They do WHAT to a Chicken??? – Day 13 – Najera to Santo Domingo

The legend goes something like this:

A father, mother, and son were making a pilgrimage to Santiago. One night, they stopped in Santo Domingo for rest. The innkeeper had a daughter who took a fancy to the son, who was handsome and devout. He, being devout, rejected the advances of the daughter, who was not happy at being spurned.

She put some gold or jewels or something in the young man’s baggage and, the next morning, accused him of stealing. 

The local magistrate found the lad guilty and he was hung.

The father and mother, heart-broken, continued on their pilgrimage to Santiago, praying for their son. On their return trip, they walked near the same town. To their surprise, their son was hanging but still alive! They rushed to the local magistrate’s house, who was in the middle of dinner, and begged him to cut their son down, for he was still alive! The magistrate laughed at their request, saying that their son could no more be alive than the chicken which was on his plate for dinner.

At that moment, the chicken stood up and cackled. Amazed and recognizing a miracle, the magistrate ordered the young man cut down and the family lived happily ever after.

Since then, the church at Santo Domingo has been famous for the legend of the chicken. It is said to keep a live chicken because of this legend.

How do legends get out of hand?

A wet day made the trip to Santo Domingo boring and tiresome. Imagine my surprise to hear a marching band playing as I approached. My fellow pilgrim wondered what the music was about but excitedly remembered that she heard today was a special day at the church in Santo Domingo – they were going to do “something” with the chicken at Mass that night.

As a Catholic, I was curious as to what a priest would do with a chicken during Mass. I knew there were Masses where animals were blessed, but that was all I could think of. 

Sacrifice a chicken? Wasn’t that a voodoo thing? We don’t do that in the Roman Catholic Church, at least I had never heard of it, and I was pretty sure I would have heard if there was some kind of ritual where a chicken was killed during Mass.

No, no, no, something wasn’t right. But I was having a hard time convincing my companion of this.

The town was celebrating Corpus Christi, a major Catholic feast day. The whole town processed after a band and a colorful float, through the narrow street to the church. They walked over lovely murals made of grass and flowers which had been made on the pavement. After the band, float, and townspeople walked over the displays, children played with the grass and flowers and the street took on the colors of a lovely ticker tape parade.

The Mass at 8 p.m. was peaceful and serene, with not a cluck to be heard or a feather to be seen.

As Mass ended, I looked around at the beautiful interior. 

There, overhead, where a choir might be in another church, was a tiny lit apartment, bars in front. Did I see movement? Yes! I found the chicken!

It  turns out that the chicken is kept (probably more for the benefit of tourists than anything else) in the church in a sound proof room so as not to disturb Mass. In fact, the chickens (there are several, very pretty) take turns and live in the church for only a week, then are free to roam around, carefully attended to both in and out of the Church.

I realized that the chickens had better living conditions than I had in most of the albergues I had stayed in on the Camino.

My friend was not disappointed that there had been no slaughter.

Another misinterpretation of Catholic ritual was “laid” to rest.


Day 5 – The Saints Conspire to Keep my Focus Where it Needs to Be -Uterga to Puenta de la Reina

The day began poorly.

Someone in the room had an  alarm clock in their jacket which started going off at 0545 and went off every 15 minutes after that. Of course, the woman whose alarm it was was in the shower the whole time and never heard it.  

But the 15 people trying to sleep sure did.

The sun was finally out and I could wear my sunglasses. I was feeling strong and decided to take a detour to see the church at Eunate, a very old Romanesque style building in a nice setting.

Since I had left the albergue early, I was at Eunate by 0800. There were a few pilgrims there, sitting on the grass, catching the sunshine on the low rock wall surrounding the Church, like turtles in the sun. My friend from the albergue in Uterga, Antonio, was waiting and I shared some Voltaren for his swollen knees.

Unfortunately, the Church didn’t open until 1030. Who knew that a church would not be open for business on a  Sunday morning?

I changed my plans and decided to wait until the church opened. It was supposed to be very nice inside, in an austere sort of way.

I fell asleep in the warm sun, the silence occasionally broken by Sunday morning power paragliders buzzing around the fields.

Eventually, 1030 arrived. How did I know? Because at 1029, two tour buses full of visitors pulled up to the church. The woman who gave the stamps for our credencias, however, was the same who gave the Church tours and the paying customers came first.

