to cancelling the first part of my trip and picking up in a couple of weeks in Rome.
Thankfully, I persevered, and spent my birthday (June 7) in route to meet my fellow pilgrims in Spain. My rebooked flight to London arrived just in time for me to make the earliest possible connection to Madrid.
In Madrid, the pilgrimage company I booked with graciously had arranged a private driver to drive me 2.5 hours to a town outside of Caleruega, where he dropped me off at our hotel.
I got settled and shed a few tears of exhaustion but was resurrected by the sight of my group arriving about an hour after I did. They were all very happy to see me and made sure to make a fuss for my birthday at dinner. 🙂
Today began bright and early with a fabulous breakfast with the group and a bus ride into Caleruega, the birthplace of St. Dominic. Originally, the tour of Caleruega was supposed to take place on June 7, but miraculously was moved to today!
As soon as we arrived we had Mass in one of the three churches there, the Real Monasterio. Today is the memorial of Dominican Blesseds Diana and Cecilia and I admit I cried a little toward the end of mass because the communion antiphon was “The Bridegroom has come, and the virgins who are ready have followed Him into the wedding feast.”
After mass the group was introduced to Father Jesus Martin, O.P., an incredible historian who clearly loves all things St. Dominic! Last year when my friends visited Caleruega Father Jesus left a big impression on them, so I was hopeful we would even get to meet him, let alone get to spend the whole day with him. I showed him a picture of my friend Sister Ruth Marie (who was then Erika Leigh) and asked if he remembered her. “Oh! Of course I remember her!” he said.
We had free time for the next hour so I grabbed a fellow pilgrim and we headed up the narrow streets to a quaint little footpath covered in flowers of all colors and varieties that led us up a steep climb to a large red cross that stands on a little hill (that for this native of the Sandhills of North Carolina seemed more like a mountain) overlooking Caleruega. I wonder how many miles we could see beyond the borders of the town, the sky was so clear and the sun so bright.
After soaking it all in we made our way down and rejoined the group for a tour of the convento (where the Friars live), the Guzman tower, and the monasterio (where the nuns live). Unfortunately I didn’t spot any of the nuns (we visited during their siesta) but we did purchase six boxes of their delicious cookies before we left town!
After a full day in the sacred town, we returned to the bus with full hearts and tired bodies. My new friend, Bobby, a rising second grader who calls me his girlfriend, snoozed on my shoulder the whole way back. 🙂
Upon returning we had a little bit of downtime before dinner (we eat late here, 8pm!) and then I took a walk with a new friend for an hour, enjoying the long days of sunlight lasting until about 10pm.
Tomorrow we make our way to Toulouse! But first: LOURDES!