Today we celebrate the Feast of the Apostle St. James, one of the first four to follow Jesus Christ, along with his brother John. This is also the Santiago de Compostela whose relics are at the heart of what may well be the most famous pilgrimage in Christianity.
For more than a thousand years pilgrims have been making there way to the Tomb of St. James. To receive the shell and Compostela the pilgrim must take his/her credential and have it stamped along the way to prove that they have walked 100 km, or bicycled the last 200 km. of the journey. More than 100,000 of these certificates are given out each year.
In terms of historicity, there are many questions about the relics of St. James and how they may have come to Galicia. You can search the internet for every variation on the story. For me, it doesn't matter. If tomorrow it was conclusively proven that the bones were of a later time and could not possibly be the bones of the apostle, it would not detract from the holiness of the way (el Camino) or of the tomb. The fact that millions of people have prayed along that way and in that place for over 1000 years makes them holy.
I can tell you from my time in both Rome and the Holy Land, there are places where one can feel the holiness of the centuries of prayer. We speak of the baptized as the members of the body of Christ. These places remind us that we are bound in one body not only with the person sitting next to us in church, but also across the centuries, with all the faithful followers of Christ, back to John and his brother James who we celebrate today.
St. James, pray for us ! Today.