Monthly Archives: August 2011

World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Madrid – part 2

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. πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ™‚ 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……….

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Madrid – part 1

Friday – August 19, 2011 – 11:30pm – Hotel Husa Moncloa – Room #366 – Madrid, Spain

Time flies when you’re having fun, or driving/flying all over Europe on pilgrimage, or BOTH! πŸ™‚ Seems like we just got to Assisi the other day and now we’re almost done with our trip. Yesterday was a travel day, as we were en route from Barcelona to Madrid. It was a safe and mostly uneventful drive. There were a few highlights though. First that I remember was one of the rest stops we went to. Was only supposed to be a 20 minute stop for the bathroom and maybe buying a quick snack. Well, it seemed like every pilgrim on every other bus headed to Madrid decided to stop at the same bus stop. Most crowded I’ve ever seen a gas station. It was tempting to get frustrated, but then I realized it was God using that to prepare me for the crowds in Madrid. The other rest stop we stopped at to actually get lunch was a good stop too. I was able to get an empanada and Coke for lunch. All for less than 5 Euros. Then, at the table I sat at, one of the ladies from our group gave me half of her chicken sandwich!

Another highlight was crossing the Greenwich Time Meridian thing. It’s the longitudinal marker that I think divides the Earth into Eastern and Western hemispheres. It also has somethingΒ  to do with all the different time zones in the world. it was marked by several highway signs at various intervals as well as a huge metal arc thingy over the highway right where the line is. Then at various intervals along the highway to Madrid, there were gigantic metal bulls propped up on the hillsides. Also had some massive wind turbine electricity generators. Pretty cool stuff.

Today was Avila day! πŸ™‚ One of the highlights of the trip. Took us about an hour to get there by bus. When we got there we headed to the church where we were celebrating Mass. It was in the chapel where St. Theresa founded her 1st convent. Then we toured the newer church next door, as well as a small museum next door where her coffin and other relics were on display. Our guide then showed us around town, explaining interesting little tidbits here and there. Eventually we made our way to the church where she first began her life in the convent.

The neatest part was being in the room where she was born, a room which is now a side chapel for the church. We also got to see the cell she used to live in. Had a late lunch and then hopped back in the bus to come back to Madrid. Ate some leftover chicken from lunch once we got back, checked my email real quick, and then decided to explore a little. Didn’t have a map, didn’t have an agenda, and it felt great. Felt great to just get up and go. Only had 5 Euros in my pocket and wanted a snack, but things are so expensive here and I didn’t see any cheap-o places still open. Luckily though a lady from Burger King was handing out coupons, and guess what? One of the coupons was for a double-cheeseburger combo meal for 4.99! God works in mysterious ways. πŸ™‚

Walked around some more and found a big town square area that had a fountain, and that’s where alot of French pilgrims were hanging out. Talked to a few people and then headed back to the hotel. Stayed in the lobby and visited with some of our group for awhile. Then I got another blessing…… Was chatting w/a pilgrim and her mom. They mentioned they were hungry at which I suggested they check out the hotel restaurant. I was lamenting the cost of Cokes, and so when I joined them while they ate, they bought me 2 Cokes! Not one, but two! πŸ™‚ Praise The Lord! And then at the end of dining, they mom slipped me 20 Euros and said she was returning the favor due to kindness others have shown her kids over the years. Thanked them profusely and after they finished eating, we got up and left to go our separate ways. I’m about to go to sleep so I can be rested up for the Vigil tomorrow night.

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Montserrat, Spain

Wednesday – August 17, 2011 – 9:30pm – Hotel Abat Cisneros – Room #227 – Montserrat, Spain

I just realized that with my entrance into Spain yesterday, my tally on international travel is now up to 16 countries & 2 U.S. territories. The countries are: Canada, U.S.A., Mexico, Bahamas, Haiti, St. Lucia, Honduras, England, France, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand, & Vatican City. The 2 U.S. territories are Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands. I’ve been so blessed to travel as much as I have, and I only hope that I continue to be able to travel. Now onto today…..

