Sunday, August 28, 2011

Images from World Youth Day

Adoration. It's a gift to be allowed to sit before Our Lord.

Knock and He shall answer. (From our day trip to Toledo, Spain)

We all have gifts from the Father. Cardinal George's gift, besides his award winning smile -- polio. Think about it.

The relics of St. Theresa of Lisieux.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Post Trip Entry 1

As I mentioned yesterday, we'll continue posting here after our return just to see how the influence of World Youth Day is being spread throughout our community. Oh me, first -- why not...

It was a quiet, slow and steady reentry, emptying backpacks, collecting treasures, starting the laundry, that is, until I sorted through the mail. There it was, a letter from the cemetery. I opened and voila my job was gone. They handed over my responsibilities to the administrative assistant. "Thanks for getting the process started," was the closing remark. But I loved my job. I loved every part of my job: the data entry, the research and discovery, the tender customer service. Loved, loved loved.

So what does World Youth Day have to offer in this situation? WYD tells me not to worry. Jesus, and His Mother, have a plan for me. There is someplace else I need to be. Someone else I need to reach out to. And it's okay. For when one door closes another will open.

I believe.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Adios Espana - Part Two

Reflection continued by David
(Truth be told, David provided this excellent reflection in one part, but the typist's eyes could only stay open for so long...)

This was a challenge for us and for the Spanish residents as well. I gained a new appreciation for the difficulties experienced by those who come to our country and have to deal with english as a new language.

As expected, we met people from all over the world. We traded our trinkets for their's, and took pictures with each other. Everyone was extremely nice. For example, when someone sneezed, they got 10 to 20 loud, "Bless You," instead of the single mumbled, "Bless You," you might get at home.

Pope Benedict
The Pope was definitely the central figure for the whole trip, as one might expect. Large crowds formed wherever he was expected. And upon his arrival they would go wild, shouting "Benedicto," and other chants in unison.

So how do I wrap it all up? By saying we accomplished our mission. We have all gained in our faith, and witnessed things we can bring home and share with others.

Firmes en la Fe.
Firm in the faith.

Adios Espana

Reflection by David

I am sitting on the plane, writing this. Our journey, a pilgrimage not a vacation, is coming to an end, and we are returning home to our friends and loved ones to share our experiences.

How do I summarize all that we have seen, done and felt in the last several days? Its not easy, we've experienced a lot.

Cathedrals, basilicas, and churches of many kinds
We celebrated Mass everyday, and never in the same place twice. Many times it was in an art-filled Basilica or Cathedral, but sometimes it was in a hotel meeting room or even outdoors. This size of the congregation varied from 25 to 1 million+ people, but God's presence was felt strongly at each one.

This was more of a challenge that I expected. While there were small restaurants everywhere in Madrid, the menus did not exactly appeal to our hamburger and pasta loving youth. The adults had likes and dislikes as well. But by the middle of week one we learned to adjust and compromise. Everyone ate well, one way or another. And we drank lots of water.

A country with lots of beauty on the "inside." While the outdoor architecture in Madrid and Barcelona is very impresive, the most overwhelming architecture is inside the many cathedrals and basilicas. Father Matt told us that people are like M&Ms or letters: The best part is on the inside. I think the best part of Spain is on the inside as well; inside their churches, which show the love and devotion of the Spanish people for the Catholic faith.

One thing that I got from this pilgrimage is a better understanding of the church and especially the Virgin Mary. Spain has a very special relationship with Mary, and she became a central theme for the entire trip.

She has inspired beautiful works of art throughout the country and the Spanish speaking world. And we were privileged to view a few of them.

Editors Note: More of David's insights will be posted later.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why Not Read All of Us

First our fearless leader, Leslee: Today we ascended a mountain and met the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Montserrat. This is an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. James, the apostle. What an experience. The youth working together to open up their WYD faith experience was terrific.
Paul: Today was out last full day in Spain. It flew by so fast and I could have stayed another whole day at Montserrat. Everyday in Spain seemed shorter and shorter. I am so glad Jesus sent me here.

