Saturday, August 20, 2011

Esta es la juventud la Papa!

We are the youth of the Pope!

Esta es la juventud la Papa!

This is what is being chanted all around Madrid!
We prepare today to walk many kms with our sleeping bags and ground mats and to sleep tonight under the stars in order to share mass with Pope Benedict XVI and representatives from all over the world. We are staying in a university about half an hour from Madrid near a station called Moncloa. We have been so blessed with our accommodation which amongst other luxuries has a pool and a much needed air conditioning especially after a long day in the heat of the Madrid Summer. Praise God!

Some of the highlights of the World Youth Day week in Madrid have included seeing our very own Broken Bay pilgrims from Pittwater parish perform in the Park of Retiro. They made us so proud as they lead approx 300 people in praise and worship. They have also asked to play at the vigil mass and we can’t wait to see them perform again!

Catechesis has also been a real highlight in Madrid, there is a stadium which has been named the Life and Love Centre for World Youth Day and it is the home for English speaking pilgrims so we have usually travelled to the metro station Goya to get to the Love and Life Centre and we are joined there with Americans, Irish, English, Canadians and more to hear some of the best Catechesis from Bishops all over the world.

We felt proud to see Cardinal Pell lead the catechesis early on in the week and he emphasised that our faith is reasonable and rationale, he finished to a standing ovation and then celebrated the mass for us and gave a brilliant homily. Yesterday we heard from Archbishop Timothy Dolan from New York City and he was very entertaining as well as encouraging. He told us to be a witness in the world and highlighted four main ways to do this, through Charity, Joy, Hope and Love for the Church.

On Thursday we decided to journey to a Church in Madrid for a bit of variety instead of going to the Love and Life Centre for catechesis and we were turned away because the Church was overflowing with pilgrims and was too hot inside for anyone else. So instead of being disheartened Adrian Gomez, and Fr Jim led us to a nearby park and we had our own catechesis, it was totally unplanned but so amazing. It was a real act of the Holy Spirit as Bishop David gave a teaching off the cuff about how we are called to be mature in our faith and know our faith. We sang songs and a stranger handed Adrian a guitar. The crowd in the park started to grow. The organisers of the catechesis that was full started sending pilgrims to the park because word got out that an “Aussie group” was leading their own catechesis, in the end we had an American seminarian talk to us, Bishop David addressed the crowd and a Monsignor with an English accent who was living in Germany spoke to us and shared his thoughts about World Youth Day and how inspiring it is for both him and all the Bishops and Priests to see the future. Youth Minister Laura Bradley also gave a testimony about an answer she had to prayer on her travels to Mexico. We then sang this little light of mine and we realised people from South Africa, Indonesia, USA, Ireland, and more had all gathered to listen to a on the spot catechesis run by the Broken Bay Diocese.

It has been a great and spiritual week!
Blessed be the name of Jesus...Now and Forever!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 4

Monday 8th of August

"A person who governs his passions is the master of the world. We must either rule them, or be ruled by them. It is better to be the hammer than the anvil."~ St. Dominic

Olla! Many apologies for the lack of blog posts we have found Spanish wifi (or wee fee) as the Spanish pronounce it, to be temperamental. So here is what has happened so far.

On Monday 8th of August we went to Caleruega which is the birthplace of Saint Dominic. We visited the church where Saint Dominic was baptized which is called San Sebastian. The churches here are so beautiful and we celebrated mass with the Benedictine monks who are famous for their Gregorian chant. This was a moving experience and in the atmosphere of a beautiful church, with incredible acoustics and that is hundreds of years old it was a moment that will not be forgotten. Typical of Benedictine hospitality we were warmly welcomed and shown around their church and monastery, this too was full of history, artwork and beauty. We swamped their gift shop at the end of the trip all wanting to take something from this place that we had connected with.

In free time many of us climbed a hill in Santo Domingo, which has a beautiful statue of our lady overlooking the town. It was an effort to get to the top of the hill but well worth the climb which offered panoramic views of the Spanish mountains and the town. We were all sorry to leave this small town but on we went to our next stop Astorga.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Going beyond ...

On arrival in Segovia everyone was struck by the amazing aqueduct that dominates the landscape. As we wander backwards and forwards from the hotel to the town, the view is simple amazing. Yet the landscape offers an amazing image for the journey that all pilgrims are now on, that of going beyond tourism.

