The joy of following in the footsteps of Saint Josemaría on his path of liberation

The last week of August, a score of priests and seminarians from Madrid arrived in the south of the Pyrenean mountain range, on the sunny side of Pallerols de Rialb, where the church of Sant Esteve presides over the heights. We settled in the Fonda La Masia in the nearby town of Peramola, which gave us generous hospitality, especially in the form of copious food needed for the expedition.

With the dawn of the day we went to pray in the church and celebrate Holy Mass there, while great clouds still slept over the valley, waiting to be torn by the morning sun. We would go back to the hostel to have breakfast and, with the vans, we would arrive at the starting point that we had each scheduled day. We carried with us the travel diary that the fugitives wrote, and we read it in the same areas they described. After the excursion, in the afternoons, we would go back to the church to pray the rosary in front of the image of the “Mare de Déu del Roser”; later, we received training talks and also took advantage of it to have a time of expansion, reading or dialogue.

Our first objective, after having seen the documentary of the Pass of the Pyrenees, was the Cabaña de San Rafael, which was accessed by climbing a somewhat steep slope through the Pallerols forests. In it, Ramón, our guide, explained to us the stay of Saint Josemaría and his companions. The next day we climbed a mighty massif, the Roca del Corb; an imposing stone mass from whose top the entire landscape is dominated. The sharp and, in some sections, slippery steep slopes of the mountains demanded full attention to the trail. There were some loud falls, without much danger, especially since we had thickets of brambles available for our support in case we slipped.

Finally, on the last day, we reached freedom in Sant Julià de Lòria, the first Andorran town where the founder of Opus Dei arrived. Accustomed to the infinite Castilian plain, the encirclement of the mountains of Andorra was a sight worthy of admiration. We visited the Church where he was able to pray in front of a tabernacle, something he had not done since the beginning of the war.

The Pass of the Pyrenees has left in us the imprint of the heroism of that group of fugitives victims of religious persecution. The church of Pallerols de Rialb deserves to be visited as a special place, in which the “Virgin of the personal way”, as Fr. Javier Echevarría spontaneously called her, pours out thanks to the pilgrims. Because The pass of the Pyrenees is not just a pass, it also has divine traces of pilgrimage.