Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Melillo's Pilgrimage: Santo Toribio Spain


We had a great night’s sleep in Covadonga, Spain.
After our now usual Café Leche (a couple of them) and breakfast, we headed out to Santo Toribio, hoping to make it by 11:00 A.M. and in time for Mass (possibly).  This was around the time, as well, that one would be able to venerate the piece of The True Cross of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We have been to Santo Toribio three times before this trip and have never been disappointed.
Today was no exception … After a beautiful drive through the mountain ranges (albeit, I drove a little faster than usual (and, obviously, much faster than Susan would have liked), we arrived at 10:58 A.M.  We weren’t in the Monastery for two minutes before the Monk unlocked the gates that lead to the gold-encased Piece from the Cross of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. 
Susan and I sat (there were about 10 of us in the little Chapel.  We listened as the Monk explain, in Spanish, the history of how this Most Holy Piece of The Real Cross of Christ came to Santo Toribio, Spain (Please see the story below). 
After the Priest finished his explanations, he opened the ropes and invited all present to proceed to touch or venerate the Piece of the Cross of Christ where Our Lord’s left hand had been nailed to the Cross he died for us on.
Susan and I decided to go last because it appeared that the others had never visited this Shrine before.  I had planned to ask the Priest for his permission to take a photo of the Relic from up close.  I didn’t want to be disrespectful … I just wanted to do my best to be able to share this important treasure with all of you.
After I had venerated the Cross and digested what just happened,I asked Father for permission to photograph it and (even though, as always, there was a language barrier).  Father indicated that I could take a photo (thank you God).  I do want to apologize to you that the photo is not perfectly clear.  The one I am emailing was the best of three that I quickly shot … I was still dealing with the “shock” that Father said I could photograph it up close …  THE MONK IS OUR “ANGEL OF THE DAY”.  If you sit and look at the photo, you can make out the hole in the piece of wood where Christ was nailed to the Cross with his Left Hand.  You can also see the discoloration of a dark reddish-brown color that has stained the cypress wood.  This has been tested and tested and is believe to be the Piece of the Cross where Our Lord was nailed to the Cross with his left hand. The wood is proven to be over 2000 years old.
These are the types of moments and opportunities that Susan and I believe we are meant to share with all of you and it is our “special treasure” to be able to do this.
We then had the opportunity to speak to (or try to communicate with) Father, a Monk at the Monastery.  He didn’t understand us, but there was a woman who stood by and could hear.  She approached the three of us and translated to Father that this was our Fourth Visit to Santo Toribio.  We asked her to explain that in 2009, we had traveled here with Father Yves Francois and that it was a wonderful experience to have Father Yves Concelebrate Mass with him at the Monastery at Santo Toribio.   This Monk happened to be one of the two Monks that Father Yves Concelebrated Mass with in 2009.  We didn’t know if he would remember us and it didn’t really matter (these Priests have to see so many people so often).  He thanked us for coming as the young lady translated to us.  After a “minor prompt” from Susan, he gave us a Blessing and we were on our way out of the Monastery. 
There is no better feeling than being in Santo Toribio and venerating a piece of the True Cross of Christ.  Bittersweet as it is, because of the suffering and death that Our Lord endured for all of us.  It lifts your spirit up and instills great hope and trust in “God’s Plan” for each of us and that we are part of.

It amazed both of us that less 30 minutes after our arrival in Santo Toribio, we were back on the road (unfortunately, Mass did not take place  as we had hoped … but our ability to venerate the piece of the Cross of Christ was a Blessing in itself).  On our way to San Sebastian de Garabandal, we decided to stop in Potes, Spain … just down the mountain from Santo Toribio.  It is a beautiful and active mountainous town that we have visited and stayed in over past years.
We found time for a cup of Café Leche, we found an actual “ok” bank that would take U.S. for Euros, got in touch with Hertz since the Mercedes was now blinking ”Service Due”.   All in a very busy hour or so. 
The first bank we entered in Potes was able to change our U.S. Dollars for Euro’s … but the teller informed us that only $500 was allowed per passport.  Susan came up with the great idea and said “can I use mine, too, so that we would be allowed to exchange $500 each?  Great idea, Honey!  It was allowed and we “reloaded”.
Finished with our banking business, we asked the teller where we could find a payphone to contact the car rental company.  The banker got up and asked us to follow him.  He took us down the road of the village to the “Internet Café” … we were shocked because he actually got up to guide us … not something that would happen at home.
The owner of the Internet Café tried to assist us with making a call in one of his three “telephone booths” (remember those?).  It was a toll-free number for us to call and the owner soon realized that he needed to use his business phone to make the call and he graciously guided us towards the main desk and helped me to make the call.
