Arrival in Madrid, and what’s inside the backpack

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — When I arrived at my gate yesterday evening to board my flight to Madrid, I had my first “you know you’re at World Youth Day when…” moment. I knew I was headed for WYD when I saw the seats at my gate filled with priests and seminarians. It was comforting to know that even so early in my trip, I was no longer traveling alone.

I laughed to myself when I overheard a girl on my flight explaining that she packed her favorite rosary to have blessed by the pope, along with her favorite lip gloss. It will be interesting to see what other types of articles pilgrims are bringing with them to have blessed.

I was lucky enough to snag a window seat with an empty seat beside me, so I had plenty of room to spread out on the 6 hr. 30 min. flight. I love being able to catch up on recent movie releases when I’m on long flights, and I watched Soul Surfer on the way over. It tells the inspiring true story of a young surfer who loses her arm in a shark attack, but learns to surf again.

It was probably a combination of sleepiness and excitement, but I was crying almost the whole movie! It was a little on the cheesy side at some points, but had a great message about following the path God has laid out for you, even if you don’t know it yet, and looking at things from another angle in order to gain perspective. They also cited Jeremiah 29: 11,“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”

Right before arriving at WYD seems like such an appropriate time to see Soul Surfer, so I’ll let that verse guide me in my journey this week.

Today is one of the biggest holidays in Spain, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary; the streets of Madrid are quiet and most things are closed. That affords me time today to regroup, plan for the week ahead and get some rest for tomorrow. Most pilgrims arrive late tonight or tomorrow, so I didn’t see many out today, other than some groups and many volunteers at the IFEMA, where I picked up my backpack, or “mochila,” as they say in Spanish.

While the “mochila” makes me feel a little bit like “Dora the Explorer,” it is packed with the necessities for getting the most out of WYD, and some fun additions too.

Check out what’s inside:

  • “The Guide” answers any questions a pilgrim may have and educates pilgrims about Spain, Madrid and the WYD saints and history.
  • The “Pilgrim’s Booklet” is full of readings, hymns and prayers for Masses and events.
  •  The Gospel according to Matthew.
  •  The agenda of cultural and liturgical programs outlines the 300+ special events of the week.
  • “YouCat” is a new youth catechism, which Pope Benedict is including as a special gift to pilgrims.
  • The manga comic about the life of Pope Benedict XVI, “Habemus Papam!”
  • Maps of Madrid and its Metro system.
  • T-shirt.
  • Hat.
  • Fan.
  • Lanyard.
  • Rosary.
  • “First Aid Kit,” which is actually a crucifix necklace.

An interesting new addition to the “mochila” is a bottle of alcohol-free beer. I don’t like the taste of beer in the first place, so I doubt I’ll be trying this, but the bottle is pretty cool.

I’m off to get some rest for tomorrow! Until then … Buenas noches!

Sara Angle, 21, is a senior at Villanova University and has written for CNS from Rome and Washington. She enjoys traveling and soaking up the culture of her surroundings, be it through food, fashion or faith, and looks forward to covering WYD for CNS — from the big events to the off-beat adventures. Sara loves reading and writing (but not arithmetic) and dancing like no one is watching. You can also follow her on Twitter @CatholicNewsSvc. She’ll be using the hashtag #SaraInMadrid.

Forbes cites Catholic colleges in top U.S. 100

(Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

Eight Catholic universities and colleges made Forbes’ top 100 in its annual list of America’s Top Colleges, published earlier this month.  The magazine lists 650 U.S. colleges and universities based on teaching quality, student career prospects, graduation rates and student debt levels, according to the magazine. The University of Notre Dame in Indiana ranked highest among Catholic schools at #18.

Here are the Catholic higher education institutions that made the top 100, along with their ranking, location, annual costs and enrollments:

  • 18 — University of Notre Dame, Indiana; $53,239; 11,816
  • 26 — Boston College, Massachusetts; $54,624; 15,036
  • 27 — College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts; $54,432; 2,932
  • 47 — Georgetown University, District of Columbia; $56,485; 16,520
  • 67 — Santa Clara University, California; $53,742; 8,846
  • 84 — St. Norbert College, Wisconsin; $37,392; 2,304
  • 85 — St. Anselm College, New Hampshire; $45,705; 1,915
  • 88 — St. Michael’s College, Vermont; $45,630; 2,466

Dozens of other Catholic schools were listed throughout the rankings.

College ranking always are dubious at best, but college administrators and recruiters continue a love-hate relationship with them since they don’t go unnoticed  by parents and students. Probably the best known rankings are the U.S. News and World Report annual lists of best colleges and graduate schools. The Forbes list uses a different methodology which takes into account student debt levels — a very important issue for students since it indicates the size of student loans that they may carry after graduation.

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