It's been a week since our arrival back in the States. As the memory of that fantastic pilgrimage settles in my heart, witness the day we had been waiting for... Sunday, Aug. 21 — the morning of the papal Mass.
Our day began at 5 a.m. when our leaders woke us in response to a chance to move inside the gates to our assigned space. Apparently, a scout had heard that many who had been inside the gates for the vigil had since departed.
Miraculously, over night, a truck stocked with voucher food showed up at our campsite and unloaded water and lunches for us. So after handing out bags of food to all our weary pilgrims we gathered to walk a few miles to the original gate that would allow us access to our spot. Still a bit sleepy the excitement began to build as we hiked.
Unfortunately, when we arrived, the gate was again closed and we were turned away. So after some debate, it was decided that we head back to the hotel via metro. (I think I speak for many of our group when I say I was grateful for the ride at that point!)
When we arrived back at the hotel, we showered and gathered once again for a Mass celebrated by our own Father Matt, concelebrated by Fathers Terry, Tony and Andrew. As I mentioned in a previous post, Father Terry reminded us in his homily that even though we were not present physically during the papal Mass, we were present with the holy father in spirit.
Following Mass we were free to roam a bit in our last hours in Madrid. Some of us took the opportunity to sight see. We took in the Cathedral crypt and were in awe of the ancient tombs juxtaposed to the newly buried. The ornate carvings, statues and archways were magnificent!
And we felt compelled to make one last gelato stop. YUM!
Soon it was time to board our buses that would take us to the Madrid airport. It was a bittersweet farewell. We will forever remember the beauty of the area with its plazas, awe inspiring architecture and foliage.
Back at the airport between flights there were some creative distractions, including cards, reading and even group hand games (which our sisters took particular delight in.)
We even had the chance to honor one of our own, Laura, who was celebrating her 20th birthday that very day. (Can you tell we were singing to her?)
Our group was divided into three flight groups, with one group delayed and arriving in Paris at 2 a.m. due to more lightening storms.
But we were up and at the airport early that Monday morning to fly home to our beloved United States.
When we arrived in America I snapped a shot of our tired pilgrims much to the distain of our friendly customs security officer, who promptly yelled at me to "put that camera away!"
We were all so grateful to finally be back on American soil and were anticipating our arrival back home to be reunited with family and friends. Our final bus ride took us to Fort Wayne and South Bend where we were greeted with joy and laughter — and LOTS of hugs!
Tomorrow as my final WYD post I'll share some reflections on the trip.
Until then may our Blessed Mother hold you in her hand.