Holy Land to Madrid WYD Blog List
From 'Bus B', Catholic Education, Parramatta Diocese
Saturday 13 August - Jerusalem
Our day really started last evening with the reflection and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Agony located in the Garden of Gethsemane. After walking to the garden we spent quiet time in the Garden area looking into the grove of ancient olive trees and gazing beyond to the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. Within the darkened church we knelt before the altar and across the rock of the agony, identified as the place where Christ knelt and prayed, the place where he asked his disciples to pray with him, the place where he was betrayed by one of those closest to him. We celebrated Benediction and spent our hour watching with Christ present in the Eucharist whilst our chaplains offered the opportunity for confession. This was a wonderful reflective experience and the perfect preparation for the day ahead.
On Saturday morning, the Jewish Sabbath, we ventured to the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu. This is a modern church built over the ancient ruins of the house of the Chief Priest Caiaphas. What remains are the cells below this house, a place where it is probable that Jesus was kept on the night of His arrest. The ancient steps, uncovered in archaeological excavations, running down from the church and leading to the Mount of Olives are over two thousand years old and are likely to be the very steps taken by the group arresting Jesus and the steps that Jesus himself walked over two thousand years ago.
Having finished at the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu, we visited the Israel Museum where we viewed an amazing scale model of Jerusalem as it looked the night before the Romans in AD70 destroyed it. This model is incredible in its detail and looking at this model helped all of us better understand what Jerusalem would have looked like when Jesus came to this city as he approached his Passion. We also had the opportunity to view an exhibition related to the Dead Sea scrolls and the Essenes, the ancient sect that produced the Dead Sea scrolls and we learnt something of their distinct way of life. This was a good preparation for us as we are due to visit the Dead Sea on Sunday and travel close to Qumran, the place where the scrolls were discovered by a shepherd boy, totally by accident, in caves in 1947.
Following our visit to Israel Museum, we drove to a restaurant near Bethlehem near to the Shepherd’s Field, a place we had visited a couple of days earlier. This restaurant is styled (very vaguely!) along the lines of a Bedouin tent and the food served was typical Middle Eastern food, lots of bread, salads, lamb, chicken finished off with some super-sweet baklava and extremely strong coffee. Along with these Middle Eastern delicacies were some very non-Middle Eastern chips and roast vegies! All in all, no one left lunch hungry. We were also treated to a couple of our pilgrims getting dressed up as Bedouins and dancing to a traditional drum – some great photos to show others on our return!
Then back to the Old City of Jerusalem and each bus group walked the Way of the Cross-, the Via Dolorosa. Each group walked with a large wooden cross, carried by four different pilgrims, between each station. As we prayed at each station and chanted as we walked between each station, we focused on the Passion of Jesus and were able to connect with His suffering in a way that we had never been able to before. What was significant was that many people who were not a part of our pilgrimage stood and watched as we walked by, not only taking photos or filming us but also bowing their heads in prayer or in respect for what we were doing in following in the footsteps of Christ. We completed the Way of the Cross-at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, though we had to complete the Way of the Cross outside this most holy of churches for all Christians. It is unfortunate that conflict between the five Christian denominations controlling this site (Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Syrians, Armenians and Copts); prevent pilgrims from the practice of completing the Stations of the Cross inside of the church.
Upon entering the Holy Sepulchre we were overwhelmed by both the significance of the site for us and for all the people of the world who were there visiting and worshipping. The church itself is divided into sections both due to it being destroyed and rebuilt several times and because there are five different Christian denominations who worship here. Throughout the church there are amazing mosaics decorating the high ceilings and walls, depicting the last four Stations of the Cross. As you walk through and admire the beauty of the church the scent of burning incense can be smelt everywhere and you can hear chanting from each denomination that are scheduled to take turns in processions throughout the day. We visited the tomb where Jesus was buried and were allowed to enter four at a time, to say a quick prayer, before being moved along by the Orthodox priests who were managing the huge crowds through this sacred space. We then were able to visit Cavalry or Golgotha (the place of the skull) where Jesus was crucified. We were able to touch the rock on which they would have placed Jesus’ cross in the mountain when he was crucified. It is difficult to accurately convey, in words, the emotions felt as we reflected on the significance of standing at and touching the very place Jesus died on the cross for us as well as kneeling before the site where he was buried. We celebrated our mass in the public space adjoining the site of the tomb and less than 30 metres from the site where Jesus was crucified. Bishop Anthony, in his homily, stressed the special nature of this site for all Christians the most sacred church in the world. Leaving this, the holiest Christian place in the world, the words which often end Mass rung in our ears and hearts stronger and louder then ever: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
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25/08/2011Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Executive Director of Schools Greg Whitby speaks with the Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, who reflects on WYD11 Madrid, Parramatta pilgrim Claire Brown, who was one of 12 young people selected to share a meal with Pope Benedict XVI during WYD…and captures the WYD11 chant of Parramatta's pilgrims...
Bishop Anthony Reflection
"We've just finished the pilgrimage of a lifetime," Bishop Anthony says.
"All of us go away from this with a sense that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves…we are part of a universal Church brought together by Jesus Christ with his Vicar the Pope.
"We are coming back…to make Saints of all of Western Sydney."
Pilgrim Claire Brown on her lunch with the Pope
"It was a fantastic experience, an honour and a privilege to be in the presence of the Holy Father with youth from around the world. It's something that I will never forget," Claire says.
"He called us all to bring back to our parishes and our nations the love of Jesus Christ to share with the world."
Parramatta Pilgrims Chant
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|Church at Cana.|
From Group 9, Catholic Education, Parramatta Diocese
Relaxing, Amazing, Reflective, Serenity, the ability to find inner peace. These were just some of the many different emotions that filled our hearts and souls through the journey of our pilgrimage to Mount Tabor and the nearby town of Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle.