Joanne: That (the bus ride to Montserrat) was the most horrifying bus ride ever. Just a guard rail separated us from a 3000 foot drop over a cliff. And our bus was not going slowly around those curves.

Matty: Some not nice "catholic" devil stole my candle that I purchased, lit and placed on the candle rack... Thank you Joanne for jumping with me. It made me feel better.

Sean: Today we went around and had done reflections about what we had gotten out of the pilgrimage. We had several different things that we took out.

Terrence: I really enjoyed the bus tour. Seeing all the cool landscape and sitting with my pal, Patty.

Jeremy: As our trip was winding down today we took some time this afternoon to reflect upon our pilgrimage to present it this evening to the rest of the Boston group. I feel like I am ready to take what I have learned along this pilgrimage to bring it back home to help strengthen our parishes faith.

Vandella: Today I was told to wake up at 7 but I didn't have to get up until 9. I was very unhappy. I also got a part in our skit. I say, "This is a phone."

Editorial Note: St. George won the take away lesson skit contest. Free ice cream for all! YAHOO! Vanessa: Today was really cool. Montserrat was amazing. My favorite part of today was seeing all the candles lit before entering the church.

Paula: Our trip to Montserrat was unbelievable! The bus ride up the curvy road showed some beautiful sights which led to getting there. In the gift shop, I purchased a St. George statue- the patron saint of Montserrat. We saw beautiful stained glass windows in the monastry. Prior to going into our Mass, pilgrims from Italy approached Jeremy who were also from St. George! It is sad to see our pilgrimage end when I feel we have come together so far in our faith.

David: Our trip concluded as it began, with a side trip to a hilltop church, Montserrat. God provided the beauty on the outside and inspired that on the inside. The best part of the day was a discussion among us of what we will take home from the total pilgrimage experience. We all thought of something unique, but each was valid.

Patty:Today was another great pilgrimage day of growing closer to Christ through His Mother at Montserrat. The most remarkable time for me was reciting the rosary on the bus ride. I sat with Terrence. Old and young, we prayed to Our Mother.

Tomorrow we fly home. David will have the blog helm. But before what may be our final post allow me to thank you for stopping by and experiencing this wonderful World Youth Day with the St. George Parish Dragaroos. All of God's blessings be with you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Barcelona brought to you by Terrence

This morning I woke up late being able to sleep in and went down to breakfast. I must have been blinded by the wonderful dinner last night because this breakfast fell short of it. We went for a dip in the neighboring roof top pool before coming back to the Aragon to change for lunch. Lunch was cut short, and I didn't get to finish as we had to get back to the hotel for a bus tour of Barcelona. It was such a busy day.

At the end of the tour we went to the Basilica of the Holy Family. It has been under construction since 1820, and won't be finished until 2025.
So it has a long way to go. However even under construction it is quite beautiful.

The story of the church is interesting. And most of the work is being done by hand and costs a lot of money. Most of the money used is donated from the visitors.

After our tour we had Mass in the crypt. Which was said by our fearless leader, Fr. Matt. He gave a heartfelt homily. Which spoke to me on being yourself and letting people see you for what is inside you and not for what is on the outside. For God loves us for what is inside of us and for our faith and not for the clothes we wear or the things we do.

Our day was slowing down as we made our way back to the hotel and then out to navigate the Metro to the beach, on the Mediterranean Sea. Where we dipped our feet into the water.

Afterwards we had a relaxing dinner, followed by a little ice cream before heading off to bed.

Vandella's Reflection on Our Travel Day

Yesterday we took an eight hour bus ride from Madrid to Barcelona. Along the way we stopped at the Basilica. We prayed the rosary and listened to the homily delivered by the Pope at the vigil Mass.
When we arrived at the hotel, the Catalonia Aragon, we first had Mass, went to dinner and finally checked into our rooms. Nessi and I have a room with only one bed. Being first born, I snagged all the covers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

We're Here!

