Monday, 17 May 2010

San Isidro & the Tourists

Saturday was  St. Isidro Day, when Spanish farmers call on their patron saint to make sure the crops keep growing. Here in Moratinos, where 80% of us are farmers, we have a procession to mark the occasion. We shoot off skyrockets and march our resident St. Isidro statue out to a neighboring field where the priest sprinkles a bit of holy water over the greenery and the populace. Someone cuts a fresh handful of oats to put in the statue´s plaster grasp, and Isidro then is carried back into the church to spend another year indoors.

We do this every mid-May, and every year the marching Moratinians are avidly photographed and followed ´round behind the saint by a crowd of passing pilgrims. I always invite the strangers to come inside for the Mass, but almost all of them tell me No Thanks, they have to be somewhere else very soon.

Which is to say, "I am on a pilgrimage. I don´t have time for church."
Which is, to me, a scream. If you are walking a pilgrim path, and you refuse an invitation to join the locals in their worship, you are not a pilgrim. You are a tourist, plain and simple. And you´re missing out on about half the richness a pilgrimage has to offer.

I´m just sayin´.  

Anyway, back to Moratinos... After Mass ended, we all trooped over to the meeting room at the ayuntamiento for the usual get-together over plates of sausage, pickles, pork rinds, potato chips, mussels, vermouth, and Verdejo. This year we packed the house -- it was lovely having the whole community present, smiling, and healthy. We talked about the exceptional 2009 wine, the slow progress of the Italians´ pilgrim albergue, and the crazy weather we had this week: we awoke on Wednesday to snow, something nobody in the place could remember ever seeing in May. (the vegetables will probably survive, but the fruit trees took a real blow.) 

Outside in the plaza the pilgrims flowed past. Some sat down a while, nosed around looking for the bar that is not here. I held my little plate of goodies and sipped my vino and wondered... out there among them were the two Polish pilgrims who´d accepted the invitation to Mass. They ought to be in here, I thought... But it would be presumptuous of me to invite them. Sure, the food was paid-for from our community fund, and nobody in the room would really mind. They expect that kind of thing from me. Maybe. But I still am an outsider, you know. It´s one thing inviting these strangers to our own house, but to have them share in the town´s bounty? Hmmm.

Celestino filled up my glass again. I turned my attention away from the pilgrims outside, and onto the friendly faces in the room, the happy chatter.

Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was just practicality, seeing as all of us had eaten and drunk our fill, and there was still plenty of food on the plates and wine in the bottles... But somehow, someone (I suspect Milagros, who is a natural hospitalera) went out and brought in the two Polish Christians, and put glasses into their hands. I translated, and we learned they´d walked here all the way from Posnan. And soon Bruno and Daniel, our Italian hospitaleros, found some fellow Brescian Italians out there on the plaza. They came inside and joined in the hubbub and chorizo. We were chattering away in three or four languages, with pilgs mixing perfectly well with the locals, about 30 people packed into a room made for maybe 20. It was a fine event, and it likely made those pilgrims´ days.

Hours later I stumbled across a Saint of the Day calendar for children. It told about San Isidro´s life and times, a thousand years ago near Madrid. And it showed me how history repeats itself right here on our plaza:

Once the parish had a dinner. Isidore arrived early and went into the church to pray. He arrived in the parish hall late. He didn't come in alone. He brought a group of beggars, too. The parishioners were upset. What if there wasn't enough food for all those beggars? But the more they filled up their plates, the more there was for everybody else. St. Isidore said kindly, "There is always enough for the poor of Jesus."

The poor of Jesus... or the pilgrims of Santiago. Maybe even tourists, people poor in Jesus?
Somehow we had enough to share with them. No one went away hungry.


Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

I have been pondering this, wondering if I would have gone into Mass if someone kindly asked me in English. As one of the many on the Camino whousedtobecatholic I am not sure. Mostly when I went to Mass I felt like a tourist just having a look, not someone who belonged. Though having said that, I am perverse enough to think that I walked the whole way under the protection of the blessing I received in the Cathedral in Le Puy. I never did work out if I was a pilgrim or just-a-long-distance-walker anyhow, though I suspect more of the latter. So... if you had asked me into Mass- I really don't know whether I would have come in or not.....

Sil said...

I am an atheist (a western Buddhist) but still attended mass in almost every Catholic church that offered it on the camino. If I was on a Hindu pilgrimage I would attend their temple prayers and if I was on a Buddhist pilgrimage I would attend theirs.
I would've loved to be a part of the local mass, blessings and celebrations in Moratinos! Maybe next time.

AnnieSantiago said...

Those who missed out... missed out. I'm with Sil, I would have been happy for the invitation! Part of the pilgrimage for me is learning about the locals, their lives, their beliefs, their food !!! One of the most interesting things I saw in Spain was how much freedom each Priest has with his own flock. In the USA, most Catholic services are pretty standard. In Spain, it seemed to be up to the Priest what we did.

ksam said...

'kay, guess I'm the only Catlick chiming in..but hell yeah!! I would have...and did find and attend Masses here there and every where on our Pilgrimage...funny part, of the four in our group...I'm the newbie...the convert...I had to try and explain to them what was going on...and guestimate where we were..doing mental spanish to latin to english...that was if they came to Mass. Just keep the door open Rebecca and there will always be some who will accept. I think that's all we can hope for or expect. And then again, like a farmer...seeds get planted that can take a while to sprout. You may never be blessed to see them but don't ever doubt that they will. Something I think St. Isisdro would understand. Thanks again for the chance to be a voyuer! Pax, Karin

CJ and CL Walking Nomads said...

Hi Rebecca thankyou for blog about San isidore. We watched a wonderful procession in monasterio but didn't get to the mass last week. However it is special to be with a small community when they celebrate a special event on their calendar. We have sent photos to our grandies in Australia of beautiful monasterio children all dressed up in a donkey cart. Now 4 yr old Alice wants her kindy teacher in Queensland to teach them all flamenco!

PL said...

Nothing like standing in a little iglesia in the middle of nowhere, holding hands with a couple of little old viejitas, listening to passages from the word of El Senor, saying "paz contigo" at the end and getting a beso on the cheek.

For this devout Catholic of Spanish, Indian and Mexican heritage, seeing the gilded gold of the churches' icons was always bittersweet.