Fr. Bill | OLM

Fr. Bill's Travels on El Camino de Santiago, aka The Way of St. James

See accompanying photos in Fr. Bill's Travelogue.

DAY 20, Thursday, 28 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This is Day 20 (Thursday, May 29th). Today was a full and wonderful day for me. I began by going to the Santiago Market – hundreds of stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables and fish (caught the day before) and meat of all sorts – where the local folks buy their food for the day.

At noon, I concelebrated the Pilgrim’s Mass in the Cathedral. Over a thousand pilgrims were present from all parts of the world. I was invited along with a priest from Italy to be one of the two principal concelebrants. The Mass was very moving and concluded with the swinging of the incense thurible (two feet in diameter and weighing over 30 pounds) hung from the ceiling.

After Mass our guides took me and two pilgrims from Canada that I had become friends with to Finisterre and Muxia – about 60 miles from Santiago. Both were beautiful places. Finisterre or Fisterrae (in Galician) was considered by the Romans to be the “End of the Earth” – that is, the End of the Continent. There is a lighthouse there and beautiful windswept and flowered cliffs descending into the ocean.

We then went to Muxia – a rocky coast with crashing waves overlooked by the Church of Santa Maria de la Barca. There is also a small lighthouse there guiding boats into the harbor.

We returned to Santiago for a wonderful dinner.

Friday I begin my journey home. I fly from Santiago to Barcelona where I will spend the night in a hotel close to the airport. On Saturday, I fly from Barcelona to Charlotte, South Carolina, and then to Los Angeles. The first photo is a scene from the Market. The second is the lighthouse at Fisterrae and the third are the rocks and lighthouse at Muxia.

Be well. I look forward to seeing you when I return.
Fr. Bill

DAY 19, Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This is the 19th day (Wednesday, May 27) of my journey to Santiago de Compestella. It is also the last day of the journey. I have walked 298 miles from Burgos. I will stay here two more days before I start my journey home.

Santiago is like Jerusalem on Pentecost – pilgrims from all over the world – speaking and singing in every language imaginable – I would estimate over 500 arriving daily.

I hope to concelebrate the Pilgrim Mass at noon tomorrow – and I shall pray for all of you.

In the afternoon, I will join a couple from Canada together with my guides and we will travel to Finestre – where the Romans considered to be the end of the earth. This is why St. James came to this part of the world in order to preach the “Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

The first photo is a monument erected when Pope John Paul II came a second time as a pilgrim to Santiago. It is on top of Monte Gozo – the Mount of Joy – because this was the first time pilgrims could catch a glimpse of Santiago. The second is myself standing at the base of the monument.

The third photo is the back of one of the oldest side chapels within the Cathedral – with Christ the King in a pose of blessing. The fourth is a view the Cathedral cloister.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 18, Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This is Day 18 of my walk on the Camino de Santiago. Today I traveled from Ribadiso to a small town of Amenal, less than 10 miles from Santiago Compostela. Today the walk was mostly through rolling hills on tree covered paths. There was a section along the main highway which was not fun for me.

Tomorrow, God willing, I will arrive in Santiago and I am eager and ready to finish the journey. I don’t know whether I will be in time for the pilgrim Mass at noon. But, I hope to concelebrate on either Thursday or Friday. On Thursday, I will take a trip to Finistere either in the morning or in the afternoon depending on when I will concelebrate. Finistere was considered by the Romans to be the “end of the world” or of the continent. The word comes from the Latin Finis + Terrae which means “End of the Land”.

I shall pray for all of you and the people of our parish at the Cathedral of Santiago.

The first photo is a Roman bridge over the rio Iso as the Camino enters into Ribadiso. The second is one of the many fields full of wild flowers. The third is the rolling hills and farm land of the area.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 17, Monday, 25 May 2015

Dear Friends,
Today, Monday, May 25th is my 17th day on the Camino and I am less than 25 miles from Santiago de Compostella. God willing, I will arrive in two days. Today I traveled from Palas de Rei to near Ribadiso. At the beginning of the day, I took a side trip to the Castillo de Pembre built in the 12th Century.

