Highlights of our three days in the Spanish capital:
- Praying the Way of the Cross on Friday evening and hearing Pope Benedict speak to us for the first time! I was really moved by his words about suffering:
“Christ’s passion urges us to take upon our own shoulders the sufferings of the world, in the certainty that God is not distant or far removed from man and his troubles. On the contrary, He became one of us ‘in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way — in flesh and blood … hence in all human suffering, we are joined by One who experiences and carries that suffering with us…'”
You can read the Holy Father’s whole address here
- Singing hymns of thanksgiving under the stars
- Running into a priest-friend of mine from the States (remember Fr. Timothy?) on the metro. With 2 million pilgrims running around Madrid, imagine the chances!
- Walking the 5 km or so to the Cuatro Vientos airfield (and enjoying it!) as we watched pilgrims from all over the world marching and clapping and joyfully singing, “each of them in their own native language” (cf. Acts 2:9)
- Finding a group of friends from my mission year – some of whom I hadn’t seen in over 2 years! – in the multitude of 2 million pilgrims at Cuatro Vientos. What a precious gift, straight from the heart of Jesus!
- Listening to the Holy Father greet his “dear young people” in 7 different languages
- Adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament with the young Church and our beloved Shepherd. Hearing all those voices singing “Tantum Ergo” was, for me, a little glimpse of what Heaven will be like – when we will praise God with one voice…
- Camping out under an escalator (yes, on the floor) in the Barajas Airport. I know it sounds miserable, but we were just happy to be somewhere warm and dry, away from all that crazy weather!
- Mass in the airport chapel with lots of other pilgrims. We sang impromptu hymns in Spanish, Italian, Latin and English – another beautiful experience of unity in the Body of Christ.
- Running into yet another friend from my mission year in the airport! I have no doubt that the Lord arranged all these “chance meetings” with loved ones at WYD. He knew how much seeing them would refresh my soul!
Madrid was, in a word: unforgettable.
Click here for Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.
Filed under Photos, Travel
Highlights of our three days in the Eternal City:
- Admiring two famous Caravaggio paintings, The Conversion on the Way to Damascus (St. Paul) and The Cucifixion of St. Peter in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo. I was absolutely awestruck by their super-realistic, three-dimensional quality – photos simply cannot do them justice!
- Tossing my coin into the Trevi Fountain for the second time, in hopes of returning to Rome someday. Hey, it worked the first time!
- Visiting a gelateria (ice cream shop) that boasted over 100 flavors of gelato. Yes, please!
- Having gelato and espresso for breakfast… twice!
- Praying outside the Mamertine Prison, traditionally believed to be the place where Sts. Peter and Paul were imprisoned in Rome. Unfortunately it was closed, and we didn’t get to go inside.
- Stumbling upon the tomb of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, the “Beggar Saint,” in an out-of-the-way church we just happened to stop into. I’d learned about him during my mission year with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
- Praying at the tomb of Bl. John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica
- Visiting St. Paul’s Outside the Walls for the first time and praying at the tomb of St. Paul (Whoa!)
- Singing the Salve Regina with pilgrims from all over the world as daily Mass ended in Santa Maria Maggiore
- Climbing the Scala Sancta (the Holy Stairs) on our knees
Rome was, in a word: overwhelming.
Click here for Part One and Part Two.
Filed under Photos, Travel
Highlights of our five days in Córdoba:
- Staying with host families during our Days in the Diocese. I got adopted by a “host grandma,” and she totally spoiled me.
- Trying all sorts of traditional Spanish foods (thanks to my host grandma): tortilla española, salmorejo, gazpacho, paella mixta with little tiny octopi, and of course, HAM. (Side note: Spanish people eat LOTS of ham. LOTS. This article says that the average Spaniard eats five kilos of cured ham a year; that’s over eleven pounds!)
- Spending time with the priest who hosted us at his parish. What a humble, gracious, holy priest! He’s part of a new congregation called the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary that has a mission in Littleton, Colorado. (Any readers from around there?)
