Last night was spent in Astorga, a beautiful town that’s actually quite large but has the feel of a small old town. The cathedral is imposing, the shops are quaint, and the cafes on the plaza were meant for having a leisurely cafe con leche or a vino tinto and watching people. Since I didn’t walk yesterday I did not get a stamp in my credential.
About three miles out of Astorga this morning we came across this charming little chapel.
It’s right there on the side of the road, nothing around it. And there is a man standing at the door. He has one arm and one leg. He smiles at everyone and greets them as they enter the chapel. His bright blue clothes are a sharp contrast to the muted colors of the chapel.
He doesn’t see our new backpacks, iphones, or fancy earbuds. He just sees pilgrims who have stopped at this chapel.
There are old photogapahs along one wall of the chapel and I ask him who the people are. They are just very old photographs he explains. And yet those faces in the pictures seem to fit very well in this simple chapel.
Afterwards I go out to get my credential. I saw there were two stamps on the table at the entrance. He followed me back in and asked which one I wanted. He didn’t just nod his head toward the stamps as if to say, “Help yourself.” I chose one and he balanced himself on his crutch and placed a beautifully inked stamp on the paper. Then he put the stamp down, picked up a pen, and wrote the date.
I think of all that I have and all that I could do for others, and this man is serving me with grace and dignity. It was a beautiful moment for me to receive the gift of his effort.
In front of the chapel there is are several signs with the Pilgrim’s Prayer in several languages.
Jesus, my Lord, my friend,
You, the icon of God,
You, fountain of communion,
Of freedom and love.
You, who are my servant,
Walk always with me.