Thoughts on WYD…a week later

I’m sitting at an outdoor cafe in Madrid sipping coffee and eating toast with tomatos smothering it.  I just spent the past few days in Rota at the southern end of Spain doing very little with a college buddy and his family.  Amazing how doing nothing can recharge and rejuvenate the soul.  Sure, I’m ready to get back home, but the past few days gave me time to rest and reflect.  WYD was intense, no doubt, so the time to rest was needed.  Also, the call to SIMPLIFY was quite clear.  I wasn’t able to put together an action plan as to how to do that while at the beach, but I’ll work on it on the flight home tomorrow.  It was enough to know that taking time to rest the body and soul are very important and should not be overlooked.  I find myself slipping into the busyness of each day and forgetting to take time to rest.  How delicious is it to not have a cellphone in my pocket or computer access at my fingertips!  Yes, these luxuries can help my life be more simpler, but they can also add layers of work and confusion.  Not having them allowed me to step back and confirm what I already know to be true.  It was a great reminder!  Something else I enjoyed was spending time with Joe and his family  He married a gal from Sevilla, and they ended up living there and raising their family there.  I, too, have a great family, and I’m always invigorated by spending time with them.  Perhaps I take them for granted from time to time, so not having them around and then enjoying Joe’s family reminded me of how blessed I am with my own family.  Also, it’s been fun to catch up with Joe as we went to college together many moons ago.  While we don’t see each other often, we pick right up where we left off when we get together.  Having close friends who genuinely care about me make my life richer and more balanced.  Spending time with Joe reminds me of that, too, and it makes me want to be the same kind of friend to others.

I return home tomorrow, and while the trip has been wonderful,  ready to get home.  We have some fundraiser projects as well as product updates to handle, so that’ll be quite fun.  We’ll be updating the website with a few more Catholic shirts, too.  The next trip will be to National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana in November.  That’ll be a fun roadtrip, let’s roll!

WYD Concludes in Madrid

The past few days have been a blur.  Let’s see.  I just returned from Lisbon, Portugal.  I left early yesterday morning for an 8 hour bus ride to ensure 2 groups got to the airport.  We stayed at the Chill Out Hostel (yes, really) last night after a great dinner and walk near the center of Lisbon.  They eat a little earlier in Lisbon as compared to Madrid, but I’m sure there are lots of differences even though both countries occupy the Iberian Peninsula.  Saturday found us heading toward the vigil with the Pope.  We left early Saturday morning and arrived at the huge field around 11 in the morning.  We staked a claim in front of one of the big screen tvs then fended our “turf” for the remainder of the day. There were well over a million pilgrims!  It was sooooo hot, too.  I didn’t know that shade could be a commodity, but it was.  So was cardboard.  The Bulgarians constructed an impressive shade structure late in the day.  Those most prepared brought tents and umbrellas.  Later Saturday night we had a huge wind and rain storm that knocked down several temporary buildings including the adoration chapels.  The Pope just sat there, enjoyed the chaos, blessed the rain, and soon it passed.  I was wrapped in cardboard and another covering, and somehow I didn’t get wet.  I fell asleep with a million of my closest friends Saturday night as we planned to wake for the mass at 9 in the morning.  At one point I woke up to complete quiet, and I was sure that I was dead.  The mass was shared and celebrated by all.  Powerful experience all the way around.  Around noon we finished, broke up into 4 small groups, then headed out.  We ended up walking 2-3 miles to a metro stop that was clear of people which was surely a miracle.  Later that day and evening was spent getting clean the getting dinner.  We packed and crashed early in preparation for our trip to Lisbon.

There are many thoughts on WYD.  First, the universal church is truly universal.  I met people from all over the world including Chad, Tanzania, Mexico, Bulgaria, France, Poland, and many more places.  How wonderful to be part of something like that!  Second, sleeping on the floor and taking the cold showers reminded me of the little things in my life that I have taken for granted.  I want to appreciate them and savor them a bit more.  Third, simplifying things is good and necessary.  Wanting things and needing things are very different.  Fourth, taking time each day for God is a must.  I like the peace my day has to it when I take time for daily mass.  I enjoy the rhythm and flow of prayer whether it be in song or through the rosary.  As St. Augustine reminds us “we were made for God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.”

