Carrión de Los Condes
As we left Frómista, the terrain was low and flat. It was twelve miles to our next stop, but we felt good and made good time getting into town. Nicole had heard of this albergue in Carrión de Los Condes, where she really wanted to stay. So when we got to town, we went right to it.
We weren’t the only ones who had heard about it. When we showed up, there were pilgrim packs lined up in front of the door. This is how pilgrims claim a spot in line for albergues that don’t open until mid-afternoon.
We eyeballed the number of packs and hoped that there were enough bunks. I was curious to see what all the hype was about with this place.
When it finally opened, we checked in and found our bunks. We had some time before we needed to be back at the albergue for evening prayer, so we left to grab an early dinner.
Usually, the only structured activity at an alburgue is the meals, so I didn’t know what to expect with this. I didn’t even know what to expect with “the singing nuns”, but it sounded festive and I was curious.
When we got back to the albergue, we joined the other pilgrims. Together we followed our nun escorts to the church nearby for evening prayer. After the prayer, we all returned to the albergue and gathered in the common area at the reception. Pilgrims were sitting against every wall and on the stairs leading up to the dormitory.
The nuns passed around sheet music with several songs in English and Spanish. Then they got out their musical instruments.
The nuns began by welcoming us and requesting that we not take pictures or video. They encouraged us to stay present and enjoy the moment together. Then they asked that we go around the room and introduce ourselves with our name, home country, and why we were walking the Camino.
I am usually very outspoken about how much I despise icebreaker, “getting to know you” group activities. But this was different.
One by one, each pilgrim introduced themselves and revealed any number of reasons for doing the Camino.
Some reasons were spiritual. Many pilgrims wanted to deepen their relationship with God.
Some were physical. Many pilgrims were drawn to the physical challenge of walking the Camino.
And some were deeply personal. Many pilgrims go on Camino because they are at a crossroads in their life. They need answers to big questions like relationships and careers.
And even though I couldn’t understand all the languages, I understood that we were all there for the same reason.
We were all seeking.
Seeking love. Seeking challenges. Seeking healing. Seeking wisdom.
After the introductions, the nuns played some of the songs from the sheet music. And a room full of strangers from nations all around the world joined together in song.
The final song was a poem written by León Felipe, called “Nadie Fue Ayer” (“Nobody Went Yesterday”).
In English, it is:
Nobody went yesterday,
Nor will go tomorrow
Through this same way
I’m going through
For each man the sun has
A new beam of Light…
And a virgin way, God.
It’s about how your journey is all your own. No one can walk it for you, and no two journeys are the same.
Then the nuns opened the floor up for anyone who wanted to play or sing and the guitar was passed around for a few more songs. It felt like such a tender, sacred time created just for us.
After the music ended, everyone was invited to the cathedral for Mass and the Pilgrims Blessing. For the blessing, the sisters gave every pilgrim a hand-colored paper star to remember them by. They proudly pointed out “it doesn’t weigh much!” The priest and one of the nuns lay hands on and prayed over every pilgrim.
Staying at “the place with the singing nuns” was one of the most special, soul-filling experiences of the Camino.
If we had skipped the Meseta, we would have missed all this. It may have been an easier, faster, less painful journey that way, but that’s not what it was about for us.
We were seekers on a long, slow journey that would take as long as it needed to take.