Today is suppose to be brought to you by Vandella. But after traveling for 12 hours by bus, with stops, I don't believe anyone is any real form to write. Yes we are in Barcelona. We heard the Holy Father's homily, in English, during the bus ride and we recited the rosary. Lovely. We also stopped at the Basilica of the Pilar where Mary our Mother appeared to St. James. There we offered prayers for our parish. The basilica is breath taking, and I wish we had more time for prayer and picture taking.

Good night everyone and hopefully we will be back on blog track tomorrow.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Camping Out For God

Reflection by Matty and Terrence

It was quite the hike out there. The Metro was extremely snuggly. But well worth every stop and wait for Paul. At the air field we pitched camp at the side of the road, as there was no room in the section for us. It was a lovely hot day until the whipping devil of a wind came upon us.

We were at the hot dog stand buying food when the wind came up. So we crouched behind the counter and consumed our wieners. The winds were so powerful it was knocking down tables. Matty nearly got killed by flying napkins. But we survived.

As Terrence slept like a brick, Matty aided our delusional young adult until he went and bought more wieners. Then after a 5 AM trip to the bathroom Matty finally became sleeping beauty and woke up two hours later to trek back to the hotel. Terrence woke up at 5 AM, after Matty finally went to sleep. Later on Matty was asked to sit at Cardinal Sean's table for our last meal here in Madrid.

A note from Joanne:
To be honest, Adoration didn't really happen for many of us. We were too pre-occupied with our impending doom by tornado. But the sense of community that I felt with the Italians was awesome. Here I was in this group that the Italians had already yelled at, and yet Giovanni was the first one to come over and help me, proving that it doesn't matter if there are past conflicts. In addition, I really felt what it was like to be one of the homeless people here in Madrid (or elsewhere, really). We were sleeping on one of the main roads in the airfield, so people kept walking by and talking loudly....and smoking. Gross. So, like the homeless people sleeping in doorways, nobody cared if they woke you up. In addition, we were next to a massive ball of light which made it extremely difficult to fall asleep. It was also pretty cold, and it was difficult to keep wrapped in a blanket while also trying not to touch the dusty ground. I ended up leaving with the Revere team at around 6:30am because I knew I couldn't make it in the sunlight and the crowds, so I came back and took an AWESOME SHOWER and then watched/slept through the mass on tv in our hotel's breakfast room.
Lastly: Dear Parentals, if Mom is not working on Friday, could we have crockpot chicken and mashed potatoes? :D Dan, if you aren't working, want to come too??

The Road Less Traveled

Reflection by Vanessa

With the heat, my sister, Vandella, and I decided to stay back at the hotel and not hike out to the overnight. We figured we would have a free day. Instead we went to the Prado and saw The Face of Christ exhibit. It was cool.

And there was a dragon table that had a lot of designs and lions. That was cool too.

We tasted some really good vanilla gelato and hit up a Spanish Adoration. The tabernacle was really pretty. And then we returned to the hotel and watched the prayer service and Adoration with the Pope on TV. We felt so badly for the people who went because they were sitting in the middle of an airstrip in the mud.

I'm glad I came to Madrid for this pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage Day

Reflection by Leslee

Well, Pilgrimage Day is here!!! We made it to the air field - Section E3. We have a jumbotron in front of us and a roadway behind us and beside us - hoping maybe it will be one of the roads the Pope will travel. Oops! Time out...OK I'm back.

(Here's the aside. And a disclaimer - she is OK.) Joanne has just developed a new way (and very effective I might add) to meet the attractive young Italians next to us. An anixety attack, mixed with the amazing heat of the day and whammo - down she goes.