I am in Madrid now and will take one more group to the airport tomorrow morning.  From there I’ll take the train south near Cadiz to visit friends before I return home.  The down time will be good to rest and reflect on the past days.  I look forward to it.

WYD Concludes!

Relaxing in the YIE office.  Long but fun weekend.  Mucho to share about it in the next few days.  The message over the past few days has been to be more Franciscan in my life.  What that means is that I need to continue to simplify in all areas of my life.  By simplifying, I am better able to hear God’s voice in my life.

Off to Lisbon tomorrow with 2 groups, and then I’ll return to Madrid on Tuesday.

More later…

Friday at World Youth Day, 19 Aug

It’s hard to believe that it’s Friday of World Youth Day!  I’ve met people from all over the world which proves the universality of the Catholic Church!  People from Tanzania, Nigeria, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and many more.  What a great time for the world to come together!  It’s powerful to see people trading trinkets and what not as well as talking or playing advanced games of charades.  The metro is usually pulsing with people and song, and the hot spots are truly happening with various activities from talks to concerts to processions.  Yesterday the Pope arrived in the Madrid center, and it was truly electric.  Tomorrow will find pilgrims walking enroute Cuatro Vientos which is southwest of Madrid center. There we’ll set up camp for the evening of prayer, song, and much more.  Sunday morning will be the ending Mass at 0900, so it’ll be a long day and night tomorrow. More

WYD, Thursday 17 Aug

Wow, what a whirlwind the past few days!  Let’s see, I departed the office on Monday afternoon to meet my groups at the simple lodging.  My group from Helena, Montana rolled in at the same time as Tacoma, Washington, and we got them both registered.  They had their packs, etc. at the school where we are staying.  However, the metro passes and food vouchers were at another location.  Not sure of the reasoning, but it was one of many things that made us shrug our shoulders.  Procuring those passes and vouchers took awhile, so Tacoma and Helena (along with Chula Vista) hopped the metro and rode into Madrid central!  What a way to learn the system!  We ate dinner using some borrowed vouchers from Steve at YIE (thank you, Steve!) then headed back to our school to sleep.  The vouchers are good for lunch and dinner with a basic breakfast (juice, milk, and a cake/cookie) served at the school where we sleep.  The pilgrim takes the voucher to a participating restaurant then gets an option from the pilgrim meal for lunch or dinner.  The Spanish culture usually means 2 hours or so for dinner, maybe more.  The idea of quickly eating isn’t popular, but everyone’s working to make it work.  Yesterday we headed to the Palacio for the opening concert with L’Angelus which was great!  Our group was a bit tired, but we got into it.  Helena headed off on their own to several adventures in Madrid.  From there we had lunch then took the overcrowded metro to be part of the opening Mass in the center of Madrid.  It was CRAZY!  People were from all over the world which gave true appreciation for the catholic (universal) church!  We had to wait about 2 hours for Mass, but it was worth it to celebrate that  Sacrament with so many pilgrims.  From there we went back to the Palacio on foot as the metro was closed and the streets were full of cheering pilgrims.  We ended up at our school after midnight.  Today was Catechism at the Palacio with talks on a variety of topics.  We ended our session with Mass with the Palacio so full that they had to close the doors since it was at capacity.  I went to communion with Father Steve Ryan, SDB, which made us both laugh!  I ran into him on retreat earlier in the year and randomly saw him today!  Small world!  Jason Evert spoke about “dating dos and don’ts”, and it was a great talk.  A break now then back to Palacio to meet with Tacoma then head back to our school.

One cool thing is seeing folks wearing CATgear shirts around Madrid!  I’ve seen the CATHOLIC shirts, some B16 shirts, and a few others, too.  Lots of comments on the ones I wear, too!

Another fun thing is to see old friends that I haven’t seen in awhile.  Father Tom from Davenport, Iowa, Father Steve from the Salesians, Melissa Annechino who’s one of the guides, etc.  I’m sure I’ll see many other folks, too!  One of the kids in my group has connections from Guam.  Turns out my priest there, Father Mike Dalton, married his parents!  Small world!