I continued on to the small City of Melide, historically, an important stop on the Camino. I visited the small Church of Santa Maria – a Romanesque church that once had a hospital for lepers within it. While in Melide, I feasted on Pupos (Octopus) for which the City and most of Galicia is famous. It is boiled and then cut into round pieces and soaked with olive oil, salt and paprika. I could easily become addicted to it.

Most of the day was walking through forest and farmland.

The first photo is of the Castillo de Pembre. The second is the interior of the Church of Santa Maria. The third is the octopus as it comes out of the Boiling Pot. Notice the scissors and the pieces that have been cut.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 16, Sunday, 24 May 2015

Dear Friends,
Today is Day 16 of my journey on the Camino de Santiago. I walked about 14 miles from Portomarin to Palas de Rei. While some of the walk paralleled the main highway, the path is often separated by a barrier of trees which gave a feeling of being in countryside.

I attended Mass at 1:00 pm in a small village of Lestedo. About 30 villagers attended – most of whom were older than me. The Mass was in Gallego (the language of Gallicia). I was able to understand about 70% of it and even was able to join in some of the prayers. The priest read his sermon out of a book (which I suspect was provided by the diocese). He did read with expression and the sermon was not half bad – though it was not personally engaging. There was singing and everyone joined in. The entire Mass lasted 30 minutes.

The highlight of the day was a side trip I took to the small village of Vilar de Dones about a mile from Lestedo where there is a 12th Century church that belonged to a monastery of nuns (which no longer exists). The church is an unconventual Romanesque church in its layout. It was decorated in the 15th Century with beautiful frescos. It also became a center and burial place for many of the Knights of St. James who, along with the Knights Templar, were charged with protecting the pilgrims to Santiago.

The first photo is of the sanctuary area of the church. The second is one of the frescos along the ceiling above the altar. The third photo is taken just outside of the town of A Brea.

Be well!
Fr. Bill

DAY 15, Saturday, 23 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This is Day 15 (Saturday) of my walk on the Camino de Santiago. I am writing this from a farm house outside of Portomarin which does not have internet connection – so it will arrive a day late.

Today I walked from Barbadelo (a small village two miles beyond Sarria – a large town – the minimum starting point for those pilgrims who want to receive the credential certifying that they walked the Camino) to Portomarin on the rio Miño. It was a beautiful walk through green fields and forests – with a lot of ups and downs – a little over 12 miles. The weather is still pleasant – cool in the morning with plenty of sunshine. I passed the 100 km mark (60 miles) to Santiago with a group of German pilgrims.

The first photo is the retablo behind the altar in a 9th century Romanesque church just outside Barbadelo.

The second is a field full of Cow Parsnips.

The third is myself at the 100 km marker.

The final photo is the interior of Santa Marina – originally built in the early Middle Ages and relocated to the Plaza of Portomarin in 1962 when the original City was due to be flooded by the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 14, Friday, 22 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This is Friday, May 22, the 14th day of my journey on the Camino de Santiago. Today I traveled from Samos through Sarria to Barbedelo, a walk of a little more than 12 miles. Most of it was through forested woodlands and small villages – all very beautiful. The latter part was through Sorria, a large city in Galicia – northern Spain – to a the small village of Barbedelo. I am about 110 km or 66 miles from Santiago.

The first photo is one of the many long stretches of a Birch forest. The second is a Stork nest with a stork and her young ones – all through northern Spain, the storks build their nests on top of any high structure – church steeples, power polls, cell towers, etc. They migrate to Spain from Northern Europe – and, perhaps, as far as Russia – to have their young. The third is the retable behind the main altar in the church of the 13th Century Monastery of the Magdalene in Sarria.

