One of our favorite experiences during our Camino was attending Pilgrim’s Masses along the way. We looked into Pilgrim Masses some more and this is what we found.
What is a Pilgrim’s Mass? A Pilgrim’s Mass is a Roman Catholic mass celebrated along the various routes of the Camino de Santiago. The main difference between a Pilgrim’s Mass and a regular mass is that there is a special Pilgrim’s Blessing offered by the priest at the end of the mass for those walking the Camino.
Where are Pilgrim’s Masses held?
The Pilgrim’s Mass that most people associate with the Camino is the Pilgrim’s Mass held each day at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela to welcome the pilgrims arriving into the city. While this is the most well-known Pilgrim’s Mass, it is important to note that Pilgrim’s Masses are celebrated along the entire Camino de Santiago routes. Most of the small towns in Spain that have a church or chapel will offer a Pilgrim’s Mass daily (as long as there are priests available), typically in the evening around 6:00pm or 8:00pm. Many of the mass times for these churches are posted, but sometimes you will need to ask around town to find out what time mass is held for that particular day. You will also find that many “impromptu” masses will be offered by priests who are walking along the Camino. Before we left for the Camino, we researched the mass times in each town we would be staying at, and then when we arrived, we would ask around town to make sure the time hadn’t changed.
What makes the Pilgrim’s Mass special?
For most, the Pilgrim’s Mass offered at the Cathedral at the end of their pilgrimage will be the most memorable one. The Pilgrim’s Mass is typically well attended, and many stand for the entire mass. The most iconic part of the Mass is the use of the Botafumeiro, a giant thurible that is used for incensing the congregation. Many people who walk the Camino point to the experience of watching the thurible swinging back and forth (with speeds of up to 40 mph) as the most moving moment of their Camino pilgrimage. After walking for the past weeks and months, the Pilgrim’s Mass is a pinnacle experience, marking the end of your pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Many are filled with joy, peace and a sense of gratitude at the completion of their Camino, while others find the experience bittersweet and unsure of what the future holds now that the journey is over.
What time is the Pilgrim’s Mass in the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela?
The Pilgrim’s Mass in the Cathedral at Santiago is held at 12:00noon every day. At this mass, you will see the Botafumeiro in action, as well as the names of the countries of pilgrims arriving to Santiago that day. The best place to find a current and complete mass schedule for the Cathedral is their website. If you are a priest who would like to concelebrate the Pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral, please arrive 15-20 minutes early in the Sacristy.
Update June 2019: Due to restoration being done in the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, there will be no masses held at the Cathedral until further notice. Daily masses will be held at other churches throughout the city. The daily mass schedule at the other churches is as follows (from the Official Cathedral website):
Iglesia de San Francisco: Daily Pilgrim’s Mass 12:00noon
Iglesia de San Fiz de Solovio: Daily Pilgrim’s Mass 7:00pm, with Pilgrim Prayer (Monday to Saturday)
Iglesia de Santa Maria Salome:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 7:00pm
Saturdays: 7:30am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 6:00pm, 7:00pm
Sundays: 7:30am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 1:00pm, 6:00pm, 7:00pm
What language is spoken in a Pilgrim’s Mass?
Most Pilgrim’s Masses will be celebrated in Spanish. The main reason for this is that most of the primary Camino route is in Spain, and many of the people walking the Camino speak Spanish. We attended a couple of Pilgrim’s Masses that were offered in Spanish and English. One of the masses we went to was in Spanish but the priest who celebrated it offered the final Pilgrim’s Blessing in four different languages.
If you do not speak Spanish, do not let that discourage you from attending mass while walking the Camino. You have several options. Before leaving, you can print out a copy of the spoken mass parts in Spanish and bring it with you to mass. In this case, do not worry about pronunciation, rather focus on the spirit in which the words are said. Kyle did this during several masses. Another way to participate more fully in mass is to simply speak the mass parts in your own language. This can be a bit confusing at first because no one else is speaking the same language. You may want to do the same thing and print out a copy of the spoken mass parts in your language to better participate.
What are the words of the Pilgrim’s Blessing?
There are various forms of the Pilgrim’s Blessing offered at mass, and priests are free to use any form of the blessing that they choose. The following is one form of the Pilgrim’s Blessing that several other pilgrims have mentioned hearing on a regular basis.
you always show mercy toward those who you love
and you are never far away for those who seek you.
Be with your servants on this pilgrimage
and guide their way in accord with your will.
Be a companion for them along their journey,
a guide at crossroads, strength in their weariness,
defence before dangers, shelter on the way,
shade against the heat, light in the darkness,
a comforter in their discouragements, and firmness in their intentions,
in order that, through your guidance,
they might arrive unscathed at the end of their journey,
and enriched with graces and virtues,
they might return safely home;
Through Jesus Christ Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God,
forever and ever. Amen”
Can I attend a Pilgrim’s Mass if I don’t walk the Camino for religious reasons?
Yes, the Pilgrim’s Mass is offered for the general public and all are welcome to attend. Even if you are not walking the Camino for spiritual reasons (or are not Catholic), you may still want to choose to attend due to the significance of the experience in the history of the Camino. The Camino de Santiago is one of the few places in the world that offers Pilgrim’s Masses. We noticed that many priests would acknowledge, bless, and offer prayers for all that were undertaking the Camino.
The Pilgrim’s Mass is one of the experiences that make the Camino de Santiago unique. It is a part of the daily rhythm of the Camino de Santiago and provides a wonderful opportunity for introspection. We hope you find this information useful as you plan your Camino pilgrimage!