I spoke with Hertz and they could not understand what a “Service A Needed” sign on our dashboard meant.  I tried patiently to explain and, finally, just asked for their email address so that I could send them a photo of the “dashboard message”.  The rep from Hertz wanted us to bring in the Mercedes … to Santander, Spain Airport … telling me that we would be downsized into a smaller car because they did not have Mercedes or the like in Santander.  Needless to say, I made it perfectly clear “THAT’S NOT GONNA HAPPEN”.  I will email them later (best to have it in writing and I know it’s an oil change but I’m not going to worry about it.)  I offered to take care of an oil/filter change when we reach the Lourdes, France area and they can reimburse me … we will see.  (For those of you who have traveled with us on these journeys before … “Shade’s of the Past”).
Finished with our “business at hand” for the day, we stopped for a cup of Café’ Leche and left for our next destination … OUR HOME … SAN SEBASTIAN DE GARABANDAL, SPAIN after a quick stop at a supermache.(Time to reload supplies)
I began yet another argument with our “Princess” (GPS).  She wanted to take us over dirt mountain roads to reach Garabandal.  I began to follow her and remembered her “misguidance” on our last trip that took us to nowhere.  I won and took my way.  The ride was as spectacular as in the past (see photos … lots of them!)
Susan was a little nervous on the road, they are very narrow but she was a trooper and only took 4 pictures of the dash board.  She has the camera down pat as you can see and has taken spectacular pictures as we drive on.

We arrived at our favorite sign … “SAN SEBASTIAN DE GARABANDAL … 5 KM”!!!!!  We made the turn in the road … ON OUR WAY HOME TO GARABANDAL!
Tomorrow we are going to have a very long Trip Report with a lot of photos and experiences for all of you … for those of you who have not been to Garabandal … and, especially, for all of you who are our fellow “Friends of Garabandal” which is sponsored, monitored, answered and explained by Deacon John Giglio … a dear friend for years and a fellow American who has been part of the Garabandal events from it’s inception in New York through Joey Lomangino … God Bless all of our “Friends of Garabandal”!
For the time being, our thoughts are moving to this tiny little hamlet town of Garabandal and the Blessings that we have received from here.  We hope that all of our Prayers on your behalf have been or will be answered.
We are also looking forward to seeing our friends once again … Sari (Mari Loli’s Sister), “Papa”, Alan and their two daughters and staying at their wonderful Posada … so, until our next Trip Report I would like to leave you with this:
I will never forget this passage from one of the booklets we use to Pray the Stations of the Cross …
“So seek me not in far-off places.  I am close at hand.  Your workbench, office, kitchen … these are altars where you offer love.  And … I am with you there!”
God Bless.
Tom & Susan

Notes for a Pilgrimage to Santo Toribio, Spain
by Fr. Tommy Lane
The monastery here two miles south of Potes is in an area called Liébana (translated as Lebanon in English) at the foothills of the Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe, Spain’s largest national park) which are really a continuation of the Pyrenees. Benedictine monks founded the monastery here during the sixth century. Beato, one of the monks in the middle of the eighth century, wrote a commentary on the Book of Apocalypse with illustrations and you may see copies of the illustrations on the walls of the cloister. The present church was built in 1256. The side chapel containing the largest known relic of the True Cross, the Lignum Crucis, was built at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
How did this most precious relic end up here? St. Toribio lived for some time in Jerusalem and was the custodian and guardian of the relics there. Fearing the profanation of the relics at the onset of Persian persecution he transferred the relics first to Rome and then to Spain. The relic was in the Cathedral of Astorga where Toribio was bishop. During invasions of Spain in the eighth century the relic was transferred here to Liébana during the reign of King Alfonso I. The remains of St. Toribio of Astorga were also transferred here at the same time. (The Sudarium also had to be hidden during this time). The chronicles of the Benedictine order state that this relic is from the left branch of the True Cross discovered by St. Elena, the mother of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. The relic is in the gold plated cross behind the altar, it is in the upright position in the cross, you may see it through the glass. The hole from the nail can be plainly seen. In 1958 the wood was scientifically analyzed in Madrid and discovered to be extraordinarily old, the wood is Cupressus Sempervivens L. Whenever the feast of St. Toribio on April 16th falls on a Sunday it is a Jubilee Year here in the church and pilgrims fulfilling the usual requirements may gain the indulgence by visiting here that year. This Jubilee occurs every 6, 5, 6 and 11 years (similar to the Jubilee in Santiago de Compostela when the feast of St James on July 25th falls on a Sunday).
