On Monday morning, January 15, 2011, we left León by bus, to the shrine of La Virgen del Camino, a beautiful modern church (the cornerstone was laid in 1957) built with money sent by a local boy who did well in Mexico. The story goes that as a child his mother brought him to the small chapel of La Virgen del Camino and offered him to her asking that she watch over him, especially if anything should happen to her. Shortly after that the mother died and the child grew up as an orphan.
When he was a teenager, he went to Mexico and began working at a Cerveceria Cuahtemoc, sweeping the warehouse. To make a long story short, he grew up into a fine upstanding young man, married a woman from his small village, rose to be the president of the brewery and gave the money to build the church as thanksgiving for all his blessings. An old man told Becky the story four year prior, and she told me about it and with joyous anticipation she wanted to see if the old man was still around but he was nowhere to be found. We visited the gift shop where I bought rosaries for my nephews and nieces’ kids; the young woman who attended us didn’t know who the old man might have been, perhaps a priest who is the one who knows the story well. The place is full of stories. A legend tells of how the original Ermita happened to be built on the site. The story goes that in 1505, the Virgin Mary appeared to a local shepherd (we saw many shepherds and their flocks, so this is very plausible). The Virgin Mary apparently wanted a chapel built in her honor and asked the shepherd to go to the Bishop and bring him to this spot and instruct him to build the Ermita for her. But, the sherpherd feared that he would not be believed, so he asked Mary for a sign. She took his slingshot, placed a pebble in it and told the shepherd that when he hurled the stone he would know where her shrine was to be built. The Bishop in Leon didn’t believe the shepherd, of coure, but when the shelpherd used the slingshot and hurled the pebble into the air,he was convinced for at the very point where it landed, it became a boulder. Thus, the Bishop was convinced of the appartiion by this apparent miracle and soon, the church built the Ermita, or small chapel to La Virgen del Camino where the current church now stands. Many other legends exist about miracles and such.
Yesterday, in Leon, we had lunch at L’Union, a vegetarian restaurant on c/ Flores de Lemus 3. We didn’t have much of a dinner, but for breakfast we had cereal, fruit and yogurt that we bought at a nearby grocery store. I also bought soap, a heavy bar that I bought at a grocery store. Though so I wasn’t very hungry when we stopped at Cafe Bar El Peregrino, across the street from the church, I ordered a croissant and a pineapple juice. It’s a typical place with old men playing cards and talking. Everyone stared at us as we came in, although I am sure they are used to seeing pilgrims, it may be that we are walking in midwinter that startles them.
Then, we continued walking following the yellow arrows. Along the way, we met many flocks of goats and sheep. The goatherders and shepherds waved to us as we walk by. One old shepherd had his two sheep dogs with him to assist in keeping the flock together. The old wine cellars along the way used to be owned by local families. Now, they are abandoned and no longer used. I imagine the many times people would come retrieve bottles from their family’s own winery.
Arriving at the albergue in Villadongas del Páramo we found that it was closed! It was already too dark to walk to San Martin del Camino, where the woman who answered the phone claimed we could find an open albergue. But, we went to a nearby cafe/bar to find out what our options were and we were told that there may be a private albergue open.
So, we end up at the Albergue Sta. Ana– a veritable dump. A sewage stench permeates everything; it is COLD! and the kitchen charges 5 euros to get the stove to turn on–that’s a first. Afterwards, we went back to the cafe/bar where we finally got someone to make us a tortilla francesa for our dinner. The cook was also the server and her young child played as she worked. The bar was full of men who apparently were on their way home after work in various locations in the area. There were some young people too, but they seemed to prefer the other bar down the street. It definitely had no food!
MEDITATION FOCUS: Life is to be lived. It is short. When we are gone, only our deeds remain. We transition into the next phase of existence and continue our work. Earth is a school and I am learning my lessons well. The Camino was a tough classroom, but the lessons learned were worth it!