[Province Spain-North] “El Camino de Santiago” (the French route) passes through Rabé de las Calzadas at 12 km from Burgos, where there is a Hostel for Pilgrims to spend the night, with coffee or soda bar. During July and August the Parish Church is open and a guide gives diverse information. A Community of Daughters of Charity served in Rabe and bordering towns more than a century ago: a boarding and day school, etc. At the moment “La Milagrosa” Centre has a Community of retired Sisters which cares for Sisters with some dependency and a Spirituality and Formation Centre with courses for reflection, days of prayer, etc., to different groups of Sisters and lay people.
For some years now the Sisters have been open to new realities and offer the Pilgrims the possibility to participate in Evening Prayer at 8 p.m. The number of participants varies every day, as well as their origin and language. How grand and beautiful it is to express our Faith in the same God with people from the different corners of the earth, with different languages, all united in PRAYER of thanksgiving, petition to the One we know who is close and loves us. This experience reinforces our personal FAITH and prayer becomes more universal.
At the end of Vespers the Pilgrims receive a small pamphlet in their own language, with a PILGRIM’S Blessing and the Miraculous Medal, so that Our Lady accompanies them on their route to Santiago and in their life. The welcome and reactions are very diverse: gratefulness, emotion, tears…. We wish them a good rest and “A GOOD JOURNEY” and offer them the stamp for their Pilgrims’ credentials. For years Sisters who love the Miraculous Medal have gone to the road and, in their desire that Mary accompany each Pilgrim, offered them the Miraculous Medal with respect, trust and without discouragement.
In March 2017 the Community took the initiative of opening the Hermitage of Our Lady of the Monastery to offer a halt for the Pilgrims in summer when they arrive tired; a welcoming space to enjoy a physical rest, a time for reflection, prayer, or simply to listen in silence to the background music in the chapel. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. two Sisters go the Hermitage, depending on the affluence of Pilgrims. The Pilgrims can see the open door from afar and many decide to enter. With a greeting of gratitude for finding this open space and a respectful silence, they contemplate the Hermitage, preciously restored, stopping at the high altar and paintings at the lateral walls. Many sit or kneel down on the benches and in silence listen to the music that welcomes them, and remain in a manner of quiet or in prayer. The attitude of some is very moving, in spite of language difficulty. The expression of a sincere and affectionate hug is always encouraging.
Sisters, in their simplicity, overcoming language limitation, welcome, invite and offer the Pilgrims dialogue and communication. At the entrance of the Hermitage each pilgrim finds the history and origin of the Miraculous Medal in his own language, they read it with interest and value it. They can also seal their credentials and receive a Miraculous Medal. Some Pilgrims profess to be agnostic but they recognized they have found God in nature and in “other Pilgrims of the Road”; others expressed they made the Way several times, it revives them inside especially when they are down or somehow depressed. Pilgrims communicate their joys and sorrows with emotion and gratefulness when they are listened to and welcomed. We have heard professionals’ singing such as a Catalan tenor who sang Schubert’s Ave Maria or the Navarre couple, members of a Chorale, who intoned at two voices, “Who walks in Love, neither tires nor gets tired”, (St John of the Cross). They played different instruments. The rest of the Pilgrims all listened in silence, admiration and gratefulness.
We thank the Province of Madrid Saint Vincent for the great help of Sister Ana Dignoes, with her mastery of several languages and her closeness to Pilgrims; she makes everything more universal and welcoming.