When we arrived in Montserrat last night, after a long day of travelling, I decided that I was going to forgo the half-day bus excursion to Barcelona. Yes, I had to sacrifice a trip to see Sagrada Familia church. After hearing about it and seeing pictures, I knew I’d enjoy visiting it. However, I just couldn’t stand the thought of getting back on a bus so soon. And with as much as we’ve done on this trip, I needed a day of not travelling at all, where I could leisurely explore my surroundings and have some much needed prayer time and relaxation.

So after breakfast we had Mass in the chapel behind the main altar. On our way into the chapel we got to see the statue of Our Lady of Montserrat, aka – The Black Madonna. It was kinda neat to see the statue that was responsible for the existence of the abbey and everything else that exists here at Montserrat. It’s called The Black Madonna because of all the soot that has accumulated from candles burning over the years. After Mass I took time exploring the grounds, just getting a lay of the land. Headed back to the statue of Our Lady again (felt rushed the first time, since we were on our way to Mass.) Then I decided to go to my room and put on my shoes to hike down to Santa Cova, the place where the statue of Our Lady was originally found. (It was hidden there during the invasion of the Moors in the 1st millenium so that it wouldn’t get destroyed.) On my way to my room I found another pilgrim from our group who wanted to come with me. Obviously accepted, and enjoyed hanging out with him. As we headed to the little train that takes you part of the way down to the Santa Cova, we stopped at one of the little food places so he could grab a bite to eat. Unexpectedly bought me lunch, which was GREATLY appreciated. I didn’t really have it in my budget to be able to buy lunch everyday. The hike down to the Santa Cova was not too bad. Yeah, I was feeling it in my legs, but it was pretty comparable to any of the other climbing and walking we’ve done so far.

It was neat also to see the original spot where the statue was discovered after being hidden for hundreds of years. Saw some AMAZING scenic views on our way down and on our way back up. We decided to hike the whole way back up to the top instead of taking the train, due to an almost 40 minute wait. Only took us 10 minutes extra, so we saved about 30 minutes. Bought a bottle of water and had a coke too, cuz bruh, I was THIRSTY after that hike! When I got back to my room I decided to take a nice LONG nap, about 3 hours. After I woke up, I made my way back into the church to see the crypt since I hadn’t had a chance yet. Also took some time to pray in one of the side chapels in the main church. It’s separated from the noise and foot traffic of the main church by a set of glass doors. It also had a tabernacle. Got some really good quiet/prayer/meditation time in. It’s amazing what time alone with the Lord can do to restore your soul. Once my prayer time was over, I went into the main church for vespers. The benedictine monks sounded exactly like the benedictines from St. Ben’s in Covington. Granted, the language was Catalan instead of English, but still it made me reminiscent of the good ole days in seminary. After vespers was supper, and now I’m here. πŸ™‚ Tomorrow we travel to Madrid.

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Lourdes – part 2

Tuesday – August 16, 2011 – 10:50am – In the bus en route from Lourdes to Barcelona

Since I skipped yesterday, I knew I had to journal today so I didn’t forget anything. It’s really hard to concentrate though because these countryside farms and roling hills are so beautiful and quite the distraction. So let’s see, where did we leave off……. Sunday night. Sunday night at 9:00 was the rosary procession for the sick. We got there about 20-30 minutes ahead of time and it’s good we did because the place was already packed! I almost felt like we were at Woodstock or some kind of big rock concert. Seeing the thousands of people there all to say the rosary, was amazing. Just looking out on the crowd and seeing thousands of candles was quite a sight to see as well. My favorite part though was the procession of the sick and handicapped. It was such a beautiful thing, to see the “least” among us be put front and center and treated like royalty. It was amazing too how a simple smile could light up their face. I like the universality of the rosary too. It must have been prayed in at least 5 or 6 different languages. Even better though was the Ave Maria sung between each decade. Though we didn’t know all of the languages prayed in, we ALL knew the Ave Maria, and to hear everyone join in was amazing. Gave me goosebumps.

