|Paddy, Harry, and Olaya|
The party was just the beginning of my sister Beth´s elaborate plan.
Monday brought cards, letters, cards... cards from my Grandpa Scott (who is 94), Aunts Gloria, Esther, and Nancy, three women who went to high school with me, more than two dozen former pilgrims, both my sisters, and several cousins (my cousin Barbara included a book about caring for donkeys and mules!). Sonomi sent another invitation to walk the Shikoku 88 Temples pilgrim trail in Japan.
It was Holy Week in Spain, so mail delivery was spotty. When mail arrived, it came in plastic shopping bags! Cards, more cards, and gifts too: books, a Pittsburgh Steelers Toalla Terrible (in Spanish), a spectacular hand-knitted shawl, three kinds of curry from India, a cheddar cheese (!!!) from Australia, via England, delivered on Monday by Joe The Intern from Liverpool.
|The birthday jongleurs|
It was rather confusing to me. I only recognized two of them: One was our neighbor Milagros. Another was Luis, a restaurateur from Sahagún. The other pair I never saw before in my life, far as I know (and Paddy is not in the habit of admitting accordions into the house.) Everyone tried to explain at once. The accordion man is from Moratinos originally, his wife is somehow connected to the camino hospitalero program, and knows me from a FaceBook page. They live in A Coruña, way over in Galicia... and my sister Beth had sent an e-mail, and they were in town (with their accordion) and so why not?
Okay. I can dig this. I still don´t know how Luis got involved, but I will let that go.
When my actual birthday arrived the rain poured down. We haven´t had a decent rain here since December, so all the farmers smiled great smiles and the fields grew greener and more lush by the hour. We didn´t make it to Leon to see the great Holy Thursday processions, but me and Joe went to Mass here in Moratinos, and to Sahagun in the evening to see the penitentes parade in their pointed hoods. We went to church on Thursday and Friday, Saturday night and Sunday morning. It was glorious. We is righteous!
|Serious penitentes in Sahagún|
And all that churchness culminated in our little iglesia on Easter morning, where Don Santiago decided we should have our own re-enactment of "El Encuentro," a favorite Easter-day procession in towns all over Spain. The Blessed Virgin statue was bolted onto the palanquin and decked with rosemary branches. We don´t have another palanquin, or a detachable Jesus for that matter, so the priest put a sanctified host into the monstrance (a wonderfully-named silver-plated display case for holy wafers) and let it represent the Jesus image. And at the right moment, when the choir began to sing, four women took the corners of the palanquin and hoisted the BVM onto their shoulders and headed out the wide-open front gates. The virgin and all the women of the church made a left outside the door. The monstrance and the men went right.
We met in the alley by the dumpster. We set the palanquin on the ground and someone took away Mary´s black mantilla. Don Santiago turned around and led us all singing through the plaza and back into the church for the big Resurrection Mass.
The only unusual and wonderful thing about this was this year, I was one of the women who carried the Blessed Virgin. It was very heavy and unweildy. It filled my Protestant bones with fear, and set my Calvinist ancestors spinning in their graves at the sheer idolatry of it all. But my heart went pitty-pat with excitement. I felt like I had won the big prize, like I had achieved something truly worthwhile -- even thought I don´t have a purple hood, I was carrying a paso like a penitente! (Carrying a paso is something I have secretly hoped to do someday, but did not know how to achieve. I only had to wait six years!)
|the penitentes of Moratinos meet Jesus in the alley|