My groups chose simple lodging which means we have 100+ guys on the floor in a multi-purpose room.  Our showers are outside and hoses rigged with shower heads.  Let me tell you a story about cold water!  Wow, what a wake up!  Basically it’s like camping inside, and it’s just part of the experience!  I’ve met some great folks at our school already as all of the groups are  American.  Our Spanish hosts (Javier, Carlos, Monica, etc.) have been so gracious and accommodating!

World Youth Day Madrid, Monday 15 Aug

Well, the day is upon us.  Groups have been arriving on and off all weekend.  Mine arrives later this afternoon.  My clothes are washed and packed, and I head to the San Blas area with another guide, Jeff, later this afternoon to check in, leave my stuff, and get ready for my groups’ arrival.  We’ll check them in at the lodging then head into Madrid to see the important landmarks, meet other groups, and get some food.  I’m not sure how the logistics will work with regards to food, transportation, etc, but I do know how it’s SUPPOSED to work.  Groups will have meal vouchers to use throughout the week at area 2000 area restaurants and the all public transport will be free (already paid for).  With over a million pilgrims, these logistics could be sorely tested, but that’ll just make the experience that much more of, well, an experience.  There will be events every day of the week.  The highlight will be the hike to the Vigil Mass area on Saturday where we’ll sleep under the stars.  The Pope will celebrate Mass Sunday morning and send us out to the world to proclaim the Good News.  There’s lots more on the docket, so I’m sure I’ll have much to share.

The Catholic tee shirts have been quite popular.  Alvaro, one of the local guides, bought some of the Catholic t shirts that I brought with me.  He told me that Spaniards are not big on wearing clothes that promote their Catholic faith. Because it was something different, the Catholic shirts (Have You Talked To Your Mother Lately and B16) garnered lots of looks and comments.  It was encouraging to hear him say that!  A simple t shirt can help us evangelize our Catholic faith!

Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and we celebrate Mary’s assumption into heaven.  Mary’s role in salvation history is key (check out the Gospel of Luke) as she is the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.  At the wedding feast at Cana the wine ran out early and those in charge of the beverages went to Mary for her intercession.  She said “do whatever He tells you”.  Today we still seek Her intercession, and she still tells us “do whatever He tells you.”  At the crucifiction, Christ gives the Church to Mary and Mary to the Church.  Because she is Christ’s mother, she is also our mother.   Just like I ask you to pray for me, I ask Mary to pray for me, too.  Together, we unite our prayers and they are brought before God.  Mary, who is “full of grace” was assumed into heaven to return home, and today we celebrate her assumption.

Late on Sunday 14 Aug…in Madrid

It’s late here, relatively speaking.  When you throw in the midday siesta and a Madrid v. Barca football game, things get going late in Madrid.  I’m going to stroll through Plaza Sol on my way back to the hostel to get some sleep.  Tomorrow will be a big day as I move to the simple lodgings and meet my groups later in the evening.  We’ll do some recon in the local area, tackle the metro, and just get them into the swing of things here.

The weekend has been quite busy with prepping the WYD backpacks for the incoming pilgrims in our groups.  We handled 1000+, so it was quite taxing but oh so fun to work together!  The guides blew off some steam dancing and singing at a local pub, so that was quite enjoyable.  Mass continues to be a great daily interaction with God.  I’ve enjoyed the daily Mass and quite time to rest and reflect my soul.  Amazing how well the day goes when I take the time to enjoy Mass and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  Powerful stuff.  Last night’s reading was from Joshua, and he was reminding all the tribes of Israel that “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Easy to say, tough to do on a regular basis.  Yet, it’s a decision that I need to make every single morning before I get out of bed.  Lord, will I serve You today….or not?  Yesterday is past, and tomorrow is not guaranteed.  God makes us to return to Him, and we meet Him in the Sacraments as often as we like.  The decision to serve Him is mine and mine alone.  I find that when I surround myself with positive and drama-free folks that it is easier to say YES to serving Him.  When I immerse myself in the Sacraments and make time to be quiet and in His presence, then it’s easier to say YES to serving Him.  World Youth Day in Madrid will be another opportunity to surround myself with a million or more pilgrims who are seeking an encounter with Christ!  Exciting times!  Yet, tomorrow morning will be here soon.  Will I say YES to serving Him?