I think about all of you and pray for you as I journey.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 13, Thursday, 21 May 2015

Dear Friends,
Today is Thursday, May 21, and Day 13 of my walk on the Camino de Santiago. I walked from Biduedo (Viduedo) down to Triacastela, a drop of about 1900 feet in about four miles. I then progressed another nine miles to the town of Samos. Today was a beautiful day – most of it was on a path shaded by overhanging birch, oak, and chestnut trees. From Triacastela to Samos I followed two rivers. The weather was perfect.

Samos is home to a Benedictine monastery of Saints Julian and Basilisa that can trace its origins to the 6th Century and rose to greatness in the 15th Century.

The first photo is a view of the Galician countryside from near Biduedo – where I started.

The second is the sort of path I walked for most of the day.

The third photo is a view of the exterior of the monastery and the fourth is a view of the cloister.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 12, Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This is Wednesday, May 20, and Day 12 of my journey on the Camino de Santiago. I started the day by climbing about 2200 feet from Las Herrerias to O Cebreiro and into the Junxa (territory) of Galicia. As I neared the top, I found myself hiking in the fog. The climb went through beautiful terrain.

After a brief rest in O Cebreiro, I headed towards my destination of Viduedo. Most of the way it drizzled, rained, cleared, and, then, drizzled, rained, and cleared. And, it was cold! Again, the terrain was beautiful, with the Camino going up and down, dropping about 400 feet total.

The language of Galicia is Galician – a dialect of Spanish. I can understand about 45% of what is spoken and can read about 85% of it.

The first photo was taken just outside of where I began today – Las Herrerias. The second photo is one of the views from O Cebreiro. The third photo is a view of O Cebreiro.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 11, Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Dear Friends,
Today I walked from Villafranca to the small village of Las Herrerias (The Blacksmiths). It is very pretty here. The walk was along the river, Valcarcel, that flows through a valley by the same name – the name meaning “Valley of the Jail” – because in many places the valley is very narrow – like a jail cell. Unfortunately, much of the Camino along this way is paralleled by a busy high way. Nonetheless, it was still beautiful.

Today is the 11th day of my pilgrimage. Tomorrow I shall climb steeply up to O Cebreiro and into Galicia. Galician is a dialect of Spainish and one of the four officially recognized languages in Spain – along will Castillian, Basque, and Catalyan.

The weather is markedly cooler here – the first cool weather I have experienced on the trip. Tomorrow I do not expect rain but I do expect a lot of fog.

The first photo is the baptismal area in a small 14th century church (seats about 40 people) in the small village of Portela de la Valcarcel. The second is a colorful house in another small village. The third is a view from where I am staying just outside of Las Herrerias.

WiFi and internet access is this part of the Camino is spotty and I may not be able to connect for several days – but I will try.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 10, Monday, 18 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This is the tenth day on the Camino and was a rest day. I slept in a bit and then went out to visit Las Médulas – a Historical and Archaeological Park run by the Junta (Province) de Castilla y Leon. After conquering the Asturians in this part of Spain, the Romans began the process of mining gold in about 68 AD. The process they used was known as Ruinas Montium or “Wrecking Mountains” in which they would dig a series of tunnels vertically into the mountains side with tunnels extending horizontally. They would then release a great volume of water suddenly into the tunnels which would cause the entire side of the mountain to crumble and flow into trenches and, eventually, through sluice boxes several miles down stream where it would be extracted by panning. The water was transported from rivers 20 to 30 miles away through a network of canals.

The method was ecologically destructive but left a series of beautiful spires and towers.

Tomorrow, start my trek into and over the mountains that will lead me into Galicia – very Celtic region of Spain.

The first photo is a Roman bridge over the Rio Burbia in the town of Villafranca de Bierzo.

The second photo is one of the spires of mudstone and conglomerate that still stand after the rest of the mountain was washed away.

The third photo is an overview of a section of what remains of the mountain.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 9, Sunday, 17 May 2015

Dear Friends,
Today I traveled 20 miles by bike from Molinseca to Villafranca del Biezero at the foot of the mountains of Galicia. The first half was through a widely populated area – an extension of the City of Ponsferrada. The second half was through the rolling hills of the Biezero Wine Region and was very beautiful. I will spend two nights in Biezero resting for the next part of the Camino through the mountains.