After it ended, as we were fighting the massive crowds to get back to our hotel, me and one of the other guys ran into some girls from Colorado. Invited them back to our hotel to join some people from our group to visit and hang out on the roof of our hotel. As we waited outside of our hotel for them to show up, some girls from Argentina came to talk to us and they joined us too! So it was a nice little rooftop party. πŸ™‚ Nothing too rowdy or crazy though.

As far as yesterday goes, there’s two things I’d like to focus on. The first is the international Mass @ the underground basilica. Since it was The Feast of The Assumption, Mass was planned for outside on the hillside. How cool is that, to be in Lourdes on a Marian feast day? However, due to the threat of rain, Mass was moved inside to the underground basilica. I’m actually glad it worked out that way because I get distracted more easily at outside Masses. Oh, and add to that the fact that the underground basilica is MASSIVE and quite an awesome sight to behold. Seating capacity is about 15,000 or 20,000 I think. To see that place FULL of people. To see the sick and handicapped front and center again. To see flags from all over the world. To hear the Mass celebrated in several different languages. It was another one of those “aha” moments that helped to remind me how universal the Church really is. After Mass, we took a group picture in front of the basilica. As we were getting ready for the pic, a man from New Caledonia (La Nouvelle Caledonie) wanted to take a picture of me holding our group’s American flag and have his daughters be in the picture too. Had the chance to speak some French with him too (New Caledonia used to be a French colony).

Later in the day we did the stations of the cross on the hillside. Now, these are not your normal stations. You hike up a hillside while you do the stations. And each station is composed of life-size bronze statues. The combination of the uphill walk plus the life-size scale of each station makes for a truly powerful experience. I was also feeling a little under the weather. My stomach was bothering me. My legs were also sore and were hurting me a bit, mainly from all the walking, and climbing uphill and standing around we’ve been doing. But all of that discomfort added an extra dimension to the experience. To literally feel physical discomfort while I did the stations helped me to be a little more in tune with what Jesus went through for us, and all of his pain and suffering. Being in a place like Lourdes, it also helped me to reflect on what it must be like for all of the handicapped and sick people that come here on pilgrimage every year. I realized that if they can bear with their pain and sufferingΒ  to come here on pilgrimage then so can I.

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Lourdes – part 1

Sunday – August 14, 2011 – 5:30pm – Mercure Lourdes Imperial – Room #508 – Lourdes, France

Well, it has been 8 years but I finally came back. It’s good to be back in such a holy, awesome place. Yesterday was our travel day. Flew from Rome to Toulouse and took a bus to Lourdes. Got here mid-afternoon and had time to get settled in before going to Mass at a Poor Clare convent for 6pm Daily Mass. Supper was at 7:30 and we split up into our groups and had some time to share about our experiences in Rome and what blessed us during that portion of the trip. Went back to the room and got to bed at a semi-decent hour because we had an early wake-up this morning.

Had 6am Sunday Mass at the Grotto. To celebrate Mass at the place where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette was a truly unique experience. Went quickly back to the hotel afterwards to get some breakfast and then high-tailed it back to Lourdes to wait in line for the baths. Stopped on the way to buy a 5 liter (approx. 1 gallon) plastic jug to store some of the Lourdes spring water. I ended up waiting in line about 2 hours but it didn’t seem bad at all. Watching all the people waiting in line for a bath was very moving. Probably the most moving experience was seeing the handicap and elderly waiting for the baths. Just watching them and thinking about it almost caused me to tear up. Probably my favorite “scene” was watching a group of young boys about 9-ish years old. They were almost competing over who got to guide their friend (who was blind) through the line to the baths. Very moving experience. πŸ™‚

As you’d expect, the bath was the coldest water I’d ever felt, but the bath was a very powerful experience, very much a healing experience. After that, I made my way to confession and then to the Grotto to pray a rosary. Went to the spring and filled up my big water jug. I’m gonna transfer some of it to 5 smaller bottles that I’m handing out to some family and friends. Washed my face and drank some of the water too. Bought a blessed candle that was placed in the big votive candle rack w/hundreds of other candles from other pilgrims. Then I went back to the hotel to drop off all my stuff. Relaxed for awhile, had a cup of coffee and enjoyed the view from my balcony. At 12:15, I went back to Lourdes to explore for awhile and also to find the adoration tent.

