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.

Pope hears confessions in the park at WYD

MADRID — Pope Benedict XVI began his third day in Madrid by hearing confessions in one of 200 portable confessionals set up in a park for World Youth Day pilgrims.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope offered the sacrament of reconciliation to four World Youth Day volunteers: two young men and two young women. The pope heard the confessions of two in French, one in German and the confession of a Spaniard in Italian.

While the pope used one of the same portable white confessionals that all penitents and priests in the park used, a white screen was placed around his to increase privacy.

Pope Benedict XVI leaves a confessional after offering the sacrament of reconciliation to four World Youth Day volunteers in Madrid's main park Aug. 20. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Organizers originally had said the pope would offer the sacrament to three young people.

“There was a fourth in case there was time,” Father Lombardi said. “They told the pope, ‘We have three young people, plus one in reserve,’ and the pope said, ‘What’s a reserve for confession?’”

(CNS/Paul Haring)

“The pope wanted to give a sign of his personal participation for the importance of the sacrament of confession, which — as we know — in our day isn’t used as much as in previous eras.

“But the World Youth Days demonstrate its continuing relevance and the fact that when there is a clear, widespread and generous offer of the possibility for the sacrament of reconciliation, young Christians happily welcome it,” Father Lombardi said.

Pope to declare St. John of Avila a doctor of the church

MADRID — Pope Benedict XVI announced this morning that he will declare St. John of Avila the 34th “doctor of the church.”

The Spanish saint, who lived 1500-1569, was famed as a preacher, confessor and spiritual writer. He is best known for the works “Audi, Filia” (“Listen, Daughter”), which is a guide to the spiritual life, and for his “Treaty of God’s Love.” In Spain he is honored as the patron saint of diocesan priests.

St. John of Avila will become the 34th doctor of the church. St. Therese of Lisieux was the 33rd and it was at World Youth Day in Paris in 1997 that Blessed John Paul II announced his intention to name her among the church’s greatest, most influential spiritual writers and theologians.

He will join a list that includes early church fathers like Sts. Jerome, John Chrysostom and Augustine, and Catholic household names like Sts. Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure and fellow Spaniard, St. John of the Cross. There are three women doctors of the church: Sts. Therese of Lisieux, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila.

Here is the Vatican’s translation of the pope’s announcement:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great joy, here in this Cathedral Church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena, I announce to the People of God that, having acceded to the desire expressed by Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, together with the members of the Spanish episcopate and other Archbishops and Bishops from throughout the world, as well as many of the lay faithful, I will shortly declare Saint John of Avila a Doctor of the universal Church.

In making this announcement here, I would hope that the word and the example of this outstanding pastor will enlighten all priests and those who look forward to the day of their priestly ordination.

I invite everyone to look to Saint John of Avila and I commend to his intercession the Bishops of Spain and those of the whole world, as well as all priests and seminarians. As they persevere in the same faith which he taught, may they model their hearts on that of Jesus Christ the good shepherd, to whom be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

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.

Music I’m listening to at WYD

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — Music is such a big part in WYD, with concerts of all types being held throughout the city as part of the cultural program, liturgical music filling the streets and singing and chanting heard constantly from the pilgrim groups.

Music is playing a personal role in my experience at WYD this week, with a special playlist I compiled for my trip to inspire and enlighten me.

I wanted to share with everyone what I have been listening to this week, and if you are so inclined, you can get in on this part of my journey, too!

Sara’s WYD Madrid Mix:

1. This Is Your Life- Switchfoot
2. Holiday In Spain- Counting Crows
3. This Is Love- Cool Hand Luke
4. The Gospel- The Dandy Warhols
5. Let It Be- The Beatles
6. God Moves Through You- Jason Mraz
7. Hold on- Toby Mac
8. Details In the Fabric (feat. James Morrison)- Jason Mraz

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.

A lesson from Pope Benedict, dinner with the U.S. bishops

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — Most of my day was spent waiting hours for the arrival of the pope. I was told that some pilgrims arrived at Plaza de Cibeles for the pope’s entrance over 8 hours before he was expected!

If there is one thing I have learned at WYD thus far, it is to practice the virtue of patience.

The anticipation was palpable all through the day at Cibeles, and to pass the time people were playing cards, taking naps, doing the Macarena, throwing beach balls and doing the wave. I had to remind myself I was at WYD, not a college football game!

The long awaited moment finally came, and the party-like atmosphere faded into solemnity as Pope Benedict took the microphone to address the pilgrims. After greeting everyone in 6 languages, there was Gospel reading and then the pope spoke about the reading in Spanish.

His words were poetic and careful, but powerful. He advocated turning to the Bible as the source of truth, saying, “There are words which serve only to amuse, as fleeting as an empty breeze; others, to an extent, inform us; those of Jesus, on the other hand, must reach our hearts, take root and bloom there all our lives.”

I thought this was such an incredible explanation of how the Bible should fit into our everyday lives, and give us the ability to “build on solid rock.”

The hours of waiting were over quickly, as the welcoming celebration with Pope Benedict lasted exactly one hour.

After the ceremony, I received an unexpected but welcome invitation; the chance to attend dinner with the 64 U.S. bishops that are in Madrid for WYD.

One of the big things about WYD is encounter God through encountering others. At dinner, I sat beside the bishop of the Diocese of Austin and though our conversation was not profound, it was lighthearted and congenial. I felt that connection that WYD is all about, and after a long day of waiting, I could simply sit and enjoy the presence of those around me.

On a final note of the day, I would like to say that despite many media reports about WYD protestors, Madrid is not running rampant with anti-WYD advocates. Although I have heard some talk of people witnessing protestors, the presence of Christ is much stronger this week than any opponents. Even if there are protests, the chants of “Benedicto!” are drowning them out.

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.

Inspiration in Madrid — Tony Melendez and Pope Benedict

By Emma Luigard
One in a series

MADRID — Today will always stand in my mind as one of the greatest days of World Youth Day. Not only did I meet people from all over, but I got to see the pope and an inspiring performance.

Tony Melendez. He’s a singer and guitarist, sounds pretty normal right?

Well here’s the catch: He has no arms, so he plays the guitar with his feet. Tony shared his devotion and love of God with us. He got us to not only listen but participate by singing and dancing along. Tony is an inspiration not only because of the physical obstacles he’s overcome but also because he chooses to spread the word of God in a way that truly touches the heart.

Pope Benedict XVI arrived today and once again I found myself shoulder to shoulder with millions of strangers. We waited three hours for the pope to arrive but there was never a dull moment. We danced with fellow pilgrims to a drum beat provided by another pilgrim and mingled with Brazilians, Italians, Germans and others.

When Pope Benedict finally arrived the air was filled with cheers in many different languages. Seeing the pope — even if it was only on the Jumbotron — was by far my favorite part of the day. His presence here in Madrid with truly uplifting.

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.”

Seeing the pope ‘takes my breath away’

By Emily Anderson
One in a series

MADRID — No matter how many times it happens, seeing the pope takes my breath away. I am sitting in Spain, with teens I love, celebrating a faith I love and I am paid for it. Excitement does not describe the feeling here! Joy is what is happening all around. Teens and adults alike living in the light of Christ! The Holy Father is finally here and it feels like I am right at home! God is good!

Yesterday, 20,000 people protested World Youth Day at a local metro stop. Today, in droves, teens from all over the world witnessed that Christ is here, joy is here and that we are called to be light in the darkness! Muchas Gracias Papa! We love you!

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.

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