Ponsferrada (“Iron Bridge”) is an ancient town that became the headquarters for the Knights Templar whose mission was to protect pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. The Castle was built in 1178 as their headquarters. It has been restored by the Spanish government.

The Bierzo wine region specializes in red wines – its Mencia is well respected.

The first photo is the entrance to the Templar Castle in Ponsferrada.

The second photo is the Basilica of Santa Maria de la Encina also in Ponsferrada.

The third photo is of the Castle of the Counts of Pena Ramiro, originally built in the 1300's on a hill above Villafranca de Bierzo..

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 8, Saturday, 16 May 2015

Dear Friends,
I continue along the Camino de Santiago from Foncebadon located in the Maragateria area of the Leonese Mountain about 1200 meters or 4000 feet. From there I climbed up another 600 feet and began a 2700 foot descent into a small town of Molinaseca in six miles – a steep descent! After several miles, my knees began to give out and my blister became extremely painful. So, I took the van that transports my luggage into town – the best decision I made.

The mountains were incredibly beautiful with purple and white heather and a mixture of Yellow Broom and White Tree Heather lining the path. Along the way, I reached the Cruz de Hierro or the Iron Cross where pilgrims leave rocks and other items with messages and prayers written on them. I left a piece of Malibu Sandstone – a rock made up of many small grains of sand that form a strong rock – a reflection of how I see our parish – many individuals bound together strongly – and I prayed for all of us.

The first photo is a photo of myself as I approach the Cruz de Hierro.

The second photo is some of the items left by pilgrims – the black and white photo is that of a nine year old boy who died last February which was left by his father.

The third photo is a view of the mountains covered with purple heather.

The final photo is the medieval bridge that leads into Molinaseca.

Be well

DAY 7, Friday, 15 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This is day seven of my pilgrimage (Friday, May 15) on the Camino de Santiago. So far, I have traveled a little more than 144 miles from my starting point in Burgos. Today, I walked from Astorga to Foncebadon in the Mountains of Leon. The weather was crisp and cool – a welcome relief from the heat of the past days.

I left the flat lands of the Meseta and Campo de Tierra regions and walked through foothills and have began the mountainous phase of the Camino.

The higher I go, the more diverse and dense the wild flowers have become. And likewise the fewer and smaller the villages have become. Tomorrow I will climb to the highest point of these Leonese Mountains to the Cruz Fierro – the Iron Cross where I will leave the Malibu sandstone rock – the rock made of many fine grains of sand and yet is solid – the rock that is our parish – at the foot of the Cross.

The first photo is of a house in the traditional village of Castrillo de las Polvazares where the Maregaten people live - who continue their ancestral customs – including dress and food.

The second photo is the Camino as it enters into the hill country with a growing profusion of flowers.

The third photo is one of hundreds of lilies that were growing as I approached the mountains.

The fourth photo is the riot of color from all the flowering bushes as I began to gain altitude.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 6, Thursday, 14 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This day six of my journey on the Camino de Santiago – today from Leon to Astorga. I road from Leon to Puente de Orbigo in a van, as many pilgrims do because the highway is so dangerous (like walking on the freeway). Then, I walked from Puente de Orbigo to Astorga – a wonderful walk through hill country. I walked with Rafael, a retired licensed guide from Leon and someone who is passionate about mushrooms and wildflowers. We both had a great time identifying the multitude of flowers along the way.

The weather was cold and windy – a welcomed break from the heat of the past several days.

Going down a very steep hill, I developed a blister. Tomorrow, before I head out, I shall put a wonderful patch which all the pharmacies along the Camino display prominently as you enter. It serves as a “second skin” and medicates and heals the blister. Last time it helped me continue on the journey.

The first photo is the bridge (Puente) that leads into Puente de Orbigo. To the left of the bridge is a jousting field. There is a story about a knight, Suero de Quiones, who imprisoned by his love for a certain lady, challenged and defeat 68 knights from all over Europe.