After getting to the edge of the Lourdes property and not finding it, I eventually made my way back to the indoor adoration chapel and had some good one-on-one time w/Jesus. At 2:00, a bunch of the people from the group I’m with me up with Fr. Francois Ste. Marie (was a student @ Wisdom in the 90’s and is now a priest with a religious order based in Lourdes). He gave us the “Footsteps of Bernadette” tour. We saw her 2 childhood homes as well as her church parish. When I got back to the hotel, I shaved, took a bath, and voila, here I am. As you can tell, today has been an awesome day. God is showering down his blessings and we still have tomorrow too! πŸ™‚ Later tonight we’re supposed to do some kind of procession. Not sure if it’s rosary, eucharistic, or something else. Today I also had the chance to visit with one of the local homeless people. Had a good conversation with him that hopefully moved him closer to Jesus. I’ve also had the pleasure of practicing my French with Fr. Francois and many other people here. Dad would DEFINITELY be smilin’ about that. As far as the homeless guy is concerned, his name is Pierre. Please pray for him.

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Rome Sweet Home!

Friday – August 12, 2011 – 9:30pm – Domus Pacis/Torre Rossa Park Hotel – San Giovanni Building – Room #270 – Rome, Italy

Rome Sweet Home! Ladies and Gentleman I have crossed an item off of my bucket list. I have been to The Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica!!! It still hasn’t hit me yet. Too much in a state of awe right now. Probably the next time I see the Pope on TV is when I’ll realize where I just visited. πŸ™‚

So we started off our day at the Vatican Museum. Let me say that this was the first of many instances today where I had to deal with long lines and big crowds. Patience was something I had many chances to practice today. Most of what we saw in the Museum was neat stuff, but nothing that really gave me the wow factor. It’s probably because I’m not an art connoisseur. Anyhoo, I think we all know that the part I was most looking forward to was The Sistine Chapel. To see something so famous with my own two eyes was unbelievable. During our time in The Sistine Chapel I just closed my eyes and imagined Michelangelo and his army of artists creating that masterpiece. Or a roomful of bishops discussing things during Vatican II. Or a bunch of cardinals voting on the next Pope. After The Sistine Chapel we made our way into St. Peter’s Basilica. This was the real reason I’ve been so excited about this trip. The moment I first walked in was surreal.

It’s so stinkin’ huge and beautiful that words almost cannot describe it. We saw everything there was to see, but I’ll just list my highlights. πŸ™‚ #1 – The Cupola (huge ornate dome) which is right above #2 – The Baldacchino (sculpture-esque canopy thing above the main altar). The baldacchino is the one single image my mind was always first drawn to when I would see St. Peter’s Basilica on TV or think about it. Of course getting to observe the massive length of the church was amazing. They even have markers on the floor to show where the next 4 biggest churches in the world stop at. (The Basilica is the largest church in the world). The Holy Spirit window on the back wall was extremely beautiful. A huge blessing was getting to see another incorruptible, Blessed Pope John XXIII. Incorruptibles so far have been an awesome way of making the saints and their lives more real to me. After that was the famous Pieta marble sculpture (Mary holding Jesus’ body) Then, I got to see my first and most beloved Pope, Blessed John Paul II. I love Benny 16, but JP2 is my first love! πŸ™‚

After praying at his tomb, we celebrated Mass @ the San Giovanni side chapel inside The Basilica. Participating in The Mass @ The Basilica is something I’ll never forget. The our guided tour ended there. Me and one of the other pilgrims went to a souvenir shop down the main street (Via Conciliazione). Grabbed a drink after going to the restroom. Then we headed back to The Basilica to climb the steps to The Cupola. Got some great shots of it from the outside as well as alot of good scenery shots (including some of the big square/courtyard in front of The Basilica). Got to go inside the Cupola and THAT’S when I realized how big this church is. Yeah, it obviously looks huge from the ground up. BUT, to be inside the Cupola and see the people below look as small as ants, just blew my mind.

