Posts Tagged With: Barcelona

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. 🙂 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……….

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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! 🙂 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 – 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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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. 🙂 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 suffering  to come here on pilgrimage then so can I.

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