Posts Tagged With: Assisi

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! 🙂 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 something  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! 🙂 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. 🙂

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! 🙂 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 – 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! 🙂 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! 🙂 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.  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. 🙂 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. 🙂 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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