Dominique Bourgin, the soul of jacquaire welcomed in Le Puy

To reach the famous cathedral built on its volcanic rock, the pedestrian will take narrow and winding streets, as well as extraordinary staircases, which do not detract from the beauty of the colorful facades of Puy-en-Velay. At the top of the building, a renovated 14th century mansion has a sign in the shape of a shell that identifies “The Camino”. A half-open wooden door reveals a shady garden. On the lawn and the stone terrace, a dozen tables invite you to rest. Here is a man sitting with two teenage girls, there is a couple sipping refreshments, plus a pilgrim puffing on his electronic cigarette… This little haven of peace smells of lavender.

“Do you need information?” » Dressed in summer clothes, Dominique Bourgin dispenses practical guidance. “We launched this Saint James welcome 10 years ago, announced this fifty, short hair and blue eyes, responsible for the association of the diocese of Le Camino. Open in summer from 11 am to 7.30 pm, it works thanks to a group of about 30 volunteers, aged 25 to 82. » Everyone contributes: DIY, decorating, checkout, listening…

“It is a descent into self, a journey within”

Located in the Haute-Loire, south-east of the Massif Central, this Marian sanctuary is the start of the Via Podiensis, one of the four Compostela routes in France. Le Puy also left the streets of Stevenson and Saint Régis, towards Lalouvesc. “We welcome everyone, including the visually impaired, people with reduced mobility joëlettes, prisoners…” About 30,000 pilgrims pass through it every year.

About 30,000 pilgrims pass through this Marian shrine every year.

• ALEXANDRA DINCA FOR LIFE

The person in charge invites you to discover the scenographic route. Throughout the 14 rooms immersed in semi-darkness runs a wooden model representing the route and its elevation, from Le Puy to Santiago. Each has its own theme – modesty, hospitality, freedom… – supported by videos, music and projections. “It is a descent into oneself, an inner journey that begins here”, Dominic pointed out.

“Hello, are you a pilgrim? Come and drink! » Dressed in a green shirt, René, who runs the store this afternoon, invites the couple inside. In a cross-ribbed room, about fifteen seated people surround Jean-Marie Faux, in sandals and a navy blue suit jacket. “To each his own! Listen carefully to your body, be open to what you encounter,” suggests the president of the friends of the Saint-Jacques du Velay association.

A caring atmosphere

“Verbena syrup, the local specialty? Or a kir? “. Carafes in hand, another volunteer offers a tour. Two young people came and removed their backpacks. Dominique moved a stool and beckoned them forward. Louis, 25, recently resigned from his consulting firm: “I chose to leave to avoid burnout. I gave myself three weeks to get to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and think about what I would do afterwards. » Marie-Thé picked up the empty glass. This widow comes every week on the Camino. “I like to take care of pilgrims, remind them to lighten their bags, to drink regularly…”, he said before going to the counter. The president determines where to get the credential and stamps at each stage.

Glasses on their heads, tanned faces, Christine and Vinciane return from a 5-day walk, as evidenced by a bandage on their heels. These Belgian mothers testify: “Welcome is good. It’s very simple, everyone is familiar with each other, and we know who we are going to do the episodes with. »

A gust of wind blows away the clouds and brings out the sun. Two starlings land on the fleur-de-lysed iron cross, in the order of Saint-Jacques, which dominates the garden. “You can ring the bell before you leave!” » Matching the action with the word, Dominique took the rope and sounded the gong. Some volunteers imitated him. From Montbéliard, the fifty Olivier and Évelyne left the place, confident: “The volunteers answered our questions, they gave us encouraging advice. You feel like you are part of a family! »

Offer a Christian welcome

The most daring aim for the 7 am mass in the cathedral. When the last blow sounded, the three priests, who were already in the choir, enthusiastically sang the song. “Praise”. Despite the early hour, a hundred people occupied the nave, and many backpacks were scattered along the path. In his orange t-shirt, Denis is there. This dynamic septuagenarian is about to hit the road for the fourth time and rule the welcome “above” : “I didn’t book anything yesterday, thought to sleep in the cathedral, but it’s closed. So a volunteer took me to the Donativo hostel in Compostela. »

The homily makes the connection between the texts and the wishes of the pilgrims: “You have chosen a time of poverty, without ordinary comfort; the opportunity to purge our idols, the illusions we may have of ourselves…” The universal prayer presents the intentions deposited every day at the foot of the statue of the apostle Santiago, which is celebrated on July 25. After the mass, the chaplain Nicolas Pourrat, in a green chasuble, asks all the geographical origin, starting with foreigners.

“We will offer you some gifts: a medal, a rosary, a plastic prayer that is not afraid of water or blood, that you will enjoy reading if you fall into the ditch…” The assembly laughed. Undaunted, he continued: “Be careful, it’s only an attraction 200 km away: the gates will open, avoid crushing your legs before starting. » This 39-year-old priest stated in part: “We offer a Christian welcome, that is unconditional, while revealing the essence of our message: God’s love for all. We intend to give comfort to this Jacobean method, in a short contact, happy and deep. »

From the top of Rocher Corneille, the statue of Notre-Dame de France watches over Le Puy-en-Velay and its surroundings.

• ALEXANDRA DINCA FOR LIFE

Two young women greeted him as they left: “Thank you for your humor, it’s great! » Same echo as Pascale, who joined her husband and their dog in the forecourt. “I am a Buddhist now, although I call Jesus immediately when I need helphe smiled. I really like this transmission of modern faith. » Backpack, the American Jean from Seattle. This 61-year-old divorcee who moved to the Church also praised this sending ceremony, especially “the act of blessing the priest at the time of communion”.

Above the altar glitters the cross of the sculptor Philippe Kaeppelin, made of crystal glass obtained from the Louvre pyramid. The famous Black Madonna sits enthroned on the high altar. Dominique Bourgin summarizes: “We are very proud of our sanctuary, and happy to announce it. We just offer time, attention. More than a job, it’s a mission. »

The Camino
2 rue de la Manécanterie, Le Puy-en-Velay (43).
Such. : 04 71 09 06 00. www.lecamino.org

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