I was finally able to leave at about 1115, having taken a glance at the inside of the church (Ehh) and gotten my stamp.

I arrived in Obanos in time for noon Mass at St. Juan Bautista so of course I went, the only pilgrim in a congregation full of families and friends..

I got to Puenta de la Reina and decided to stay instead of moving onto the next town, as I had originally planned. Waiting for the church in Eunate to open, then stumbling upon noon Mass in Obanos was clearly the work of my entourage of saints making sure I did the right thing and slowed down. 

Assigned to a room – and stuck with a top bunk – I was surprised to find that I was in the same room as Antonio, the friend with the bad knees who I had met the night before in Uterga, Petra, whom I had first met when we were at the same gite on the first day in St. Jean, and Antoine, my friend from the train ride from Paris.

The Camino is full of surprises.

Before the Pilgrim Mass that night, I had tapas with two very jovial Spanish gentlemen at the bar next to the Church. How very Catholic that there should be a bar next to a Church. They showed me the ins and outs of ordering and eating tapas and wine. They had everyone laughing, including the bartender, and they were delighted to discover that I was from America.


My Entourage of Saints

Let me tell you about my entourage, some of whom you’ve already met, some who will be new. They are seated next to me on this train to St. Jean Pied de Port.

Big Tess (St. Theresa) has already been introduced. I need her for her determination and for her confidence. She has already helped me in the first 2 hours of this trip and I hope to cover that in a future blog. She sat down next to me first. I pointed out to her that her long dark habit was not the most practical outfit for this journey. She agreed and plans to wear something less conspicuous when we next meet.

She left and Chris sat down next. Chris, (St. Christopher) will guide me on the right paths, or at least help me realize when I go the wrong way and will put me back on track. Putting his arm around my shoulder, he says he will also help carry my load.

Phil, St. Philip Neri, sat down after Chris left. I have not introduced him before. He is known as the “hilarious” saint. I’ve read some of the words attributed to him and I think they are proof that humor does not travel well over time. Hilarious is in the eye of the beholder. However, he does have a light-hearted point of view. He put his finger tips together and smiled. He says he will help me see the good will and humor in situations where they may not be obvious. He also says he likes these high speed trains.I am glad to have him along.

St. Roch seems to want to come along, unbidden. He nudged his way onto the seat.  Roch is the patron saint of people who survived the plague in the middle ages. DS1 took him as his saint for confirmation but I’m pretty sure it was only because he has a cool name. I doubt I will encounter the plague and St. Roch, Rocky, was not a saint I even considered. But ne appeared out of nowhere in a few churches DH and I visited recently.  Rocky showed up in side chapels in cathedrals in Vienna and in Wurtzburg, totally unexpectedly. At first I thought it was just cool, since I hadn’t thought of him since confirmation but twice in two consecutive churches? I’m sure there were many greatful people surviving the plague but I hadn’t found him anywhere else. When he sat down next to me on the train, I asked him why he wanted to come. I want to find out more about him but he hasn’t said a word. Maybe he just wanted to get out.

Last to join me is St. Julian. One of my blog friends suggested him because he is the patron saint of people who provide welcome to pilgrims. He seems an obvious choice, but I want to find out more about him. 

I’ve got quite an entourage. 

Camino minus 1 – Paris to St. Jean Pied de Port

Tired? Yes, we did not get enough sleep last night.

Sad? Yes, I hated to say goodbye to DH on the train platform in Paris.

Anxious? Yes, more than a little. 

Our transition from hotel to train worked out very well. I had packed and repacked last night in the hotel,so this morning was just a quick wash and wear (the same clothes from yesterday). I has been raining for two days so some items are humid, but nothing major. We bought my last set of tickets yesterday, having made a dry run to the train station the night before.

His train leaves in 3 hours for Germany.

On the high speed train to Bordeaux, I know that there is another pilgrim somewhere on this train. She  probably got off the plane last night at CDG, spent the night in Paris, and is more unsure than I am about where she is heading. Although perhaps the other pilgrim has done this before and this is old hat for her. I will recognize her by the big packpack she will have when she gets off the train and rushes to the train from Bordeaux to Bayonne at 1232.

The view outside the train window is as foggy as my thoughts af the future. My pack is so heavy -I know I’ve made packing mistakes but could not see what else to leave with DH to take home. 

I’m hoping for my entourage of Saints to help me get safely through this first day.

Time will tell.