In theory, each pilgrim who completes the Camino de Santiago is a member of the Archconfraternity of Saint James the Apostle. Originally founded in 1499, the aims of the Archcontraternity are:
- Promote honour of St. James the Apostle and encourage Christian pilgrimage to his Tomb.
- Ensure that pilgrims are welcomed and looked after on their pilgrimage along the different ways leading to Santiago.
- Offer help so that pilgrimage might be a time of personal encounter and commitment, working with the Cathedral of Santiago to help with the care and attention given to pilgrims.
- Assist in the conservation of the religious-cultural heritage linked to Santiago and “its ways”.
Now, I say every pilgrim is a member “in theory” because the Archconfraternity has officers and council at the Cathedral of Santiago, and they’ve developed statutes and such that most pilgrims don’t know anything about, or would probably much care for if they did.
The Archconfraternity is also an umbrella organization for various Spanish and international Contraternities of Saint James. Probably the most famous of these in the English-speaking world is the UK-based Confraternity of Saint James. I’ve ordered books from them, and they proved extremely helpful to me.
Enlisting on the rolls of any of these associated Confraternities enrolls you officially in the Archconfraternity. Again, in theory. Who knows how any of this works in practice?
Anyway, this is a long way to burble on by way of introduction to say that Francine and I have (finally) officially enlisted in the American Confraternity – APOC (American Pilgrims on the Camino).
Well, in a sense, it’s partially because we’re pilgrims, we’ve walked the Camino, and we’ve become evangelists for it.
And really, we got our first credencials from them, so it’s only fair that we should give back a little.
Really, though, it was prompted by a question put to us this weekend.
We took the weekend off – at a beach cabin on Vashon Island. Last year, we spent our anniversary there, but this year it was booked, so we were there this weekend.
We attended Mass at the local parish, Saint John Vianney, with some friends.
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
The priest gave an intense homily, focused primarily on that part of that reading. Isn’t it funny how those who are helped – those who are healed – feel compelled to give back.
Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was healed of the fever, and she immediately began to wait on Jesus and His apostles.
Like recovering addicts, who often reach out to help those still suffering the worst of their addictions.
Like converts, who in their zeal preach, sometimes with words but often with their lives of devotion.
The priest asked us to remember a time and place where we were healed – and he challenged us to bring people to that same place.
I immediately thought of my baptism, and my subsequent life of working for the Church, first as an employee for the Catholic schools, and now as a volunteer in liturgy and catechesis.
And then, a fraction of a moment later, the Camino flooded into my mind, and I knew that at some point we would be hospitaleros.
Francine has often spoken of this, which is for her a natural outgrowth of her Benedictine spirituality.
I was less sure. Now I’m not.
Maybe it will only be for a week or a season, maybe it will be something more – who can know God’s plan?
But one way or another, today we took the first step towards that.