The 25th of July was the feast of Saint James. Saint James is the patron saint of Spain, and for many, his remains are in Santiago de Compostela. Many pilgrims spend this day together, gathering and remembering good times from Caminos-past. Many societies arrange events celebrating the occasion. In Santiago, the festivities usually start with a firework display where pilgrims fill the Plaza da Obradoiro to witness the spectacle. This year is the exception. With far fewer pilgrims and quite a lot of social distancing, King Felipe visited Santiago for the occasion. In any other year, I would be preparing for a return to the Camino. This year, my good friend Oihana had decided to walk from her home in Dunboyne in Co. Meath to St James’ Church in Dublin to remember those affected by Covid-19 – Solas an Camino Éireannaigh. I wouldn’t walk from Dunboyne. but I arranged to meet my friend Elizabeth and we would travel to Blanchardstown, 15kms from St James’ Church. From there, it turned out to be a beautiful day. It was the first time I had met many of who I walked with since the start of the pandemic. The Solas an Camino Éireannaigh was a perfect day for this pilgrim.
It was great to see everyone and once we made our start, we knew our way. The Papal Cross was the next stop but there was plenty of time to look around and take our time. I thought that we would have some rain but it was Oihana that told me that it was Santiago protecting us. Oh me of little faith! I didn’t need the rain jacket at all. I had the pleasure of carrying the baton and the luz del camino from Blanchardstown until Castleknock. Both have been carefully crafted by Oihana with the words “Volveremos” (We will return) scribed on the baton. Everyone of us believe that. There were also many beautifully designed scallop shells.
Arriving at the Royal Canal and the National Famine Way, you can see many boats parked along the side of the Canal. We decided to take a rest, and it is a great opportunity for a photo. We have plenty of time but we are eager to arrive at St James’ Church.
On arriving at the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park, we met more pilgrims who wished to walk to the Church. It was planned that we would take a short break here and say a few short words in memory of those who had passed in the last year, which was quite fitting.
From here we made the walk to the old door of Dublin, St James’ Gate. St James’ Gate now is a bustling industrial place but in medieval times, people entered the city from here. Many people associate this name with a certain drink too so it was nice to get a photo while we passed.
A quick turn of a corner and we were on James Street. We were welcomed by Fr Eugene who congratulated us on making our pilgrimage and asked us to be seated, but in a socially distant way.
He blessed us and as this pilgrimage was to remember everyone affected by Covid-19 – the healthcare workers, the nurses, the doctors, the HSE, ambulance drivers, he asked us to spare a few moments to thank those. He asked us to light a candle and spend a few moments with those in need in our thoughts.
One reason why I won’t forget the day is because we received a Compostela and a token afterward. I will be getting this framed this week. It is very well designed, don’t you agree? There was an incredible amount of work put into this walk from the design of the baton to the opening of the church. The Solas an Camino Éireannaigh was a perfect day for this pilgrim.
And to top off a great day, we had a selection of spanish foods and tarta de Santiago. I’m blessed for having great pilgrim friends.
*Note that most of these photos do not belong to me.