Friday, August 19, 2011
I think it’s nearly impossible to get anywhere on time during World Youth Day. You have to tack an extra hour onto the normal travel time for wherever you want to go.
Missed our train to Toledo, Spain this morning at 10:20 am. We arrived at the station at exactly 10:20am… so technically, we weren’t late. Decided to take the next train at 12:20 pm. The Refne Train is a commodity here in Madrid as it travels super-fast, making the hour long car drive to Toledo only 25 minutes.
While waiting for the next departure, we walked around town and purchased red and blue clothespins to decorate with U.S.A. mottos. Everyone at WYD has been trading buttons, flags, etc. and it turns out a lot of people want our American paraphanalia. As some of us forgot to bring trading goods, clothespins will have to do…
Toledo (Photo at right) was absolutely beautiful. Built on a hill, the city’s summit is a great cathedral. After crossing a bridge over a river moat and passing through the city’s great wall that surrounds the city, we made our way up the steep cobblestone roads to the cathedral. Inside the vast space with high ceiling and towering pillars, we were overcome by awe. Following along with a walking tour of the cathedral in a guide book, we learned some extremely interesting things—in the choir section scenes of sins were portrayed on the seats because nothing holy could ever be sat upon. Additionally, in the chamber room there were paintings of all Toledo’s bishops. The fun fact is that only the last two paintings were done as live portraits and looking closely you will see that every two or three bishops look strikingly (suspiciously) similar. Most likely the artists reused faces every so often.
The remainder of our day was spent exploring the streets of Toledo and then returning to Madrid for the Via de la Cruz (Way of the Cross). As could be seen on the big screen, the stations were intricately designed and stood on large floats. Different identified groups of pilgrims would carry a life size cross between stations. It was frustrating though, that I could not understand Pope Benedict’s address to the youth at the culmination of the ceremony. As we are in Spain, the Pope has been speaking Spanish and no translation for any other language is provided. I am going to have to figure out how to fix this because the Pope is the most important person here to hear! I have seen some other pilgrims listening to little radios in order to understand. Purchasing a mini-radio is now top on my priority list…other then getting some sleep that is.
After Day 5, I am wearing thin. The crowds are claustrophobic and smelly. I don’t even want to think about how many people I have touched and how many gallons of water I have sweated out (my apologies for probably unnecessary details). The early mornings and late nights after walking and standing all day throughout Madrid are making my head hurt. Staying in a room with fourteen other people and their stuff is not easy. And I haven’t made it to the Prado Museum or eaten Chocolate con Churros yet, both which I hear are must do’s.
Lord, I pray that tomorrow you may get our group through the 5 mile hike, which begins at 9:15 am, to the site where we will spending the evening and vigil celebration before the concluding mass Sunday morning. Give us Your strength to pull through as You did while carrying Your cross through the streets to Calvary. Make us brave and faithful youth for You. “Esta es la Juventud del Papa!” (This is the youth of the Pope).