Thoughts from a young theologian

Barcelona


World Youth Day is not a vacation but a pilgrimage… I’ve been re-realizing that little by little the further into the travels I get and the closer to Madrid and the actual World Youth Day we get… How is it different? Well, for one thing, pilgrimages are 100x holier… The group that I am currently with make sure we get through a certain number of prayers everyday… We begin each day with the celebration of the mass in extremely exotic locations, such as the Shrine to St. Joseph in Barcelona on Friday, the crypt chapel (privately, I might add) of the Sagrada Familia on Saturday and the conventual mass with the Benedictine monks of Montserrat today (Sunday). I’ve added some photos of these spectacular places right here… I told you, I’d make up for once a month blogging…

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Shrine to St. Joseph

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La Sagrada Familia (Sorry, I don’t have a better picture of the crypt… I want to place photos with no one on it so that I don’t need to ask their permission to put up their photos on the Internet)

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Montserrat

Some of the highlights of the past few days:

Thursday:
We got to our late in the afternoon… After having travelled for pretty much the entire day, we were exhausted and almost everyone went straight to bed as soon as we got here… One of the other reasons I think this is not just a vacation is because of all the sacrifices we have to make traveling in such a big group of 50 people… And it’s guaranteed to get worse and worse as we get closer to Madrid and start growing more and more in numbers (up to the millions for this one). The weather in Spain is extremely hot and humid and we are all sweaty and stinky by the end of the day… In fact, you don’t even need to get to the end of the day before you get all sweaty… Often, 1 hour after you get out of your hostel (our first one was not air-conditioned either) you’re already all sweaty… But the problem is that we didn’t pack that many stuff because we’ll be moving around a lot, we follow a strict schedule so there are very rarely any “free days” and even if there were, you can’t go out on your own… It’s something that you just have to deal with being part of a bigger community where one really needs to be willing to sacrifice much of ones own comfort and desires for the greater good of the community… It’s one of the greater lessons of an event like this, and also one of the hardest to learn…

Friday:
After our first mass together as a group, we went shopping in the market together for our lunch, home made sandwiches made of French bread and some meat that we bought from the neRby charcuterie… We also bought some cheap but very good wine… The meal was fantastic and simple… Then, we all took the metro to Las Ramblas, the long and famous strip of Barcelona with all kinds of street vendors and performers… It kinda felt like a glorified Robson street with the center part of it closed to traffic… Hehehehehe I wasn’t too impressed with it but maybe it’s more because I’m not that big a shopper…

Near Las Ramblas, just off it in fact, is the Gothic Cartier of Barcelona where e streets are narrow and stores line the front of the buildings that are so close to each other… The streets open up into mini squares (or sometimes major ones) so one is reminded of how things might have been hundreds of years ago… It’s probably one of the best parts of Barcelona… While we were wandering these streets, my little group and I ended up in front of the Barcelona cathedral… It’s a magnificent building of I don’t know how old… Upon entering, we found ourselves in a little courtyard with an inaccessible garden in the center that housed, of all the strangest things I’ve ever seen in a cathedral, geese. I’ve attached a picture for you if you don’t believe me because I didn’t believe it myself… I had to rub my eyes and blink a couple of times…. I’m not sure why they’re there… It must have something to do with the history of the cathedral… Anyway, the cathedral was magnificent… It was undergoing renovations so we couldn’t access every part of it, but it’s everything a cathedral should be… We prayed together as a team in its nave before moving on…

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That night, a few of us decided to try and go to the Park Guell, the park designed entirely by Gaudi… We were supposed to go here our first night but because we arrived a little late and were super tired, we ended up not going… So we decided to make up for it that day… And it was well worth the wait… Gaudi’s art is really something… It was so much fun just walking around the park as a group enjoying each others company… It was too dark to really see everything and the museum was already closed but we did see some of the more famous sights, including the many pillared area… Hhehhehee it’s nice that this park was so near our hostel… Only about 10 minutes by foot…

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Saturday:
Continuing with the Gaudi theme, we visited his unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia… Because we were such a big group, because we’re not tourists but pilgrims, and because we were to celebrate mass in it’s crypt, we skipped the already long early morning lineup… The biggest surprise of the day was that after the mass, the parish priest (the priest in charge of the entire basilica) met with is and decided, after seeing how we were all young pilgrims on the way to world youth day, that he would give us our own special little tour of the basilica!! It was amazing!! because he’s the parish priest, he knows all the nooks and crannies of the basilica, and believe me, there are a lot of these… The basilica itself, regardless of whether one is Catholic or not is one that is designed to teach… Every part of it, pretty much has a reason… Part of the beauty of the Catholic faith is its sacramental nature where everything out there can be looked at as signs that point us to God… Being in the middle of the basilica, I felt surrounded by Catholicity in all its beauty… From the seven doors leading in that were themed, in a way after the seven sacraments, the stained glass windows with the great O antiphons of the days leading up to Christmas, the vertical Holy Trinity with Jesus on the cross above the altar, the red candles symbolizing the Holy Spirit surrounding Him and the light of the Father above them both in the dome of the basilica, and finally, the horizontal “trinity” of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, everything catholic was there… The entire mystery of our faith!!! Plus, having the parish priest with us had it’s own other advantages… He allowed us to sing out loud some songs (like the Our Father or a song to Mary, etc…) at the different parts of the basilica… Being a large group, we attracted a bit of attention from the other tourists with our songs but having the parish priest with us, no one bothered to stop us… In fact, there were times when the parish priest himself, while explaining to us certain aspects of the basilica broke out into song… The basilica is one way of man giving praise to God while song is another!! They came together perfectly that day… It’s definitely going to be one of the highlights of my entire journey…

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The afternoon, I spent with the other seminarian in our group and the two priests who are with us too… We had a fantastic lunch of paella near the basilica before visiting a couple of old churches and eating some gelato, all the while talking amongst ourselves… We ended the day praying the office of readings and vespers in the middle… yeah… that’s right… the middle of Las Ramblas… W just picked a spot, sat down and started singing… Did I mention these priests have a strong missionary heart? Hehehehehe After that, we met the entire group at a near basilica for an hour of Eucharistic adoration before calling it for the day…

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Sunday:
I’ll finish this one later on in a post with the Zaragoza stretch in it too… On Sunday, we officially left Barcelona and went to Montserrat before going to where I am now, Zaragoza… This is coming up next!!! Stay tuned!!!

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