Three young Italian gentlemen began fanning her, holding her hands and providing water. They even supplied a great air mattress for her to "rest" upon. After 20 minutes or so of fanning, hand and foot massaging, Mentos to bring up her sugar level, a visit from the WYD volunteers for their assessment of whether medical treatment was necessary as she was beginning to regain her stamina. Just so you know - in the mist of all this attention - she looks at me and with speech like having a mouth full of cotton, saids "You have to include this in you blog." I said "OK" - subtitled: "How Joanne meets the Italian." I do foresee a facebook friendship or two. Wow, this kept us busy while we waiting for the Pope.

As I continue this blog, I am watching the jumbotron with the WYD cross being brought to Pope Benedict. He is listening to the youth of the world offering their faith stories and asking him questions. It is starting to rain abit. Mmm...this truly is a pilgrimage not a vacation.

So let's backup to this morning we celebrated Mass at the Basillica of San Francisco. Cardinal Sean was the presider. This church was magnificant. As we sang, our voices resounded throughout. It is fantastic to hear the rising of their voices in song. Prior to the Mass, we placed our parish banner at the altar and prayed for our parishioners.

Due to the heat, the group was offered a choice to do the walk or stay at the hotel and watch coverage on the TV. Two of the group elected to stay at the hotel and ten of us ventured off.

The heat was incredible - water, water, water. Once we arrived and found our section we knew we would be taking the Metro back rather than walking. We gathered our food and checked out the lay of the land.

Finally Pope Benedict arrived and began the evening's Benediction service. Oops, another interuption - a downpour but it was annouced that the Pope would wait out the rain. And he did. Adoration and Benediction was celebrated. The Monstrance was totally unbelievable - gold, ornate and huge. The youth of the world, the crowd, was present and silent in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. And then the rains came. High winds took down the roofs of several of the chapel areas and the huge jumbotron in front of us actually turned sideways. The high winds swirled the sand and grit all around us, at us and into us. Power outages occured. Everytime it stopped and we cleaned up, it would rain again. Finally we just gave in and went to sleep on wet mats with whatever covers we had. Oh yes, we are on a pilgrimage - not a vacation. "Holy Father, the youth of the Church are here."

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Good" Friday - Stations of the Cross

Reflection by Sean

Today we started off the day slow. We had a chance to sleep in this morning to give people a chance to rest for the journey to the air field tomorrow. People had the opportunity to eat anytime from 7:30-10:30, but some people had never come down at all from our group. From this sleep in we had a mass downstairs in the hotel itself from a priest from the Boston archdiocese. It went for half an hour with it ending at 12:30.

Afterwards we went to see models of the stations of the cross. We got to walk the path in which the actual stations would be done later. These stations of the cross were not similar to ours at St. George. They were models of the stations that were in three dimensions, being a good fifteen or so feet from the ground up. It made a beautiful display. During the time in which we walked the path, we did a modern prayer of "The Way of the Cross." We said prayers for those specified for each station, as well as all of you at our parish.

We then stayed until the actual stations of the cross were put on by performers. We hadn't had lunch before we went, so Jeremy, my dad, and I went to grabbed 12 lunches at a restaurant in which we had eaten before, V.I.P.S. The lunch consisted of sandwiches, pasta salad, an apple, and our much needed water to beat the heat.

Our location had been selected under some nice shady trees which gave plenty of space for all. Our neighbors consisted of the Philipines, the UK, and some South American countries. We had some very nice conversations with them, which consisted of a variety of topics. A few of us even traded items with them!

The stations of the Cross started, and we all had a good opportunity to see the Pope from our seats. Joanne and I walked a little closer and got a good picture of the Pope, as well as the stations. It was different than the last time in Sydney. At each station there were people elevating a cross who were persecuted as Christ. It brought sadness to my eyes when seeing through their eyes how life is. The cross is a burden to us all, yet we always get up and walk on. Life is about getting up, like Jesus did when he fell those three times. We all go down this journey at some period in our life. But, in the end we make things better. Jesus had sacrificed himself willingly, going through his pain and humilation for you, so you have his blessing always on your shoulder there. Always remember what he did for you. May you all be blessed for that. Amen!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is it really a pilgrimage?

