The week I spent in Madrid was incredible. Because I relied on God so much and let him into my daily life in Madrid, His grace was able to transform me.
In what was probably the smartest move, the Spanish WYD planning team decided to make an English-speaking centre, titled "The Love and Life Centre." Every day, the centre would have concerts and catechesis in the morning, mass and question/discussion panels in the afternoon, and more prayer events and concerts in the evening - all for English speaking pilgrims. Sure, we english speakers had the option to traverse around Spain finding other catechesis/mass sites that were in english...but then, we wouldn't have been able to take part in the awesomeness at the Love and Life Centre, that could host 15,000 people.
What's more, the centre was run by the Sisters of Life. It was a HUGE blessing to just spend some time with these women - I swear, they are the happiest people on the planet. What's more, two people I know are in the order: a friend of mine entered last year and I hadn't seen her since she left Vancouver. When I saw her, tears came; and my very first PREP teacher from way back in 1998 was there too, also a Sister of Life...again, more tears. Just beautiful.
|The 5,000 person Canadian gathering before the start of WYD.|
Throughout the week of WYD at the Love and Life Centre, we had catechesis sessions with Vancouver's very own Archbishop Miller, Archbishop Dolan of New York, and Cardinal Pell of Sydney, Australia. We heard amazing talks from the Sisters of Life, Jason Evert, Fr. Robert Barron, and Fr. Tom Rosica. We also listened to amazing bands, including a Cajun rock band called L'Angelus. And of course, we had grace-filled Adoration events and mass. The week was filled to the brim with energy, excitement, and a love for God; it was overwhelming at times. Another Pentecost, if you will.
I've got to preface this next part by saying that I am not complaining - I'm merely describing. Everything that happened in Madrid was a blessing. And so here I go: Logistically, Madrid was a total nightmare, and all of the major events that were supposed to involve all of the pilgrims were a huge mess.
Opening mass? Wait, we were having mass? OH, people chatting, cheering, playing games, and texting were supposed to HELP me focus, I see I see. We were so far back from the actual altar (which was in a massive roundabout) that there weren't even any screens or speakers. This was all on the road, and the organizing committee didn't bring enough bread for the priests to consecrate, and so everyone sitting where we were didn't get communion (I know, I know, there's spiritual communion, but c'mon - it pales in comparison to the real thing).
Papal welcome wasn't much better (and no, I am NOT saying that Pope Benedict isn't awesome. Because he is). Spain was just not prepared for the amount of people (read: 1.5 million) that were going to take part in WYD. City streets just can't accomodate that many people. And the final sleep out, where the pope prayed and said mass for us...oh, man. Thousands of pilgrims were actually denied access because there wasn't enough room at the airfield. Washrooms and garbages were scarce - and the ones that were there were gross. It took my group about half an hour to get into our assigned spaces because there was not enough room. Thank God for the bishop from Brunei who helped us find spots there.
But there we go! The above description, is more or less the nature of World Youth Day. It doesn't matter how well-intentioned an event is, when you gather 1.5 million people in one spot, chaos breaks loose. It the nature of World Youth Day for things to go awry.
So why go?
In this blog series: