Posts Tagged With: Lourdes

Mother Mary and The Pyramids

Sunday – July 8, 2012 – 10:24pm – Casa de Misiones – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

Well, it’s “only” been three weeks since my last journal, so I guess I’m gettin’ a little better with being more frequent. ๐Ÿ™‚ As you can see from my trademark time/date/place stamp, I’m back at the mission house. And boy did my time in language school go by fast. There are way too many small things that happened and that were good, and I can’t get to all of them. Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed language school. Enduring the difficulty of being in a place where almost nobody speaks your language, and having to learn a new one is not easy. There were times during language school when I was humbled by how much I was struggling, in spite of being self-proclaimed “good at languages”. But on my journey home from language school and here at the mission house I’m already starting to notice the difference. I’ve still got alot practicing to do, but at least now I’m somewhat functional in the language.

Even more than the places I saw and things I did, it was the people I met during my time in language school that really made the experience as wonderful as it was. Jeannie, the founder/director of ENCUENTROS language school, was the main reason I think I decided on that school. As an American ex-pat she was very easy to communicate with, prompt in her responses, and easy to work with too. All of my teachers/guides were super nice and helpful, and made learning a new language a pleasant experience. My host family, Mario and Marusa, displayed amazing amount of hospitality and patience. So many other friends that I made during my time there, especially my fellow students, made it something I’ll never forget.

Mike, Me, & his wife Ashley

Me and some of the students and maestras

The second most memorable event of the past three weeks was my visit to the pyramids at Teotihuacan. I tried to go visit them this past Wednesday, but ended up losing my wallet and didn’t have enough money to get in. I was sad not only for losing my wallet, but also because I had some so close yet so far. I could see the pyramid, I just wasn’t able to climb it. Only had enough money to get back home, and so I left with a sad, dejected feeling and thinking a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had just passed me by. Well, once I got back home and got all my cards blocked and got some money wired to me, I started scheming. I told myself that Saturday on my way back, I was going to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Cathedral downtown. But then I got word from another student that Saturday there was gonna be a big protest of the results from the presidential elections from the previous week. Where? At the Zocalo (plaza) in downtown Mexico City right next to where the Cathedral is. Even if it was a peaceful protest, I didn’t wanna get anywhere NEAR that place. Then the next thought that came to my mind was “I’m not gonna let a lost wallet and failed attempt be the end of the story. I’m gonna go see those pyramids!

After I had calculated that I’d have enough time to do that and still be able to visit the Basilica before my bus left on Saturday night, it was settled. Just the sheer satisfaction of arriving at Teotihuacan Saturday morning, knowing that I had enough money to get in and see the pyramids was worth it. I really felt like I had conquered a setback and not let it get the best of me. And lemme tell you, my satisfaction and enjoyment level was much higher than it would have been on Wednesday. Another blessing of seeing the pyramids Saturday was that I made what Brad Pitt’s character in Fight Club would call a “single-serving friend”. You know, those really interesting people you meet on a flight or a bus ride. Have a great conversation and then you never see them again. This particular single-serving friend was Adam. Slightly taller, and lanky like me. Long hair and scruffy beard. That alone gave away his identity as a gringo, But as soon as I saw him reading a guidebook in English, I zeroed in. I needed to speak some English so I could unwind a little. Enjoyed our conversation and ended up hangin out and exploring the pyramids and the ruins together. Came quite in handy too when needing to take pics.

Just taking in the beauty of the place was amazing. Seeing those two massive pyramids. Exploring the many other ruins surrounding them. The beautiful weather. Loads of people. Dirt cheap and really cools souvenirs (en Espanol, “recuerdos”). It was good stuff. I count myself as truly blessed for having experienced it. Here’s a few pics for ya.

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La Piramide del Sol (The Pyramid of the Sun). It’s the 2nd largest pyramid in the world, only the pyramids in Egypt are bigger.

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La Piramide de la Luna (The Pyramid of the Moon)

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me and Adam, standing on the Piramide de la Luna, with Piramide del Sol in the background

The other amazing part of my day was spent at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. To me, this was equally if not more important than the pyramids. I’ve two amazing experiences at Lourdes and so I knew this was kinda like the Mexican version. The complex on which the basilica is situated is not quite as big as the overall size of the complex at Lourdes. It’s much more compact, considering that it sits in the middle of a city of 20 million people instead of in the quaint french countryside. It seemed like there were less vendors there than at Lourdes, but for some reason there was more noise, action, tourists, and just hustle & bustle generally speaking. Didn’t have quite the same feel as Lourdes. And maybe it’s not supposed to. It’s its own different place. Nevertheless, I still felt quite blessed to be there and knew it was a unique opportunity. Walked around the complex scoping things out. Saw the inside of the old Basilica and it was gorgeous. Typical old-school classic church design.The only problem is that because Mexico City was built on a lake, old buildings such as the original Basilica are in danger of sinking. In this pic it’s quite pronounced, as you can see, on the front left side.

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The new basilica is amazing too. It’s GINORMOUS! I think the seating capacity is in the tens of thousands. And even though it’s done in what I call the “post Vatican II” style of architecture, I still really like it. (usually tend to favor the more traditional old-school style churches). Flags of many different countries are hanging from flagpoles to the left of the altar. Massive organ to the right side of the altar. San Juan Diego’s cloak is smack dab in the middle, right behind the altar. It’s framed in a beautiful gold setting and is purty big. The story is that when the Virgin Mary appeared to him, her image was emblazoned onto his cloak as you see it today in the Basilica. Purty cool, huh? Got to go to Mass too, and it just so happened that it was a wedding Mass. Seems like weddings are pretty popular there. Got to see Juan Diego’s tilma up close from an observation below/behind the main altar. At the end of Mass I had some articles blessed for family members that I’m gonna give them to. Got to spend some time praying a rosary in the adoration chapel. All in all, it was a super blessed mini-pilgrimage and a great way to wind down my time at language school and a great way to pump me up for going back to the mission house. Here’s a few more pics for you to enjoy. Have a blessed and wonderful week! God Bless!

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage โ€“ Lourdes โ€“ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 sufferingย  to come here on pilgrimage then so can I.

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage โ€“ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 โ€“ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ #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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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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