Friday, September 2, 2011

Pilgrimage 2011 Part III: Pressing On

There is no way for me to describe my Valencia portion of the pilgrimage except in a very travel log-ish way. You'll see.

After Medugorje, I went to Valencia, Spain for my Days in the Diocese (Aug. 11th to 14th), which is the celebratory days leading up to WYD organized in neighbouring dioceses. 
Everyone say "Hello Valencia!"
By this point, I had split from the group that went to Medugorje, Holy Trinity Parish (they went to Peralta for their DID), and had joined up with my own parish, Christ the Redeemer. Valencia was difficult. It was difficult not because there was a lot of overt spiritual formation happening or being given to us, but because there was a distinct lack of overt spirituality, further made apparent by poor organization by the diocese and a lack of a sense of welcome.

One reason that every World Youth Day has a DID program is so that pilgrims can experience the local Church, but that through it, they may be pointed back to the bigger Church, the whole mystical body of Christ. So I was a bit disappointed when all of our group members arrived at the parish we were told to go to, only to find out that we were actually supposed to be at another school. I was a bit disappointed that we had to sleep in a class room, and wouldn't have homestay families.
The Science Centre, aka the massive clonetrooper helmet.
But throughout all of the missed events (because of wrong times printed in our program booklets), I felt a sense of peace. A sense that "it is what it is" and that I should thank God for it. It surprised me at first - I am not used to just being "okay" with plans that go wrong. In fact, what's weird is that I felt peaceful, even when I was disappointed, frustrated, or angry. Missed events, sleeping in a classroom, all ended up being fine; great even. Medugorje had laid the foundation for me, and I was more accepting of the DID events. Valencia does have beautiful architecture, and churches are everywhere. Just awesome. Our group had a chance to pray the rosary with tons of other people, in different languages, at a beautiful church. Valencia's Science centre is amazing. And we got a chance to meet and hang out with some great people from all over the world. There were moments of greatness sprinkled throughout the chaos. 
Everybody loves Canadians. We just stood there, and the people came.

The moment when I knew that there was just something missing from the spiritual side of things though, was at the youth vigil one night, which had all the ingredients to make it earth-shatteringly astounding: there was adoration. That's it. Even if there were no prayers (there were, but I couldn't understand any of it - it wasn't printed in English in our booklets. Go Valencia) and no music, the fact that the Eucharist was there should have been enough. But instead we got a whole lot of people not even recognizing Christ, in a city square that probably needed to be at least 1.5 times the size in order to fit all the pilgrims comfortably. People were talking, laughing, sending texts on their phones...yeah. It was a bit distracting.

Throughout the days in Valencia, amidst the lack of organization and beautiful churches, I offered it all up, whether it was pleasing to me or not. The whole group persevered, and we began to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every night for all pilgrims, and for everyone we knew back home (you're welcome!). And the city of Valencia gave us a heck of a send off, when they cooked paella (a traditional Spanish rice dish) in five or six giant frying pans for the thousands of pilgrims present.
The biggest Om nom nom ever.

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