This morning we woke to the feast of the Assumption of Mary, which was solemnly celebrated by the Dioceses of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Harrisburg and a group from Australia also destined for Madrid. Bishop Rhoades spoke in his homily of the Blessed Mother who was assumed into heaven body and soul. He reminded us that though she waits for us in heaven, she journeys with us during this life pilgrimage.
The Basilica of Burgos was astounding magnificent. More on that later.
Let’s return for a moment (or two) to the events of yesterday, Aug. 14, when we bid farewell to Our Lady and her bustling town of Lourdes to investigate the grounds that St. Ignatius walked — Loiola (Spanish spelling). Our bus trip seemed a bit long at three hours, even with the inspiring Lectio Divino and shared prayers. You can only imagine how cramped our legs feel by now. But what's a little pain when you're on a pilgrimage, right? (Father David Engo encouraged the pilgrims to offer up the little inconveniences for the sake of others as well as offering "Think pope" as a replacement thought for any negativity that settled in our minds. I've heard and said that phrase many times in the last couple of days!)
I must admit the landscape that swept by us as we traversed the highways of Spain was fascinating. We found ourselves ducking in several long tunnels that took us through the mountainous region. The hilly slopes we enjoyed were dotted with sunflower fields — yep, just like you've seen in the movies — but much better in person! We saw several small towns off in the distance, but much of the landscape was covered with patchwork fields and fir trees, apparently brought over by Napoleon to shore up the marshy consistency of the soil. Beautiful!
We arrived at Loiola in time for lunch of chicken and some of the best French fries this pilgrim has ever enjoyed, shared with the pilgrims from Harrisburg. If you'll permit me — a word on the cuisine offered here. The food has been appetizing and visually pleasing, but I must say, I've been surprised that many of our meals have been so American. French fries, veggie soup, etc. We were excited to experience a change of pace when we arrived for dinner in Burgos where they served a five course dinner with some interesting foods common to the region, including blood sausage (remember to ask your pilgrim if they tried that one!!!)
Back to Loiola — the basilica was so beautiful rising majestically across the square. The shot I posted last night was a group photo on the enormous steps of the basilica there. Following lunch we had a few minutes to explore the museum home of St. Ignatius, which held some amazing statues as well as some of the beautifully ornate furniture belonging to Ignatius. We hustled the pilgrims over to the basilica for a wonderful Mass celebrated by Bishop Mcfadden, concelebrated by Bishop Rhoades and the rest of our wonderful priests.
Off to our busses immediately following Mass to head to the ancient town of Burgos, where one of the oldest basilicas exists. Father Paul Bueter and I discussed the ornate beauty of the ancient building and chuckled at the thought that the basilica was serving Catholics well before our country was even founded.
That evening following our five course meal, some of our group ventured out to sight see in the night breezes. We stumbled upon a WYD celebration replete with concert singers, various groups adorned in their WYD costumes, dancing, flags and lights... oh, the lights! The colors were like a kaleidoscope on the side wall of the basilica.
One group of FW-SB young adults wandered through the streets of this fascinating town and stumbled upon a small chapel filled to over flowing with Eucharistic adorers. Now remember, this is after midnight! The pilgrims relayed that the priest in attendance held the Blessed Sacrament and blessed each person individually, including those outside the chapel and passersby. It was an inspiring and solemn sight for these faithful young Catholics from our diocese.
Gosh, I'm windy today, but I don't want you to miss one single experience that these young folks — the present and future of our Church — have encountered.
This morning following breakfast that was every bit as fabulous as our dinner last night, we congregated at the basilica for Mass celebrating the feast of the Assumption of Mary, with Bishop Rhoades blessing us on our pilgrimage of faith. This was the final day that we would officially share with the Diocese of Harrisburg and as we went our separate ways we knew we would encounter Christ in Madrid!
Our two hours bus ride to Madrid was a jaunt for us after traveling most of the day yesterday. The countryside remained awe inspiring as we prayed the Chaplet of Mercy together. And the excitement grew exponentially as we approached Madrid. What an amazing city this is. Beautiful and the people here are so nice. We landed at the hotel, Tryp Ambassador, and found that many of our rooms were not ready. So you can imagine the chaos that ensued. ("Think pope!")
I take my hat off to Cindy Black, director of the office youth ministry, for orchestrating the room rescue. The noise and frustration from the pilgrims were deafening and she never lost her cool. Kudos Cindy!
When we all finally had been assigned a room, we were free to walk about to find lunch. My group walked up the street to a little restaurant where we each enjoyed a variety of dishes. Paella was the favorite — but the pilgrims didn't try the white asparagus that Father Terrence ordered!
Meeting back at the hotel at 5:30 we hiked to our dinner destination as a diocesan group. It was a distance but great fun to tour the city. We saw some awesome buildings, both ancient and modern, and were excited to see the preparations Madrid had in place for us! Signs and speakers and so much more. The JMJ banners line the streets! JMJ, which we thought stood for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, really stands for "Journey, world, youth" which is "Jornada Mundial de la Juventud" in Spanish.
We arrived at the restaurant early so Father Drew and several others had the pilgrims singing on the streets! Our spirited group certainly attracted attention with their renditions of "Prince of Peace," "Blessed Be Your Name" and many more. I've not seen this kind of enthusiasm in youth for a while and it inspires me!
Dinner was a several course delight and following dessert of ice cream in a chocolate bowl we hiked to another hotel where we were given our WYD backpacks and T-shirts. I'm excited about carrying the backpack so that Madrid's population will know we are Catholics and proud of it!
Evening was open for exploration so I followed my group around to Plaza de Sol where groups of pilgrims from around the globe were dancing, singing and introducing themselves to each other. I met a young woman and her friends from Germany who offered me a pin. A member of my group traded it for a rosary she had crafted and the bond was formed. God is good! We walked by the cathedral and then back to our hotel where I sit now.
This trip has been jam packed with a flourishing variety of events and experiences that I still am amazed at. I am so blessed to witness this faith building journey. We have been praying for all of you as we continue to see God in all these happenings!
Now, on a lighter note, I don't want you to think that this is all serious stuff. So I'm posting some fun and silly shots. These are teens and young adults, you know. And a great bunch they are!
Check out the new videos as well.
WYD begins in earnest tomorrow with opening Mass, so we ask for prayers once again for a deepening of our faith during this incredible journey.