Thoughts from a young theologian

Vacationing in Valencia


It’s official… Pilgrimage mode is over… sort of… Now I’m into tourist mode… I’m spending the rest of my week and a bit touring a little bit more of Spain, namely Valencia and Barcelona (the favorite city of my sister) before spending our last few days in Paris and flying back to Vancouver… I’ve already finished my stay both in Valencia and Barcelona and as I’m writing this post, I’m on my way (literally on my plane) to Paris… Let me summarize the highlights of Valencia for you here…

To end off my day in Madrid, my sister and I went to a soccer game in the nearby stadium that featured a game between Spain and the rest of the world… This game was the city’s way of saying thank you and goodbye to all the pilgrims who had come to visit them over the spectacular week of WYD… I think that most people were already exhausted from the final mass and from the whole week in general so the stadium was only half full… But it was still quite an experience.. For someone who comes from the part of the world where hockey rules EVERYTHING, it was a huge treat for me to see European soccer… And you could tell that these players weren’t amateurs either, just by the crisp way that they passed the ball around… I didn’t know any of them though and it wasn’t really announced who we were actually watching… At the end of the game, which the rest of the world won 2-1, they released hundreds of brightly colored balloons into the night sky, officially ending WYD 2011.

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The next day, my sister who was with a separate group (from Vancouver) and I travelled to Valencia, after meeting my brother at the Madrid train station… He had decided not to join us for the World Youth Day events and instead went backpacking throughout Europe with a few friends… We’ll be getting him to Rio for sure in a couple of years…

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Valencia, home of the famed architect, Santiago Calatrava and the birthplace of paella!!! From the get go, we didn’t stop eating… As soon as we got in late at night, we found out that our hotel had a relatively cheap buffet dinner and so we signed up really quickly and had a fantastic meal before bed… The next day, we toured the city of Valencia a little bit… We visited the central market, where we had a late brunch of, you guessed it… paella!!!

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For me though, the highlight of our first day in Valencia was easily the cathedral… The city was apparently home to several saints, including one of my personal favorites, the miracle worker, St. Vincent Ferrer… St. Vincent was soooooo renowned for his many miracles that he was attracting a bit too much attention to himself and his order that his superior asked him to stop working miracles… The story goes that after this, St. Vincent was walking on his way, I think to mass, one day and across the street were some workers working on the facade of a building on top of some scaffolding… One of them lost his footing and started falling to the ground and seeing the priest walking below, he cried out to him for help… The problem is that St. Vincent cannot work miracles and saints are very obedient… So he told the guy to wait up and the construction worker froze in place as he was falling down… St. Vincent then went to see his superior who, stupefied, asked him if he was there now and gave him permission to save him… Sigh… I love saints… This is the pulpit he preached from once…

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Saints aren’t the only thing to be found in this magnificent cathedral… Housed in a little chapel off the entrance of the cathedral is one of the most important relics in Christendom… Legend has it that this particular relic was brought to Spain hundreds of years ago to protect it from the Christian persecutions and was hidden in various monasteries when the Moors invaded Spain before finally remerging and being presented to the Valencia cathedral later on… This relic is none other that the holy grail… yes… the same one Indiana Jones was trying to find. According to legend, this particular grail is the same one used by Christ during the last supper!!!

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The grail has special significance for myself who’s discerning the priesthood because of literally what it means to be a priest… to act in persona Christi… By repeating the same words he said 2000 years ago, “This is my body… This is my blood…” we make present Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and the bread and wine before us are transubstantiated (wow… big word…) into His Body and His Blood!!! The Eucharist we receive today is the same Eucharist He gave His disciples during the Last Supper, the same Eucharist received by the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, and the same Eucharist received by the first disciples during the first masses in the crypts of Rome. It’s the same Christ… These are just a few thoughts that ran through my head as I was praying before the relic…

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The other slightly less major highlight from Valencia happened the next day when we visited one of its most famous sites, the set of buildings designed by Santiago Calatrava that appears most on wish you were here postcards and travel guides… the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias… We spent most of day 2 in Valencia touring this modern complex… We started with the Museo de Las Ciencias, a huge, Science-World like building with enough gadgets and exhibits to entertain children of all ages… My personal favorite, being a biologist, was the chromosome forest that showcased all 23 pairs of human chromosomes, including what genes are found in each and what they do in the most creative way I’ve ever seen… Look at what they did to demonstrate the length of the human intestine, for example!!!

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After the museum of science, my sister and I watched an IMAX movie about the Nile river on the building that looks like an eye, the Hemisfèric before ending our day and essentially our Valencian visit with the aquarium, Oceanogràfic. There, like in any other aquarium we visited, we watched the dolphin show, visited the sharks, rays and other tropical fish by walking through the longest underwater tunnel I’ve ever been in… We also checked out the penguins and walruses before finally calling it a day… It’s nice to just be a tourist!!! c”,) God bless until next time!!!

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