Food for the Journey

Grandma Rosa would say “some eat so they can live but we live so we can eat!”  It’s true, that’s how our family rolls.  I’ve posted several pics on Facebook (CATgear–pages) for you to enjoy, and several included pics of the food I’ve enjoyed since my arrival in Spain.  The tostillas are like an omelette but lighter and thicker.  The tostado is a big piece of toast with tomatos, olive oil, etc.  This morning I had tostada with tomatos and olive oil slathered over it.  I chased it with a good strong coffee (cafe con leche) with a splash of sugar.  The cokes are made with real sugar and more carbonation (I believe), so they taste smoother.  Vino tinto is basically red wine mixed with carbonated water or orange juice and ice cubes to chill it.  The sangria is fruitier but either drink is very, very good.  Even the bread and butter tastes better!  Bottom line, the food is wonderful, and I’m trying all of it!

Interesting that food ties in so well with our Catholic faith.  Besides the fish fry or soup kitchen during Lent, food is always part of just about every religious feast, wedding, and celebration.  We also see food mentioned many times in Sacred Scripture with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, grilling the fish with Peter and the other disciples, and more.  Jesus also tells us that He is the “bread of life” on several occasions, and in John’s Gospel, Chapter 6, we find even more.  It is through the Sacrament of the Eucharist that we eat His body and drink his blood.  This is the NEW COVENANT.  Like the marriage covenant, we become so one with Him that we say “YES!  AMEN!  I DO BELIEVE!” and by taking him body and soul we connect ourselves to Him.  He truly is the bread of life.  He who comes to Him shall not hunger.  Never hunger?  Really?  Yes, really.

More thoughts on WYD

It’s Saturday early afternoon in Madrid.  I’ve been here since early Tuesday morning, and the time has flown by.  Yesterday a small group of us did a recon trip to the  San  Blas area of Madrid which is just northeast of the center.  I thought I could walk it, but the metro is the way to go for sure.  Joann and her group are staying at a church, Regina has a 5 star hotel, and Tomas, Colleen, Jose, Jeff, and I are staying at simple lodging.  Simple lodging is just that….simple.  We’ll be staying at Gomez Moreno which is a secondary school.  We’ll sleep on the floor, use hoses or rudimentary showers, and basically camp inside.  It’s all good since we’ll be at the various activities most of the time anyways. Also, there will be other groups staying at the same locale, so we’ll be able to share the experience with pilgrims from all over.  We saw the outside of the school but not the actual lodgings, so pics and description to follow.

Upon returning, we had Mass at the local church then had a jam session outside that was captured by the Madrid media.  From there we came back to the office which is a 3 bedroom apartment.  I’m there this minute, and it’s a gathering place for the guides, YIE staff, etc. so it’s been a perfect place to meet and gather.  Marino Respato shared his testimony.  He had led a life in the darkness and chased all things material.  He grew up in Columbia and ended up in Los Angeles.  During a trip to Columbia he was kidnapped for six months.  While captured he had an epiphany, and when he was miraculously released he completely changed his life.  His message was deep, very deep…way too deep for me.  However, a few things he said resonated with me.  He spoke about how living in the dark means living for Satan and living in the light means living for Christ.  When we sin and KNOW and FEEL we sin that means we have been living in the light and have moved to the darkness.  Through the Sacraments and God’s grace, we return to Him…and He rejoices.  When we sin and DO NOT KNOW or FEEL it that means we have been living in the darkness.  We think the sin is okay, and we continue to live in the darkness.  We do not seek God through His Sacraments, and even though we think we are living for God….we are not.  Heady stuff, but it makes sense to me.  The best part is that through God’s grace and the Sacraments of the Church we can return to Him.  He made us for Him, and He wants us to return.  The choice, of course, is ours.

 

WYD Thursday evening 11 Aug

What a great day!  All the guides gathered and took the subway to one of the key sites for World Youth Day for the North American groups.  From there we took the subway to the American Embassy should someone lose their passport whilst in Madrid.  Several of us went back to the Deportes to recon the local area for places to eat, grab water, etc.  We ate lunch there, too.  The meal was delicious with tortilla and Spanish fries along with vino tinto.  Great food and great conversation!  From there, we walked back to the office by way of the Retiro Parque which is Madrid’s version of Central Park.  The flowers are in bloom, the grass is cut, and the Parque is ready for the influx of pilgrims. More

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