The second photo is the Santo Toribio Cross overlooking Astorga. Many pilgrims leave prayers at the foot of the Cross. Astorga is a Roman City founded in 68 AD to safeguard the gold trade. Ruins of Roman baths, mosaics, and houses can still be seen.

The third photo is the Bishop’s Palace built by the Gaudi – the Bishop never has used it – Gaudi built it in a neo-Gothic style and it was the last building he built before embarking upon Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona.

The final photo is of the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Astorga.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 5, Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This is Day Five of my travel on the Camino and is a rest day in Leon. This morning I took a tour of the inside of the Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Regla – an impressive and yet somewhat in its own way a simple Gothic Church. I then visited the Basilica of San Isidoro – the patron of Spain and a great scholar – not to be confused with another Spanish saint - San Isidro – the patron of farmers. San Isidoro was built upon the foundation of a Roman Pantheon. The soldiers built a walled outpost in 68 AD in order to protect the transport of gold from the mountains west of here.

I hope to go back to the Cathedral later this evening for more pictures.

The first two photos are the exterior of the Cathedral. The next two are of the interior of the Cathedral. The final photo is the interior of San Isidoro,

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 4, Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Dear Friends,
Today was my fourth day on the Camino – a 32 mile bike ride from Sahagun to Leon. It was a very hot day and the temperature exceeded 95 degrees. Most of the ride was through the farm land of the Province of Leon – mostly wheat. In all honesty, it was very boring. A few miles before Leon, I loaded my bike into the van of Andaspain (the group that is watching over me and moving my luggage) because the traffic in Leon is somewhat dangerous.

I am staying two nights in Leon – tomorrow will be a rest day for me. Leon is a very historical city. Tomorrow I will have a guided tour of the Cathedral and the Church of San Isadore – both of which are famous for their beauty.

The first picture is the Del Canto bridge over which the Camino leaves Sahagun. The second is a woman selling her onions and garlic at a farmer’s market in the plaza of Mansilla de Mulas – when I told her that I could not eat either onions or garlic, she said that she would pray for me that this affliction would be lifted. The third photo is the interior of the church of Santa Maria in Mansilla de Mulas.

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 3, Monday, 11 May 2015

Dear Friends,
Today is the third day (Monday, May 11) of my continuation on the Camino de Santiago. I traveled nearly 34 miles on bike – from the town of Fromista to the city of Sahagun. Most of the Camino today went through the “Tierra del Campo” region – flat farmland – mainly wheat. It was somewhat boring – however the wild flowers continued to line and delight the path. And it was a good time for personal reflection. The temperature was unusually hot for this time of the year – approaching 90 degrees.

The first photo is a field of flowers – mainly red poppies but notice the four leave flower which I suspect is a member of the mustard family. The second photo is the richly painted backdrop in the church of Santa Maria la Virgen Blanca in the town of Villacazor de Silga. The third is the Ermita de Maria de la Puente – a hermitage for monks from the Monastery of Cluny in France that was built in 1070 – just outside the city of Sahagun,

Be well.
Fr. Bill

DAY 2, Sunday, 10 May 2015

Dear Friends,
This is the second day of my journey on the Camino. Last night I spent the night in a Albergue – hostel – run by the parents of Martin Sheen’s grandson’s (Taylor Estevez’s) wife. It was very quiet and pleasent.

Today, I walked from Castrojerez to the town of Fromista – a distance of 15 miles – mostly through the Meseta region and the Tierra de Campo – mainly farmland – wheat and alfalfa. Everything was very green and the road was lined with a variety of wild flowers. The weather was unusually hot – near 80 degrees -- and I arrived in Fromista exhausted. But overall it was a good day.

I have attached three photos of the journey. The first is a view of the Meseta region. The second is a view of a midaeval bridge over the river which is the boundary between the Province of Burgos and the Autonomous Province of Castillo y Leon. The third is of the Church of San Martin in Fromista.

Hopefully I will have better WiFi and internet connections for the next couple weeks.


