Sunday – August 21, 2011 – 3:00pm – Starbucks next to Hotel Husa Moncloa – Madrid, Spain
World Youth Day 2011, Madrid, Closing Mass & Vigil…… Closest thing to organized pandemonium I’ve ever experienced. Lest I get ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning of the day. Woke up for breakfast at 7. Everybody must have stayed up late the night before, because I was the only Magnificat Travel pilgrim there for the first 30 minutes. After a few sips of coffee & some conversation with the other pilgrims, I headed back to my room and took a shower and got dressed for Mass at 9. After Mass, we had a meeting for those who were planning on attending the overnight vigil and closing Mass. Went over some logistical details and then went our separate ways for a few hours of free time. I walked a few blocks down from the hotel to a Spain souvenir shop to buy a small Spain flag to add to my collection. After I got back to the hotel, I finished my packing for the vigil and also got some last minute things and a bite of lunch from the grocery store around the corner. Took a nap until 2:00 and then made my way down to the lobby to meet the other pilgrims for our 3pm departure.
Then the madness began.
From the very moment we arrived in the first subway station, the crowds were insane. We had to squeeze (literally) onto every subway car. Making our way through the various hallways at each station was like being in a rat race/maze. The lines and crowds as we arrived at the Cuatro Vientos airfield just continued to multiply like crazy. We passed through the first gate only to realize that we weren’t actually inside the official seating area yet. As we got close to the gate for the actual seating area, we just got squished into a humongous crowd and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually we got word that they had completely closed off the gate. Apparently the WYD organizers had underestimated the amount of space that each pilgrim occupies and thus overbooked each section. So, we just plopped down outside the official seating area, in a section that was not far from where we were originally supposed to sit. Then we just hung out and started taking it all in.
Ate. Got water. Danced with pilgrims from other countries. Proudly waved the Acadiana flag while I danced. 🙂 Observed/watched the sheer number of people outside the airfield. Just the people outside the seating area had to be at least half-a-million people. At one point I even heard the band L’Angelus playing! Seeing as how they’re from the Lafayette area and we by chance happened to sit next to where they played was awesome. Felt like a little piece of home was with me and it made me quite happy. Didn’t get to actually see them, but just hearing them was good enough. After a few hours of participating in and observing the madness, most of our group decided to head back to the hotel. Among other reasons, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to see anything or receive communion. We also figured that the crowds on the subway would be a little too intense after Mass in the morning. So at roughly 8:45 we started back towards the hotel.
There was still somewhat of a crowd as we headed back since alot of other people had the same idea as we did. The crazy thing too was that we ran into some Lafayette people on the way back. Seems to be a Lafayette thing, with going somewheres far away only to run into people from Lafayette. Actually had fun on our trip back to the hotel. Partially out of joy for leaving the pandemonium (people as far as the eye could see, literally). Also due to delirium! 🙂 Sang and hooted and hollered with pilgrims form other countries as we travelled on the subway. Finally got back to our hotel at 10:45. So if it took us 2 hours to get back without a big crowd, then I don’t even wanna think what the subway was like today after the Mass ended.
Threw my stuff into the room and made my way to the hotel bar where I guzzled down 2 Cokes and hung out for awhile with the other pilgrims. Back to the room at midnight to take a shower and then passed out. Woke up around 9:30, just in time to watch the Closing Mass. After observing the crowds yesterday in person and today on TV, there had to be at least 1.5 million people. My personal estimation is more like 2 million. The cool thing was realized that all those people were there because of the Pope and our Catholic Faith, and most importantly, Jesus. At the end of the Mass the Pope blessed religious articles so I had my mission cross and a few other things blessed. Packed my bags and then headed to one of the hotel meeting rooms to attend 12:30 Mass for our group, since most of us did not attend the Closing Mass in person. Got a few logistical instructions after Mass and then headed home. We have supper at the hotel tonight at 8 & then we board the bus to the Barcelona airport at 10pm. (Our flight leaves tomorrow morning).
I suppose this is gonna be my last journal of this pilgrimage. I must say that it was truly a blessed experience, a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing. Got to see and do so many awesome things. Looking forward to being at home with friends and family for a few days before I head back to St. Lucia for my last few weeks. It’ll be nice to start posting pictures and journal entries online, and start going over the whole experience in my mind and processing it. Really excited to get back to St. Lucia. Get to see my mission partners, the Eckstines. Miss them alot. Get to see all of my friends that live there. I think I’m most excited about going back renewed, refreshed, and revitalized. Want to finish my last weeks there on a strong note.
And now, Europe, I bid you adieu! Until next time……….