Rabanal, June 5 – 13


Pilgrims’ Prayer by Oliver Schroer

The Pilgrim’s Greeting greets all as they enter the courtyard of the Benedictine Monastery of San Salvador del Monte Irago in Rabanal

“Welcome to Rabanal del Camino! This village which carries a reference to the Compostela pilgrimage in its name has always been a resting point on the Camino, and a place where pilgrims may stay for a time of peace and reflection.

The Benedictine Monastery of Monte Irago at Rabanal is part of the Missionary Benedictine Congregation of St. Otthen in Bavaria. The monks care for guests according to the ancient Benedictine tradition of hospitality which calls on monasteries to care for strangers and pilgrims. “Let all kindness be shown to the guests” wrote St Benedict (+ 543) in his rule which Benedictines follow to this day.

All pilgrims are invited to join the prayers which mark the daily rhythm of our monastery. After evening and night prayers a monk is available in the church to listen to you or to hear your confession. At night prayer the blessing of pilgrims takes place. We are happy to stamp your Credencial in the small shop in front of the church.

Between May and October we offer pilgrims who want to pause on their pilgrimage the opportunity to stay in our pilgrim house “Mater Salutis” for a few days of rest and reflection, and of prayer and reading. These days are normally spent in the company of a small group of pilgrims and members of the monastic community…the Monks of Rabanal”

the three amigos

I met up both with Furio Chellini, an itinerant Italian philosopher and Georges, a Ukrainian with whom I could only smile and hand signal, on the climb on Mount Leon into Rabanal and I was pleased to see them stay at the monastery with me.

The three of us pilgrims joined the monks in their sanctuary. We eat a prepared lunch by the Father Superior daily in their private house (eaten in silence) and they eat the other two meals with us in ours. Lauds, Eucharist, Vespers and Compline are part of the ritual all practiced in the Tridentine Latin. It’s been nearly 50-years that I voiced Latin both as an altar boy and 5-years of high school. It’s an experience that is healing a lot of bad memories. In fact this whole pilgrimage has had a profound effect on me. I admire so much the humility and service these monks perform; their generosity and love are unconditional.

Father Pius would usually perform the evening blessing of the pilgrims in 5-languages. This tall, gentle German priest had just returned from spending 28-years in South Sudan on a diet of maize, gruel and few vegetables. Brother Morris, one of the kindest, humblest man I have ever had the grace to meet, would drive me into Astorga to get groceries.

Spending a week at the monastery was a blessing as I was sore, cold and needing some warmth. The meals were simple but utterly delicious. In total, 5-peregrinos stayed that week and we collectively made breakfasts and dinners together. Days were spent lounging in the library, snacking at El Tesin, roaming the village shooting photos, Facebooking and attending monastic services with some villagers.

The monks do not charge for their hospitality but no one leaves without stuffing the donation box.

Doors of Rabanal

garden among the rocks
Brother Maurice
Monks' meal
Father Pius
local falconer
backpackers with child
my first concierge in Rabanal
favourite local bar
bartender and red bull


Acebo, June 13

dawn on Monte El Teleno


After a week at the monastery, I left before daybreak in the cold, damp dawn intending to reach Acebo, 17-kilometres distant. I was completely rejuvenated and refreshed, looking forward to the next adventure. Furio soon followed me but his better legs encouraged him to reach Molinaseca that later same day. Had I realized how beautiful Molinaseca was, I would have continued on with him. We enjoyed a wonderfully brisk morning walking along the mountaintop amongst the clouds. I really felt as if I was walking on top of the world. Heather grew in wild abandon and it was refreshing to grab bundles of it and wash my hands, neck and feet. Stunning views of the Turienzo valley before walking through the semi-abandoned village of Foncebadon that lead us to the Iron Cross, a monument 5,000-feet above sea level marking the summit of the Camino and a great pile of stones left by pilgrims representing wishes or burdens they carry on their spiritual journey. I learned this morning that my dear friend David W. is in hospice after fighting cancer for 10-years. I made an origami angel for him and tied it to the cross. I later phoned him from Acebo and sent him some love.

It was starting to rain in Acebo. I had found the lovely El Acebo pension run by a lively French woman who served us up some caldo gallego and arranged to have my Kindle that I had inadvertently left in the monastery, to be sent ahead to Ponferrada.