Souvenirs of WYD

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — While memories and new friends from across the world will remain as important reminders of pilgrims’ experiences in Madrid, tangible souvenirs were also flying off the shelves at the city’s retailers.

Official merchandise outposts were constantly crowded with pilgrims picking up things like T-Shirts, key chains, coffee mugs, hats, flags, bracelets, scarves, pins and books. Likewise, the souvenir shops were overflowing as WYD attendees rummaged through postcards, magnets, Spanish fans, Spanish flag paraphernalia, castanets and bullfight paraphernalia.

For myself, I bought an official “JMJ” (WYD) scarf and bracelet to add to my collection of bracelets from places I’ve travelled to. The scarf also doubled as a blanket on my chilly flight home from Madrid! I couldn’t resist getting a WYD coffee mug for my dad, (sorry to ruin the surprise, dad!) I also bought some traditional Spanish candies at the supermarket, to share with friends and family.

The tradition of trading things at WYD continued in Madrid, so many pilgrims are going home with an assortment of pins, bracelets, flags and other small trinkets from the week. The best souvenir, though, is the gift of faith that each pilgrim took home.

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.

Madrid 11 comes to a close, but Rio 13 on the horizon

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — I left the vigil early last night and planned on going to a stadium in west Madrid this morning to watch the closing Mass on their giant screen with many other pilgrims that could not get to Cuatro Vientos, or had left the vigil. Unfortunately, they canceled it! I’ve been watching on TV from my hotel…a better view anyway! I’ve actually heard from some other pilgrims that they are doing the same thing…

Even though we are not at the airbase with the 1 million + people, there is still a sense of community and togetherness I feel by watching the Mass on TV, just as I expect Catholics all over the world who are following WYD from home to feel in communion with those of us here in Madrid.

Yesterday, I finally spotted the symbol of Madrid: The Bear and the Strawberry Tree!

After all, WYD is all about coming together, no matter where you are from or where you are going if your life. We are all one in Christ.

I’m hoping to get into Mass at Almudena Cathedral today…say a prayer for me that I can make it!

Next stop after Madrid? Maybe Rio ; )

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.

Cuatro Vientos: a sea of devout Catholics

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID —Pilgrims must truly be “Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith,” to have made it this far in WYD. I’m here at Cuatro Vientos and the scene is one of mixed emotions. Some are making the best of the crowded and sweltering environment, but many look very unhappy.

There are people dancing and singing to the music blaring from the loud speakers, and there are others looking absolutely miserable as they remove any extra layers of clothing to cool off, run towards fire trucks that are spraying water, pour water bottles over each others’ heads, take naps to pass time, and tie up tarps to create makeshift tents. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it really is a sea of people.

The Vigil with Pope Benedict is scheduled to begin at 2:30 EDT, so until then there is on-stage entertainment to help the eager pilgrims stay sane.

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.

Hot at the vigil

By Emily Anderson
One in a series

MADRID — Today is the day of the overnight vigil. It is hot, but the spirits are high! There’s even a fire truck spraying people. Pray for us as we roast out here!

Emily “Em” Anderson, 28, is the director of youth ministry at St. James Catholic Church in Falls Church, Va. She is excited to be traveling with seven teens and two other adults from her ministry. This is her second World Youth Day, having trekked across the world to Sydney with 10 teens for World Youth Day in 2008. She enjoys laughing, singing at the top of her lungs — rather badly — praying liturgy of the hours and planning her next party.

One word to describe day in Madrid: chaotic

By Emma Luigard
One in a series

MADRID — If I had to describe today in one word of would be chaotic. After attending catechesis this morning we started to head over to the Plaza de Cibeles for the Stations of the Cross, and that’s when the day got crazy.

When the train we were taking arrived it was crowded, but no one thought anything of it because a crowded train has been the norm. However, as soon as we got off we were swept into a sea of people.

We clung to each other’s backpacks as we moved through the crowd, pushing against the current of people. We fought our way to the exit, and getting out into the hundred-degree heat was like a breath of fresh air.

After much debate it was decided we would skip stations because, despite the fact that our adventure in the train station was quite exciting, it was one that we didn’t want again soon.

Tomorrow we leave early for the vigil! The walk will be long and the train ride exceptionally crowded, but it will all be worth it. Viva el papa!

Emma Luigard, 16, will be a senior at Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Md. The member of St. Bernadette Parish, traveling with St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, said she is “excited for World Youth Day because it will be full of cultural and religious experiences.”

Buen Retiro park: an oasis at World Youth Day

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — I wish I had discovered Buen Retiro park earlier! With so much going on, it’s impossible to see and do everything at WYD, and in Madrid itself. The week is so crazy though, with all the pilgrims and tons of events, that it can be overwhelming to find a bit of peace and quiet.

I find it hard to focus and contemplate with all of the chanting and hoopla of WYD, so I found the silence at Buen Retiro very calming.

The large park is home to the Vocations Fair and Forgiveness Festival (AKA confession.) I wandered around the Vocations Fair for a while, talking with people and checking out some of the booths. I was surprised that many of the booths were for lay people and promoting missionary work.

Each religious order represented at the fair had a fun way to present themselves, and I was drawn to visit the Claretian Sisters, who were teaching pilgrims how to pogo stick! It was one of the funniest things I have seen this week, other than a pilgrim carrying around a Super Grover stuffed animal and pretending it was flying!

I traded bracelets with Sister Maria Louisa, who loved the handmade bracelet I gave her as much as I loved the blue and black beaded bracelet she gave me!

Next stop for me was the Forgiveness Festival, where the 200+ portable confessionals were set up. It took me a while to find an English-speaking priest, but finally met a great man from England who was just as happy to have “an English girl,” as I was to find him. He had been hearing confessions all morning in Spanish, which he confessed (ironic!) was not perfect. “I’ve learned more Spanish verbs this morning than…” he trailed on.

On the way into the Forgiveness Festival, volunteers handed out booklets to pilgrims, reminding them about the importance of reconciliation, how to make a confession, what to consider before going to confession and how to carry out penance.

I whiled away my afternoon in Buen Retiro, a respite from the big city. Tonight is the Way of the Cross with Pope Benedict, and I can’t wait to see the parade-like event that will feature “pasos,” or floats, of life-sized wooden figures that are typical during Spanish Holy Week. The floats are a display of Spain itself, as they were made in different regions across the country!

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.

Sweet sounds of sisters singing

SAN LORENZO DE EL ESCORIAL, Spain  — Some of the world’s best musicians and singers have performed for the music-loving Pope Benedict XVI, but even he heard something special this morning in the courtyard of the Basilica of St. Lawrence.

At the end of his meeting with some 1,600 young religious women — most under 35 — he intoned the Lord’s Prayer in Latin and the sisters joined in. The pope and his aides — all men — usually lead the singing when the pope is with a large group, but the papal aides drew back quickly and the pope lowered his volume, letting the sisters’ fill the courtyard with their voices.

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