The ascension to the summit of Mount Tabor was both a reckless and exhilarating experience. The way the drivers were able to maneuverer around the many curves and steep inclines was a whole different experience.
When we arrived to the awesome and vast setting of Mount Tabor’s summit, the view that awaited us was breathtaking. The mosaics reflected the transfiguration with the use of gold. The many depictions of Christ gave us a greater understanding of the beauty of the Transfiguration, and gave us an inner sanctum to reflect on many key aspects of our spirituality.
The Mass, which took place above the original site of the transfiguration, was indeed very spiritual and gave us the opportunity to reflect and ponder. The Mass in total was very beautiful and the homily is what set this mass apart as the best so far. Father Warren Edwards’ (Our Lady of the Angels Rouse Hill Parish Priest) ability to captivate us through the homily made it easy to relate to and his honest and thought provoking words made this Mass a truly memorable experience. He reminded us that we were living in God's footsteps in all we do and say. The way his voice echoed throughout the church filled peoples hearts and minds with a rush of faith and inspiring words to live out the gospel.
For those who wished to attend confession the opportunity was available during our time on Mount Tabor before and after Mass. All the people that attended really proved that they wanted to be closer to God and reach a spiritual side they may not have known they had.
The traditional food of Israel; the Vegetarian falafel and the meat dish Shwarma, allowed for pilgrims to enjoy an enhanced experience of a new culture.
Following lunch we experienced an activity we all know and love; Grocery Shopping. A variety of items were purchased including; water, socks and watermelon. It brought back the comforts of home, which deep down we all miss.
Embracing our spirituality in Cana
After buying the many “essentials” we travelled to the town of Cana, which holds a sacred place in all Catholic hearts. The wedding of Cana, which is the first miracle Jesus Christ performed, was the focus of our next destination. The walk leading to the church was engulfed by a passage from Matthew describing the first miracle.
Underneath the church where the wedding occurred, there contained remains of a stone room, which contained one of the original “jugs” which Jesus turned the water into wine.
Soon afterwards we continued to the upper level of the church where we witnessed four couples embracing their vocation and renewing their vows in this most sacred space.
The reward of being able to splash out by the nearby swimming pool deemed, exciting and relaxing.
Many feelings and emotions have engulfed us throughout our pilgrimage so far. The many holy sites of Israel, the relieving confessions, the redeeming church, the rewarding view and the relaxing pool are what have made this day a highlight of our journey together. Each person has embraced the spirituality of the trip and has had there own personal rewards in getting closer to God and finding themselves in the eyes of our religion and in the Holy Land.
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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.
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From Groups 13 & 19, Catholic Education, Parramatta Diocese
Today got off to an early start at 8am with our first visit being to a Christian devotional mega store in Bethlehem. The shop contained a large variety of devotional items including hand-made olive wood nativity scenes, Mother of Pearl Crosses, Rosary Beads and any devotional item you can possibly imagine. The store was a great chance to stock up on gifts for loved ones and was an experience for all.
We then proceeded to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Our first stop was a very special one as we lined up to visit the cave of the Nativity which includes the actual birth place of Jesus Christ and the place where his cradle was layed. Upon entering the cave we each had the opportunity to touch the silver star that marks the birth spot of Jesus Christ. This was a truly amazing experience for everybody and provided much spiritual enrichment.
After visiting the Shrine of the Nativity we then proceeded into the Chapel of St Catherine of Sienna where a traditional Christmas Mass was celebrated by Bishop Anthony and co-celebrated by Fr John, Fr Warren and Fr Robert. The Mass included the singing of Christmas Carols.
We stopped for lunch before then visiting Shepherd's Field. In the Field were hundreds of caves from the time of Jesus. It is believed that one of these caves is the actual spot where the Angel appeared to the Shepherds. Shepherd's Field also included a beautiful Chapel with walls that portrayed the Birth of Jesus Christ.
Our final stop for the day was En Karem, the location of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth and the birth place of John the Baptist. Our first point of call at this location after many flights of stairs was the Church of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. Despite the long walk everyone was truly amazed when they entered the Church with its beautiful painted walls and wonderful symbolism.
After descending back down the many flights of stairs we proceeded to visit the Catholic Church of St John the Baptist. The Church with all its beauty also includes a crypt featuring the spot where John the Baptist was born.
Today has been another amazing day in the Holy Land and one that as a group has continued to build our faith and understanding of the Bible as we see it come alive in front of us.
Groups 13 & 19
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Latest images from photographer Ryan Reyes, following our Holy Land to Madrid World Youth Day pilgrims...
|Bishop Anthony with pilgrims at the River Jordan.|
|Pilgrims at the River Jordan.|
Mount of the Beatitudes
|Front of the church on top of the Mount of the Beatitudes.|
|Fr Warren Edwards celebrates Mass at the Mount of the Beatitudes.|
|Bishop Anthony atop Mt Precipice.|
|Mary and Karen from St Clare's Catholic High School Hassall Grove at Mt Precipice.|
Church of the Annunciation
|Inside the Church of the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary.|
|Joe Wilson reading the prayers of the faithful.|
Mass on the sea of Galilee
|Pilgrims boarding the boats for the Mass on the Sea of Galilee.|
|Pilgrims celebrate on the boat.|
See more Ryan Reyes photos in our WYD Photo Gallery
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Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Executive Director of Schools Greg Whitby spoke with WYD 2011 pilgrims on their arrival in Madrid from the Holy Land...St Nicholas of Myra Penrith Parish Assistant Priest and pilgrim Fr John Watkins
Teacher and pilgrim Diane
Pilgrims Judy, Stacey and Grace
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