- Meeting a consecrated widow at the parish and being “introduced” (via telephone) to one of her best friends, a consecrated virgin! (For those of you that may be new to the blog, I’m currently in formation to be a consecrated virgin.)
- Befriending a few kids from the parish youth group – and being able to stay in touch with them thanks to the miracle of modern technology!
- Getting to see the famous Cathedral-Mosque of Córdoba, a.k.a. the “Peppermint Palace.” (Can you recognize it in the photos above?)
- Visiting a group of Carmelite hermitages in the hills overlooking the city that were almost 500 years old and going inside a real hermit’s cave! Unfortunately, there wasn’t a hermit inside of it… That would have been even more awesome.
- Taking an impromptu “night tour” through the city with our families and realizing that after only five days in Córdoba, we didn’t want to leave! When we finally did pack our bags and go, there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere.
Córdoba was, in a word (or two): like home.
Click here for Part One.
Filed under Photos, Travel
Inspired by my incredibly creative friend Maggie and her beloved “Clippings” posts over at Ten Thousand Places, I thought I’d try out a similar series of posts on this blog. Each Potpourri post will consist of a list of miscellaneous links, photos, videos, quotes, and/or other tidbits I came across during the week that I thought might interest you all. Let me know what you think!
- I just now got around to reading the Holy Father’s address to young women religious at World Youth Day in Madrid. LOVE this quote (emphases mine):
“Gospel radicalism means being ‘rooted and built up in Christ, and firm in the faith’ (cf. Col 2:7). In the consecrated life, this means going to the very root of the love of Jesus Christ with an undivided heart, putting nothing ahead of this love (cf. St. Benedict, Rule, IV, 21) and being completely devoted to Him, the Bridegroom, as were the saints… Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter. … In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.”
There were LOTS of young nuns at World Youth Day in Madrid!
- More good news from the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, TN: 1 sister recently made final vows, 15 novices made first vows in July, 24 received the holy habit and began their novitiate (including a friend from my hometown, now Sr. Malia Grace!), and 16 new postulants entered in August. Deo gratias!
- A spunky young blogger reflects on the journey that led her to enter the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI: “Why I’m Joining the Habit-Wearing, Rock Star Sisters” (Ha!) And just for the record, this is yet another proof that in the Young Catholic Church, “six degrees of separation” do not apply; it’s always more like one or two degrees. Exhibit A: Meris has just entered the same convent where a dear, dear friend of mine from college (Sr. Mary Martha!) just began her novitiate. Exhibit B: Meris’ high school friend, Brother James Claver, was a missionary with me in Honduras back in 2008. In both cases, it’s just one degree! Crazy!
- Meris’ friend Carolina, who also entered the Sisters of Mary this fall, has shared a beautiful “glory story” on her blog about the generous donors who paid off her student loan debt so she could enter the convent. Praise God!
- Clergy are ranked #1 on a list of the “Ten Happiest Jobs,” based on a survey conducted by the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago. I always love to hear the clergy that I know describe their job as “being a happy priest!”
Happy Seminarians. I have no idea who took this photo, but I just love it!
That’s all for now. Look for another I’m-so-excited-about-vocations! linkfest next week!
I have so much to tell all of you about our adventures en route to World Youth Day that even after spending three weeks “processing,” I find that I still don’t know where to begin.
First, I will say this: our God is so faithful that anytime we offer Him some very small thing with a generous heart, He responds with a tremendous outpouring of blessings that more than make up for whatever it was we sacrificed. This, for me, was the great lesson of our pilgrimage. I can admit that I was not exactly a happy camper sleeping on the rock-hard, freezing-cold floor of that church hall two nights in a row – nor was I pleased to wake up after each of those sleepless nights and find that coffee would not be part of our frugal “pilgrim’s breakfast.” And yet – now all I can think about are the ways God blessed my time in London. It was like that everywhere we went: a little discomfort, a few sacrifices, learning how to “do without” and not complain… and then WHAM! A shower of unexpected blessings. God is so, so good.
