I’ve really fallen off of the blog bandwagon lately. I have no excuse other than the half-finished entry about Istanbul (first of two parts!) sitting stubbornly on my desktop, refusing to complete itself. While I wait for that pot to come to boil, I’m going to write about today and my visit to the monastery-mountain of Montserrat.
And my second visit here:
The Crystal Symphony is headed West again from Istanbul and with most of the day off today in Barcelona I decided to pay a third visit to the monastery. It seemed only fitting – on my first visit, I had a powerful experience that led me to the Camino, and the second visit was the first major milestone on my road to Santiago. A third, concluding visit was in order.
The train ride from Plaza Espanya takes about an hour. It is amazing to me that I can cover that distance by train in only an hour when last time it took four days to walk. Cataluña is either in the very end of spring or the very beginning of summer – either way, the thick, verdant green foliage is fresh and fragrant with the muscular power of summertime. It’s going to be hot here, and soon.
The chapel of Santa Cova was my goal. This is apart from the main monastery and is built against the cliff at the spot where an image of the Virgin Mary was supposedly found over a thousand years ago. It is a powerful place, one that inspires people to prayer, and even though I didn’t find what I was looking for last time I visited, it is still an important place in my personal history.
The first time that I visited, I was just beginning to wake up and I prayed for the strength to act despite fear. The second time, I was footsore and discourage, and I did my best to renew that wish. This time, though, I sat there in that silent chapel, listening to the candles burn behind me, and had no idea what to ask for.
I got bored. My mind wandered; it was stuck at a brick wall and so it went sideways. I started thinking about all the places I’d seen since the first time I visited – the beautiful people I’d met, the weird things that had happened on the strange road to Santiago . . . I thought of the red brown dust of Cataluña, the relentless wind on the meseta, and the strange Basque language called Euskara. I thought of the complex, captivating scent of Buenos Aires. I thought of the sound of a carnival drum line starting up in Rio de Janeiro. I heard the first call to worship in Istanbul echoing from the minarets around me.
And that’s when I realized it. I had not come here to ask for anything, but rather to say thank you. I said it, and then I said it again out loud. I wanted to laugh, it was so simple. That’s what prayer is; not asking, but giving.
|A paving stone with the camino symbol, just outside the monastery. This is one of the signs I followed on Day 6 of the camino.|
|A sign for the GR6, the trail I followed to Montserrat from Barcelona. I passed this sign on Day 4 of the camino.|
|A sign I found in the cable car parking lot for an alternate path along the camino. I did not take this path, but this is an excellent example of one of the ubiquitous yellow arrows.|