Then we made our way outside and took turns getting some good photos of each other with The Basilica in the background. Saw the big obelisk thing and got some good pics of that (it’s MASSIVE). Saw the Swiss Guard and their goofy outfits. The last noteworthy item of the day happened at supper @ the hotel earlier tonight. As we were eating, a group of WYD pilgrims form the states sat on the other side of the dining room. During a lull in the convo at my table, I look over to see them & who else do I see but Tony Melendez! He’s the Catholic musician with no arms that plays guitar with his feet and sings. I’ve seen him on TV and in books many times. I’ve also seen him perform at Abbey Fest in Covington when I was a seminarian. Ran to my room to grab my camera. Came back and talked with him and then got a pic with him. πŸ™‚ As you can tell it was an absolutely amazing/awesome day. One I’ll never forget. I’d better go get some sleep because tomorrow we travel to LOURDES!!!!

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Assisi/Rome – part 2

Thursday – August 11, 2011 – 9:45pm – Domus Pacis/Torre Rossa Park Hotel – San Giovanni Building – Room #270 – Rome, Italy

It’s only the beginning of our pilgrimage but the end is coming soon! I say this because with 8 locations in 14 days and fitting travel time in, we won’t have time draggin’ by! πŸ™‚ Last night I decided to go back to the Temple of Minerva/St. Mary’s Church and check out the video tour that had been recommended by one of my fellow pilgrims. When I got there after supper (9:45pm-ish) there was already another group in there doing adoration. Nice coincidence for me to be able to do both! πŸ™‚ After I finished there, I stayed out on the plaza listening to the live band. Apparently since last night was the vigil for the Feast of St. Clare, there was a cover band playing in the town square. Strange, yes. But oddly enchanting and admirable considering the reason they were there. As I started to walk back to our hotel, I met up with some other pilgrims from our group. They were headed up to Rocca Maggiore, an ancient fortress/castle on the highest hill in Assisi. Glad that I hooked up with them because I was curious enough to want to see it but would never have gone on my own. An added bonus was that on the way back down, I came across a very friendly calico cat that let me pet it. Reminded me of Patches, one of the ferals at my old apartment that “adopted” me.

This morning I could have kicked myself in the pants! It’s the feast day of St. Clare today and I wanted to go to Mass before we left Assisi. After all, when am I ever again going to have the chance to celebrate the feast of St. Clare at the Basilica of St. Clare? Probably never. Well, I missed Mass. Partially because of me still trying to get over jet-lag, and because of my own laziness. My consolation was that I knew I had plenty more amazing opportunities on this trip. Our first stop on the way out was the Porziuncola, the church that St. Francis built when he first heard God say to rebuild the Church. It’s a very small but beautiful fresco-covered church. And now there is a much larger church that was built to encapsulate this church as well as provide additional space for pilgrims and worshippers. I definitely felt God’s presence there. Only bad part was that we only got about 30-45 minutes since our bus was on a tight schedule.

The first thing we did once we arrived in Rome was to go to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. It’s one of the many catacombs built in the early centuries of the Church as a burial place for martyrs and a place where they could secretly celebrate the Mass during times of persecution. When we were done there, our tour guide Roberta continued giving us a brief tour of the sites that were on our way to St. Paul’s Outside The Walls (aka – The Basilica of St. Paul). It’s the place where St. Paul (the one whom God literally knocked off his ass on the way to Damascus) is buried. He was martyred by being beheaded. The church is nicknamed “St. Paul’s Outside The Walls” because it is outside the original ancient city walls of Rome. I think it also had something to do with his martyrdom or his citizenship status. Saw his grave. We also got to celebrate Mass on the main altar of the church. Took lots of good pics, and then we left. It was simply amazing to see all of these great places and feel God’s presence so powerfully.

