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. 🙂 Tomorrow we travel to Madrid.

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