Pilgrim friends, you're going to walk on the Podiensis via (Saint James of Compostela way), which is Le Puy-en-Velay's Road. With its 1600kms, this is the road of a Christian pilgrimage which started in the 10th century.
Pilgrimage on the St James of Compostela Way
It is a universel move that we meet all along the human history in every religion on all the continents. Becoming a stranger as he quits his usual world and losing bis social status as well as his hierarchical references, the pilgrim becomes aware of himself, of his own limits and sometimes how to get beyond them.
Every pilgrimage evokes our march on earth heavenwards. It reminds us that we are down here on earth only for a short time as we are on our way towards our definitive residence, waiting actively for the Meeting and the Eternal communion with God.
The treasures of a walking pilgrimage.
1. It implies the movement of the whole person:
body and spirit.
2. Carrying the necessary on our back, we clear the useless things off, we leave the non-essentials.
3. We enjoy all God's creation: silence, peace and beauty.
4. Walking is a patience school. It is the picture of our own life, it is a question of progressing day after day courageously.
5. The everyday acts of our life take another savour, like drinking, having a wash, welcoming a smile on our way... Mutual aid is also to be learned like showing the way, sharing food...
6. A pilgrimage is an equality school. Whether we are rich or poor, full of knowledge or not at all, the thing is to go our way on with patience and humility.
7. Walking gives many great occasions to live deep meetings with other pilgrims and with the inhabitants.
8. Walking as a pilgrim opens our heart to God: "Lord, I shall give you some time, I shall give way to you. Work within me, give me your light."
9. Walking gives time to pray with the help of numerous holy places (churches, sanctuaries), and with the help of many testimonies from countless human brothers and sisters who have been through this pilgrimage for more than 10 centuries.
Walking to Saint James...
Who is St James? James, one of Jesus' twelve apostles, is the eldest brother of the apostle and evangelist John. He was the son of Zebedee whom he was a fisherman with on the Lake of Galilee. He and his brother were nicknamed Boanerges, which means "the son of thunder". This nickname underlines an impetuous, passionate, determined and daring character. James, like Peter and John, belongs to Jesus' close friends. They were of the lucky few who witnessed the important events of Jesus' life, like the resurrection of Jaire's daughter, Jesus' Transfiguration and Agony. With the Tradition, James is made the evangelist of Spain.
From the Acts of the Apostles, he died as a martyr in Jerusalem between 41 and 44 and he was beheaded on the order of Herode the King. If Etienne is the 1rst Christian martyr in the year 35, James is the 1rst apostle who shed his blood for our Lord Jesus Christ. Fleeing from persecution, some of Jesus' disciples would have brought James' body back in a small boat into the places where himself had evangelised. His grave was discovered in Compostelle in the 9th century. From the year 1000, Compostelle became with Rome the main Occidental pilgrimage.
Walking towards Saint James
St James quitted everything to follow Jesus and he gave him his life. This pilgrimage invites us to welcome his testimony, to open our hearts to the one he was beheaded for being a pilgrim of St James, isn't it like him looking for being a close friend to Jesus, a true disciple living one's faith boldly, generously, fervently and loyally ? Following the example of this "Son of Thunder".
The bishop of Compostela incites us to talk to each other on our way: "the way to St James has to be a Fraternity Road in terms of space, time and spiritual environment where the Catholics shall give reason to their feith and hope. They shall favour the oecumenical dialogue with their separated brothers, with the members of the other religions and also with people who don't live in the joy of faith and wonder about life with a searching spirit as they are walking." (Pastoral letter for the Compostellane Saint Year 1999)
Leaving from Le Puy or going through Le Puy-en-Velay
The 1rst known historical pilgrim is Godescalc, Le Puy's bishop from 927 to 962. In 951, he went "all the way to the borders of Galice hastily in order to humbly beseech God's mercy and apostle James' prayers." As he probably came back enthusiastic like nowadays pilgrims, he had a chapel built on the top of the Aiguilhe Rock in 962 and he invited pilgrims to start from Le Puy-en-Velay where they could confide their way to Mary's prayers as well as to the Archangel Michael.
Le Puy-en-Velay is one of the oldest Marian sanctuaries in Europe. Numerous pilgrims have been coming up to here since the 5th century in order to confide their worries to the Mother of God's prayers. As God wanted to come to us, he chose a young virgin, Mary. We are reminded this thanks to the statue of Notre Dame du Puy.
We may let us guide by her and confide us to her prayers. "Woman" as Jesus calls her when he repeats the word of Genesis, Mary, a humble and faithful server, walks with us. Virgin, she is entirely turned to God.
She leads us to her son Jesus. Mother, she is attentive to our growing sons and daughters of God, as she was for Jesus. If there is sun coming out, the colour of your skin will look like Jesus' and Mary's ! Like us, the Son of God walked sorely in the sun of our earth with his mother nearby. For us, he gave his life and accepted to die on a cross. His mother Mary invites us to welcome his love which is the source of light and peace.
"All the way of your pilgrimage, the Mother of God will help you to get to know and like better and better the Church which needs you so much ! Each of you will be showed the way where the greatest love is to be found, in a word how to become a saint in our time." (Mgr Brincard, Le Puy's bishop)
The sanctuary of St Michael d'Aiguilhe also reminds us that we can rely on the presence and help of angels, who are our invisible companions. They are attentive "for fear of us hitting a stone".(Mt 4,6)
May this pilgrimage renew your life. As a pilgrim said: "We do not take the Road of St James, but it is the Road of St James that takes you !" May St James, our Lady and St Michael intercede on your behalf in front of the Lord !
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