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Assisi/Rome

Wednesday – August 10, 2011 – 11:55am – Hotel Il Castello – Assisi, Italy

That’s right, I’m in Italy! I’m so happy right now, words almost cannot describe.Β  Flew into Rome yesterday afternoon. After collecting our baggage and boarding the bus, we settled in for a three hour ride to Assisi. Even though it was almost midnight when we arrived, the town still looked beautiful. People were ambling about (Europeans stay up late at night), churches were beautifully lit. Even though I was tired from all the travelling, I was still very happy to be here finally. Because of the lack of sleep I got while travelling, I had no problem at all falling asleep last night and getting my body on Italy time, which is 7 hours ahead of Lafayette. Slept in this morning until 8:15 and went to the hotel next door to have breakfast with the rest of the pilgrims.

Came back to my room, watched a little TV and sipped on my coffee. Took a shower and freshened up, then I set about exploring Assisi on foot. No real logic to where I went. It just felt so good outside. The sun was shining, a nice breeze was blowing, and the scenery was beautiful. Fields and orchards almost everywhere, spread among the mountains. Narrow streets that pass between stone-built edifices. Little religious souvenir shops at every corner. Saw one of the churches too. It wasn’t the St. Francis church or St. Clare church, but it was still very beautiful. I really enjoyed being in a church, in front of the Tabernacle, in Jesus’ presence. Felt very peaceful and calm. My prayer while I’m here, and during the whole pilgrimage, is to rekindle the fire of the Spirit inside of me. To rediscover God’s peace. I think Assisi is a great place to start doing that. It’s so charming and beautiful here. It’s also very holy. Knowing that I’m literally walking in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare elevates the experience of pilgrimage to a whole new level.

5:45pm

So I just got back from an extensive walking tour of Assisi. Our tour guide Marco who is from Umbria, took us around and showed us the highlights. We saw the Basilica of St. Francis as well as the Basilica of St. Clare and The Roman Temple of Minerva. Both basilicas were absolutely beautiful. To be in these churches that are dedicated to 2 great saints and to walk in their footsteps was awesome. The Temple of Minerva was interesting because of it’s history. It was built in the year A.D. whatever, as a celebration for the residents of Assisi who had just become official citizens of the Roman empire. It has since been renovated and rededicated as a church, but I can’t remember the saint to whom it’s dedicated.

Half the pleasure of the tour (besides seeing the churches) was simply walking around town. It has a beautiful old world charm. Life here is slow and simple. There’s almost a romantic rhythm to the way of life here in Assisi. I commented to one of my fellow pilgrims that I wanna move here. πŸ™‚ Everywhere you go in Assisi there’s an amazing view, whether it’s the narrow cobblestone streets and old style architecture, or the scenic countryside and mountain vistas. At the end of the tour right next to the Temple of Minerva, I went to a gelateria. Got two scoops of gelatto, Straciatella (no idea what that is) and Tiramisu. Tasted great, and I knew I had to get it because there’s just something fitting about having gelatto in Italy. Even better was the fact that the server and her mother both spoke French. I think one of them is from France. I also had the pleasure of speaking French with a charming 20-something Italiana at a random souvenir shop on my way back to the hotel. Her name is Roberta, she’s 27, and she works there part time while also doing a pharmacy internship. Thought about going back there to give her my email address but I realized that probably ALL Italian women are charming, and I don’t want to give my email to all of them. πŸ™‚ Oh well, if it’s meant to be, I’m sure God will have our paths cross again. Now I must do some horizontal meditation so I can regain some energy for supper and the other activities we have tonight. Ciao!

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