Ah, the beauty of being the "blog master." When the mood strikes, I can insert a post or two... All week I had been waiting for my day to blog. The title was going to be, "Really, I'm not in charge." For the youth are finding it funny to say, "Patty's in charge." To which I and every other adult says, "No, (I'm) she's not." But to the point, is this a pilgrimage? After all aren't we in Madrid with air conditioning no less.

All true, but in every sense of the word, we are on a journey where we are all allowing God to reach deeper into ourselves than we ever have before. In the Madrid summer (drier than home) 100 degree heat, where deodorant lasts the first 15 minutes of the day, we are walking longer, standing longer, singing louder (all of us), praying and sharing more than we ever dreamed we could. We are listening, learning and growing Firm In Our Faith.

We are a pilgrim people. St. George parish, be very proud of your young pilgrims. I am. And, I'm not in charge. God is.

Double Header Thursday

Reflection by Patty

It's 11:11 PM and we just finished dinner. I'm racing to get this blog composed and posted before the clock strikes 12 signalling the start of tomorrow. Oh tomorrow, don't come too soon. I still haven't fully processed today.

Today we mastered the METRO. Riding it to hear Cardinal Sean speak at Parroquia de San ANTONIE de CUATRO CAMINOS. There was not a pew nor a square foot of flooring that was not occupied by a pilgrim.

The Cardinal spoke on being established in Jesus Christ. He said that when the apostles followed the Lord they had secret ambitions. But listening to Jesus had a big effect on them. Transforming them to be more like Himself. Cardinal Sean also reminded us that the Acts of the Apostles are not something that stopped just about two thousand years ago. They continue with us today.

Next up was Our Holy Father's arrival. Just how do you jam 2 million extra people into a 4, okay maybe 6 city block area? Very tightly. We left the hotel at 4:30 for his 7:30 arrival. It's only a 10 minute walk, but 2 million other pilgrims were also looking for a place to call their own for Pope viewing.

How does one travel within such a mass? Like a snake, holding on to the person in front by their backpack loop. And wouldn't you know it all the best spots were taken. The group settled on a location directly in front of a tower of speakers. Stepping very close to Mrs. Willitts I spoke over the music, "If you stay here, I'm going to have to leave the group. I'll have a headache in another minute." The group voted to stay, I waved good bye and set out to find quieter viewing. Ah the advantage of being an adult on pilgrimage.
Amazingly the perfect spot I found was the same exact spot we had for the opening Mass. I shared a 5 foot by 5 foot piece of searing black top with some French, Italian and Spanish pilgrims. We stood for 2 hours, in the heat. WYD volunteers sprayed the crowd with fire hoses. Quite refreshing actually; not being able to move much more than shifting about our feet. It was a party atmosphere with each group, (not me), yelling out their national chant for the Pope. It was magical with the French pilgrims learning and then initiating the Spanish cheer and the Italians were leading off with the French. And the Spanish joined in with them all and kept up all laughing. It was great to watch the cultures blend. For we are one body, one body in Christ. We waited and waited. I had my camera poised. The road was just feet in front of me. I should be able to get a shot. Unfortunately the Pope did not arrive on that road. Instead he came into the square by another route. A bit dejected, I started to find another location where I would be able to view the giant jumbotron. And as I squeezed my way through the crowd who should call my name? Leslee... They had moved on as well.
The Pope entered in to the square by a different road, got out of his popemobile, and was presented the keys to city and such. And then I noticed he was back in his car. Really was it over? No praying? NO, he was being driven along the crowded streets. Yahoo! The Pope was coming! The crowds went crazy. He was right there in front of us.
After his quick trip blessing the pilgrims, the Pope returned to the altar to preside over a prayer service where he urged us to become firmly rooted in Christ. He told us God has always loved us, no questions asked, and it is up to us to turn towards God. Tomorrow is the Stations of the Cross. Where God shows us the infinite levels to His love.

Blessings to you all.