That being said, here is a very abbreviated narrative of our pilgrimage to London, Córdoba, Rome, and Madrid. How we were able to see so much of those cities in just two weeks is still beyond me!
Highlights of our two days in London:
- Learning about the School of Evangelisation at St. Patrick’s Church in Soho. Sounds like an awesome opportunity for young adults interested in being formed as missionary-evangelists!
- Meeting up with the Franciscan friar-priest who was my spiritual director during my mission year. We hadn’t seen each other since the last time I visited the mission (February 2010)! What a gift!
- Exploring the National Gallery, where we were able to admire dozens and dozens of pieces of breathtaking religious art. (That experience might merit its own post!)
- Being pleasantly surprised by the delicious-ness of the pub fare at The Sherlock Holmes Public House and Restaurant: fish and chips, bangers and mash, mushy peas, sticky toffee pudding… and, of course, an ice-cold pint of Guinness on tap!
- Strolling through the gorgeous flora at Green Park on our way to see Buckingham Palace.
- Eating lunch in Hyde Park on a gorgeous sunny day (a rarity in London).
- Recounting the story of the martyrdom of St. Thomas More as we stood before the Tower of London.
- Learning how to say the phrase “Mind the gap between the train and the platform” in a perfect (or near-perfect) British accent.
London was, in a word: delightful.
Stay tuned for Parts Two, Three, and Four!
Hello, everybody! I am back from pilgrimage, alive and well, still trying to get over jet lag and prepare for my first theology classes of the semester (which start tomorrow). As promised, I have lots of photos and stories to share, I just haven’t had time to post them. For now, I’d like to share a bit of the Holy Father’s reflection on his experience at WYD:
“I thank God for this precious gift, which gives hope for the future of the Church: young people with the unwavering and sincere desire to root their lives in Christ, to remain firm in the faith, and to walk together with the Church. …
“[T]he meeting in Madrid was, first and foremost, a marvelous demonstration of faith – for Spain and for the world. For the multitude of young people who had come from every corner of the world, it was a special occasion to reflect, discuss, exchange positive experiences and, above all, to pray together and to renew their commitment to root their own lives in Christ, the Faithful Friend. … For my part, I continue to accompany them in prayer, so that they might remain faithful to the commitments they have assumed. I entrust the fruits of this Day to the maternal intercession of Mary.”
The latest estimates say there were almost 2 million of us there. INCREDIBLE!
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray that the seeds planted in our hearts at this blessed event would bear much fruit!
You can read Pope Benedict’s reflection in its entirety on Zenit.org.
Early tomorrow morning I will begin my pilgrimage to the Jornada Mundial de la Juventud (World Youth Day) in Madrid, Spain!
For those of you who may not be too familiar with the history of World Youth Day, this neat video explains a bit about the origins of this unique event:
The group I am traveling with is being organized by a team of Catholic lay missionaries who took me on my first mission trip to Mexico when I was 17. We’ll be spending 15 whirlwind days as pilgrims in four European cities: London, Córdoba, Rome and, of course, Madrid.
We are packing light (only 1 backpack per person) and planning to “rough it” like true missionary pilgrims – and I would ask that you please pray with me that those sacrifices could help to prepare our hearts and to dispose us to really hear the message of the Holy Father when we “meet” him in Madrid. What a blessing! What a gift! We truly are so, so fortunate to have a pope who loves us so much.
Please also pray especially for the younger pilgrims in our group, that this would be a transformative experience for them, that it would be first and foremost a spiritual experience that would challenge them to embrace a deeper spirituality and a more authentic life of prayer.
I doubt we’ll have much Internet access while we’re traveling, so I’m not planning on posting much, if at all, while I’m gone. Look for plenty of posts (and pictures) when I return!
Please pray for me, as I pray for all of you –
I’m busy this week finishing a term paper for my Patristics class, but I just had to share this:
We young people owe so much to Blessed John Paul II! What a blessing that Pope Benedict chose to carry on the tradition of these “meetings” with the youth of his flock. We are so very lucky to have a Holy Father who loves us so much!