Written by Elizabeth Lent
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Wow, what a day. First thing I learned: do not abandon your group to go join some high school friends you see across the room at the Catedral de la Almudena. Turns out you will most likely not be able to find your group again and become lost in a completely foreign Palacio Real. Oh yeah, and you don’t realize this until after you’ve already left the high school friends… definitely panicked for a good twenty five minutes before being reunited at last, thank you St. Anthony!
Turned out to be a huge test of faith as well as humility. But the Cathedral was magnificent and filled to the brim with youth. First thing you would notice? The ceiling. Arches upon arches with gold trim; the simplicity made the Cathedral seem infinitely high. Eager crowds which had been rambunctiously waiting outside quickly became a prayerful wave of souls all pouring eyes over saint after saint and then spiraled up a staircase to venerate a pristine statue of the Virgin of Alumdena, displaying their country’s flag on the way for all to see to see.
Next stop, Calle Mayor—a main street which runs right through the center of town. Walking through many plazas, we were amidst a wave of colors. Every WYD group was dressed head to toe in patriotic wear and waving flags every which way. When we eventually reached Plaza Mayor, we were engulfed by singing, yelling, dancing, and chanting—all for the tremendous show of their country’s spirited participation. The peak of the excitement, or so we thought. At one point, we turned around to find a group of Italians racing towards us waving flags and yelling, “Italia! Italia!” The whole experience was really something.
Spending the rest of the afternoon exploring Madrid, we helped ourselves to some Tinto de Verano, or Sangria, and tried our first Spanish tapas. At 8pm began the opening mass, held at the Plaza de la Cibeles, a massive square…well, more of an odd shaped rectangle. Now, there were not just huge crowds here, there was a multitude of disciples. One ten minute stretch to get to the street was the equivalent of a mosh pit—every man for himself. It was actually insane. Followed by more singing, yelling, dancing, and chanting (this was the real peak of spirit), the mass began.
I knew to expect tons of countries at WYD, but I never fathomed the spirit and the reality of the faith that these young people literally all over the world are living in their daily lives. It was comforting and I felt very calm and relaxed for the rest of the evening, knowing that the fight against the secular society will be won. We are all together in this, we are all member of the One Church and no one can take that away.
Written by: Elizabeth Lent, Junior at University of Notre Dame and parishioner at Little Flower in Bethesda
Photos by: Elizabeth Lent