There is an ancient custom in the surrounding villages whereby two men from each village come to the monastery here to pray in the church and venerate the relic on a fixed day of the week according to agreement. They depart their village at midnight and walk all night, sometimes barefooted to reach the monastery at dawn. The tradition continues and is regulated by the local town councils and the monastery. In the program of the monastery you will see that the special Mass for this custom called La Vez is on Fridays at 11:00am from June to September (2003).
The veneration of this relic here has been accompanied by many signs and graces from heaven. Fr. Antonio de Yepes, in his Chronicles of the Benedictine Order, states, “If one had to count all the successive miracles, they would fill an entire tract…” Many people have testified to having received big graces praying in front of the relic of the True Cross here in Santo Toribio. As we venerate the cross here, we do so in a spirit of sorrow for our sins and asking graces for our lives that we may better represent Jesus in the world.
RembrantThe Story of the Discovery of the Cross.
The "holy cross [was] found by St. Helen in the 326, about 180 years after it had been buried by the heathens. For out of an aversion to Christianity, they had done all in their power to conceal the place where it lay, and where our Savior was buried. They had therefore heaped upon his sepulcher a great quantity of stones and rubbish, besides building a temple to Venus; that those who came thither to adore him. might seem to pay their worship to a marble idol resenting this false deity. They had, more over, erected a statue to Jupiter in the place where our Savior rose from the dead, as we are informed by St. Jerome; which figure continued there from the emperor Adrian's time to Constantine's reign. The precautions of the persecutors evidently show the veneration which Christians must have paid from the beginning to the Instruments of our redemption.
Helena, Constantine's mother, being inspired with a great desire to find the identical cross on which Christ had suffered for our sins, came to Jerusalem, and consulted all those whom she thought likely to assist her in compassing [accomplishing] her pious design. She was by them credibly informed, that if she could find out the sepulcher, she would likewise find out the instruments of the punishment; it being always a custom among the Jews to make a great hole near the place where the body of the criminal was buried, and to throw into it whatever belonged to his execution; looking upon all these things as detestable objects, and which for that reason ought to be removed out of sight. The pious empress, therefore, ordered the profane building to be pulled down, the statues to be broken in pieces, and the rubbish to he removed; and upon digging to a great depth, they discovered the holy sepulcher, and near it three crosses; also the nails which had pierced our Saviour's body, and the title which had been affixed to his cross. By this discovery they understood that one of the three crosses was that which they were in quest of, and that the other two belonged to the two malefactors between whom our Savior had been crucified. But as the title was found separate from the cross, a difficulty remained to distinguish which of the three was that cross on which our divine redeemer had consummated his sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
In this perplexity the holy bishop Macarius, knowing that one of the principal ladies of the city lay extremely ill, suggested to the empress to cause the three crosses to be carried to the sick person, not doubting but God would discover which was the cross they sought for. This being done, St. Macarius prayed that God would have regard to their faith, and after his prayer, applied the crosses singly to the patient, who was immediately and perfectly recovered by the touch of one of the crosses, the other two having been tried without effect.
St. Helen, full of joy for having found the treasure which she had so earnestly sought, and so highly esteemed, built a church on the spot, and lodged it there with great veneration, having provided an extraordinary rich case for it. She afterward carried part of it to the emperor Constantine, then at Constantinople, who received it with great veneration: another part she sent, or rather carried to Rome to be placed in the church which she built there, under the name of The Holy Cross of Jerusalem, where it remains to this day.
The title was sent by St. Helen to the same church in Rome, and deposited on the top of an arch, where it was found in a case of lead in 1492, and may be read at length in Bozius. The inscription in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, is in red letters, and the wood was whitened. Thus it was in 1492 but these colors have since faded. Also the words Jesus and Judaeorum are eaten away. The board is nine, but must have been originally twelve inches long. The main part of the cross St. Helen enclosed in a silver shrine, and committed to the care of St. Macarius, that it might be delivered down to posterity as an object of veneration. It was accordingly kept with singular respect in the magnificent church which she and her son built at Jerusalem, and was shown publicly to the people at Easter. This stately church was hence called the Basilic of the Holy Cross; it was also called the church of the Sepulchre or of the Resurrection, thought this was properly the title only of the holy chapel which stood over the sepulcher or cavern in which our Savior was buried, which was in the garden adjoining to Mount Calvary; so that this great church covered the sepulcher, and was extended so far on Mount Calvary as also to included the rock Golgotha, and the very place where the cross of Christ stood at his crucifixion. This extensive building was enclosed within the walls of Jerusalem when that city was rebuilt. The find of the cross by St. Helen happened in the year of our Lord 326, in the thirteenth of the pontificate of Sylvester, and the first after the council of Nice."