DAY 1, Saturday, 9 May 2015

Dear Friends,
Today, Saturday, May 9, I resumed the Camino de Santiago. August 2013, I began walking the Camino in San Jean de Pied du Port in France and walked 294 miles to Burgos in Spain. Today, I resumed my journey from Burgos to the town of Castrojerez – 24 miles on bike. Most of the journey was through fields of wheat and white beans. Everything was so green. And, the weather was perfect.

When I arrived in Castrojerez I was met by the mother of Milagro, the wife of Taylor Estevez, the son of Emilio Estevez, the son of Martin Sheen, who took me to their rural hostel for pilgrims to spend the night. I joined five other pilgrims, a couple and their friend from Nice in France and a couple from Australia. We had a wonderful dinner together and shared experiences from the Camino and life. Unfortunately, the WiFi is not working well here and I will send this email at my next stop in Fromista.

I have attached four photos. The first is the city gate with the Cathedral in the background in Burgos where I ended my first pilgrimage and, now, have resumed it. The second photo gives you a sense of the Camino as it winds its way through green fields of wheat. The third photos is what remains of a 13th century church, and the final is a photo of one of the three churches in Castrojerez with the ruins of a castle on the top of the hill. Castrojerez was originally a Roman outpost (castrum = camp or Latin for an enclosed outpost) established in the 2nd century. It became a major pilgrim stop on the Camino in the 9th century.

Be well.

Fr. Bill

Thursday, 7 May 2015

I spent nearly fours hours inside the Cathedral of Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) -- Gaudi's master piece -- it was a powerful experience -- pictures can't capture the magnificence and color and light of the place. I went on line Monday to get tickets for today.

What struck me when I first entered is the color and light that permeates the entire space which comes from the stain glass windows -- during the four hours there it changed as the sun moved -- the color was literally in the air. The second thing that struck me was how everyone looked up as they entered and most tried to capture the experience with their cameras or cell phone -- in vain. It is so overwhelming. Moreover, liturgically the whole place is well done.

The place has been under construction for over ninety years and will not be finished for probably another 60 years. The workmen are drilling and hammering away -- the organ is playing -- 800 people are talking and taking selfies -- and yet it feels like a very holy place.

After a late lunch I returned to the San Pau Art Nouveau Site for more pictures -- the Hospital that was renovated in the 1920 by the artist Lluis Domenech i Montaner. The light was much better today. . I have an early start tomorrow -- I need to leave the hotel by 6:30 am to catch my 9:00 am flight to Bilbao and then my bus trip to Burgos where I will resume the Camino de Santiago... I don't know whether I will be able to have time to send an email update.

I am attaching five photos of Sagrada Familia and hope they make it through to you.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

(This email is a day late -- my email connection was not working last night.)
Today was a full day for me. And the weather was on the warm side.
I began by visiting Gruel Park where Gaudi lived and created many fanciful and famous artistic creations -- I was disappointed because the waiting time to get into that part of the park was four hours -- I could not believe how many people were there -- my guess over 5,000 and more coming. I explored what I could.

I then went to the Museum of Catalonian Art set on top of a hill -- I've included a picture of the fountains.

I then went into Gotica -- old section of the town -- and visited the Cathedral - a beautiful Gothic church - where Christopher Columbus had some natives that he brought back from the Americas baptized. And then I went to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, another beautiful Gothic church.

Be well.


Along El Camino de Santiago

Fr. Bill is traveling in Spain for his completion of the ancient pilgrimage route, El Camino de Santiago. To journey along with him, visit this webpage to see his latest words and photos. Fr. Bill will send periodic updates of his travels along the trail known also as the Way of St. James -- named for the shrine of the Apostle that culminates this pilgrimage.



Fr. Bill's photos


Fr. Bill's photos

Learn more
About El Camino de Santiago (aka The Way of St. James)
From Wikipedia
About Burial Place of St. James
About Anton Gaudi
Architecture by Anton Gaudi

Sonia for the church website