Moved to tears meeting with Pope
Madrid - week in review
Bethany Lentern, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Schools WYD Coordinator, reflects on the pilgrims' week in Madrid...and the moment she touched the hands of the Pope.
The week has been incredibly busy, hot, crowded, hot, noisy, hot and did I mention hot? A number of our pilgrim are struggling with the heat and with no surprise. Luckily, we have two doctors with us who've been life savers in keeping us all in the best possible shape.
So to sum up the week, on Monday we left Israel. We started off with Mass in a church that was simple yet beautiful. It was surrounded by ancient olive trees and very peaceful. After this we learnt our flight was delayed by two hours (which later became three hours) so they took us to an Elvis-themed restaurant which was clearly not used to serving 175 people at once but did remarkably well. After this, we made our way to the airport which, as expected, was a nightmare. We had to have our passports checked, then our checked baggage scanned, then several of us (including yours truly) were questioned and had our bags checked. Mine was because of my bible.
Once they asked if I had a book and I said yes, they asked what, I said a bible it was all fine.
After this we checked in, they had to take our bags (backpacks are luggage) to be checked, then clear customs. It was quite a process!!!
The part I found somewhat ridiculous is that their system is to put a sticker on your bag when your passport is checked and then keep scanning it as you process the system. If it falls off, you have to start over.
Oh well, what's travel without some airport drama?
We finally got to our accommodation in Madrid after 2am then had to distribute keys, bags, passes, etc. The good news is we had a minor sleep in as our first event was the Australian Gathering at midday.
With 4,000 Australians it was quite a party. I saw a few people I know which was incredibly exciting.
Tuesday afternoon was the Opening Mass. It was much crowded than I thought the first main event would be. I heard later on there were between 1.5-2 million. After Mass, Jonathan and I went to visit the cathedral which was closed, (before 10 and in Spain during WYD? I don't know what’s going on there) bumped into some Parramatta pilgrims, and found a random flash mob style dance thing happening. It was most entertaining to watch.
Wednesday morning the group went to catechesis then all over the city.
I spent the day at my Papal Arrival rehearsal. We arrived at 11:30 and learnt we would be there till 7pm. We wound up finishing at 6pm, but had spent all but one hour in the sun rehearsing our clapping, standing, walking, waving, etc. The good news is I can clap like a pro now.
The frustrating bit was if we moved to the shade they told us to move back to our 'first position' which was in full sun of course. We would then stand and wait for them to work out what they were doing.
At the end of the day I was wrecked, a lot of the other pilgrims there didn't have water with them or sunscreen so I was trying to share mine without running out myself.
Thursday morning the group went to catechesis, I went off to get my accreditation and enter lock down for the Papal arrival.
With four Kiwis and three Aussies representing Oceania, we were to be joined with reps from each continent in front of an arch, with one delegate from each continent standing where the Pope would walk in.
After we got there in the morning we were transported by bus to one place, walked to another, then another, then to Puerta alcala (alcala gate) to rehearse (again!) and believe it or not, they changed what we had to do. Let me tell you, this caused a lot of confusion!!!
Finally, we finished rehearsing, went to one backstage and ate, went to another backstage and sat there for a few hours. We then moved again to Puerta alcala at 4:30pm and cooled our heels there for a while.
While waiting we started a few Mexican Waves with the crowds, danced, got an Aussie group to scream out ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’, the Benedicto chant and another one that roughly translates to 'we are the young people here to support the pope'. Of course we also had some 'Viva el Papas' thrown in for good measure.
Meeting the Pope 'instilled in me a great sense of peace, energy and spirit'
As you may be aware when the Pope walked past we actually got to meet him.
We were originally told this wouldn't happen, so it was an incredibly crazy but overwhelming moment. I had my arm grabbed and was just shoved forward.
They had made me wear the cork hat and then when I went to take it off they wouldn’t let me. Maybe they were trying to make me look Australian?
What can I say about meeting our Holy Father? His hands are way unbelievably soft, his smile is infectious and when he smiled at me, it felt as though I was the only one he cared about at that point in time.
His eyes are amazing, very peace-filled and he just seemed to glow with the Holy Spirit. In many ways, it was like Sr Hilda from jamberoo (one of the shiny people) but even more than she is.
After meeting him I found myself moved to tears, I was just so overwhelmed by this gentle, simple man who had to ask for directions on where he was meant to walk, laughs quietly, takes time with young people, had the Pope Mobile windows open despite the recent protests, etc.
Meeting him was incredible. I felt sick all day Wednesday, worried I'd stack it (let's face it, how often I fall down stairs, walk into furniture, etc) or something else stupid. Meeting him instilled in me a great sense of peace, energy and spirit.
I often hear testimonies from young people who talk about these incredible spirit filled moments and sometimes I wonder if they really are that great and if you really do feel that way. The answer is yes.
After he met us, all we walked after him to the altar where we got to stand next to the cardinals and watch what happened.
A friend from the international youth forum last year was involved in the liturgy. He's from Palestine and I’ve loved hearing more about Catholicism for him in his life. It was amazing to see him be a part of this incredible day.
I made it home by about 11 or 11:30pm after battling some insane crowds. I was helping the Indian representative, Asha. She lives in the USA, in a small town in Texas and wasn't coping with the crowding so worked out how to get her back to her group, got her on a train with me, managed to get a seat for her, etc. Her eyes were just getting larger and larger. It was the worst train crowding I've ever seen (including WYD05!).
This morning we headed off to catechesis. We had a few sick people who I brought home early, we're trying to help them rest up before the big sleep out tomorrow. This evening the group went to via cruces. For all the sick and injured, we prayed the stations while watching the TV broadcast.
It was very simple, but a way to make sure everyone was a part of this event. It has been amazing, hearing people's experiences make me so happy. We have a wonderful group here and they're all getting so much out of this experience. I'm loving Spain but can't wait to see you all again.
Posted by web at 8:21 AM