• Ryan Newman

Rubbing Elbows with Cardinals

Day 21 (Villavente to Astorga)

Distance: 13.40 miles (21.57KM)

Steps: 37,000

Time: 4 hours, 09 minutes

Total Distance To-Date: 323.55 Miles (520.7KM)

“Liturgy is written into my flesh, sinking into my skin and my spirit.” —Angela Doll Carlson (Orthodox Christian and Poet)

Today my stopping point was the town of Astorga. At one time, it was a flourishing town for Christendom in Spain. It has a beautiful cathedral and a palace for the Bishop. As I approached the cathedral around 12:30PM, I noticed many dressed up people entering the cathedral. Clergy were arriving in masses (pardon the pun). “What is going on,” I wondered.

After touring the cathedral, as people streamed into the space, I wandered outside to discover about 60 priests, 8 Bishops, and 3 Cardinals in processional order outside the Church. They were awaiting the arrival the Cruces (Cross). I had arrived in Astorga on the Fiesta de Las Cruces or Las Cruces de Santa Cruz (Festival of the Cross). It began with a liturgy outside the Cathedral, which I had a front row vantage point. I don’t normally rub elbows with Bishops and Cardinals. I thought about jumping into the procession—back pack, hiking poles, and everything. (Below, watch the video I put together of the opening liturgy.)

What is the Fiesta de Las Cruces? Per Wikipedia:

“The legend is that Emperor Constantine I, in the sixth year of his reign, confronted the barbarians on the banks of the Danube, in a battle where victory was believed to be impossible because of the great size of the enemy army. One night, Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky, and by it the words "In hoc signo vincis" (With this sign, you shall be victorious). The emperor had a cross made and put it at the front of his army, which won an easy victory over the enemy multitude.

On returning to the city and learning the significance of the cross, Constantine was baptized as a Christian and gave orders to construct Christian churches. He sent his mother, Saint Helena, to Jerusalem in search of the True Cross, the cross on which Jesus died. Once there, Helena summoned the wisest priests to aid in her attempt to find the cross. On Calvary Hill, traditionally considered the site of Jesus's crucifixion, she found three bloody logs hidden. In order to discover which was the True Cross, she placed the logs one by one over sick people, and even dead people, who were cured or resuscitated at the touch of the True Cross. The veneration of the True Cross, and the use of pieces of the True Cross as relics, begins at this time. Santa Helena died praying for all believers in Christ to celebrate the commemoration of the day the Cross was found.”

Ironically, celebrations for The Day of the Discovery of the Holy Cross La Santa Cruz ceased in most countries when Pope John XXIII removed the feast day from the Catholic liturgical calendars in 1960. It is primary only celebrated in Spain, Mexico, and some other Spanish speaking countries. The Pope was planning to focus attention on the celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14.

Obviously, someone forgot to tell the people of Astorga, Spain—this was a big deal today. The Catholic Church rarely opens the west doors for the processional and I’m guessing a Trinity of Cardinals in a small town isn’t an every day of occurrence.

Lesson of the Day: Liturgy is the heart’s and mind’s response to the goodness of God’s miracles.


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