Today in his afternoon talk Bishop David shared how St John of the Cross wrote about the first barrier, that of stopping doing what we don't want to do in order to do the things we want to do. The image Bishop David used was that of going beyond the mountains to discover what is on the other side. We are all faced with the challenge of moving beyond what we normally do to see what is beyond.

On pilgrimage, this is about going beyond being a tourist to become a pilgrim. Today as we toured the main castle, or Alcazar, we were treated like tourists. We were given dates and facts about the building and the royalty that lived there. The challenge is to move out of this into the spiritual journey that God is taking us on. So after an afternoon of being a tourist, we can remain tired or we can focus on the insights of our Bishop that take us deeper.

The town of Segovia is surrounded by hills that block the view to the towns beyond. The people of ancient Segovia would have to leave the safety of their Alcazar to see what was beyond what they knew. Whilst on pilgrimage tourist activity can also block the view to the spiritual beyond the day in a new town. As pilgrims we must go beyond the safety of our normal relationship with God to travel to a relationship that we can't see. If we have the courage to go beyond then we will receive the benefits that pilgrims receive that tourist can't even imagine.

Saints and Mystic - Day 3

Day three of the pilgrimage started for some with optional morning prayer at 7.30 lead by Fr. Jim we had a great group turn out especially considering many of us were still feeling the effects of the journey from Sydney. We found a beautiful hillside with a view of Segovia for our morning prayer, we sang, we meditated and we absorbed the sounds of this amazing Spanish city which was built one hundred years before Christ.

After breakfast (which in Spain includes ham and cheese), we went for mass at Vera Cruz Church and the tomb of the great mystic St John of the Cross. The mass was a real highlight and to be in the presence of the remains of such a famous saint was an emotional and powerful experience. Bishop David talked to us about the teaching of St John of the Cross and his quote "If you do not learn to deny yourself you cannot make progress in Christian perfection," which we later reflected on in our small groups.

After appliying another layer of sunscreen we toured Segovia with our tour guide (did we mention this town has an acueduct, a fortified castle, and a templar knights church!) we were impressed to say the least.

We felt like kings and queens with the visit to Alcazar castle and our tour guide pointed out that the mountains looked like a woman sleeping, which could have been the inspiration for the story of sleeping beauty with the castle the perfect setting for such a fairytale.

After free time for shopping and lunch we came back to the hotel aqueduct for dinner and night prayer where we reflected on St John of the cross' concept of the dark night.

We have an early start tomorrow with optional morning prayer at 6.45am so enough blogging we are off to bed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Going rather than getting

Ken Duncan, a famous Australian photographer, once said that some of his best photos were taken on the way to where he thought the best photograph would be. He said that he would often be headed to a particular location to frame a photograph when "out of the blue" another great opportunity for a photo would present itself. Ken even said that some of his family holidays never made it to their original destination because of the great "interruptions" along the way. Ken travels with the camera at the ready looking for inspiration.

The same can be true when on pilgrimage. Sometime we think that God will speak to us at a specific event that we are trying to get to. Yet it is often something that seems like an interruption that God uses to stir something in our heart. We are so focused on the big events of our lives that we often overlook the hundreds of smaller opportunities that present themselves every day to get to know God better.

In his homily at the Pilgrims Commissioning Mass, Bishop David spoke about going on pilgrimage rather than getting to your destination. He shared his experience of getting to the tomb of St James on a tourist bus. He had arrived at the destination as a tourist where as those who arrived as walking pilgrims gained so much more because of going on pilgrimage. Bishop David encouraged all the WYD pilgrims to see that it more about going With God than getting to the destination.

So really the pilgrimage has already begun. The moment that you said you are going to World Youth Day was the beginning of your pilgrimage. For some of us that was three years ago at WYD08 in Sydney. For others your pilgrimage may only be a recent journey. Either way the journey of going on pilgrimage has already started and therefore maybe God is already talking to you. Please don't overlook the journey you already on just because you haven't begun the journey of getting to WYD.

Perhaps you might recognize this sense of already going on pilgrimage by writing journal entries now. What do you feel God is saying to you? What is stirring in your heart about going on pilgrimage? How are you feeling about going deeper with God? Are you planted in Christ, are you being built up by Christ? Are you firming in the faith?

Please leave a comment about how you are feeling about going on this pilgrimage with God.