A day for cultural and liturgical festivities in Madrid

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — I spent a lot of time at the Life and Love center this afternoon, floating between events. The English-speakers home is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and Sisters of Life and being housed in Madrid’s main indoor sports arena. The building is a maze, and I got frustrated trying to find where I wanted to be!

I had quite a comical experience running AWAY from the Eucharist there, too.

I was trying to get to the Adoration Chapel for Eucharist adoration with Archbishop Dolan of N.Y., but had to make it there before the Eucharist did! Let’s just say that those priests were booking it!

Afterward, I had the chance to interview Archbishop Dolan (look for a CNS video soon.) He seems so excited to be here and didn’t know about the Forgiveness Festival (tons of portable confessionals set up in Madrid’s largest park,) but said he would like to go there for confession this week.

One of the big cultural events of the day was the Cinema Festival, which took place in Madrid’s theater district. I caught “The Gardener of God,” a film about the life of Fr. Gregor Mendel, who is played by Christopher Lambert. The theater was packed with people from all different countries, but the film played in English with Spanish subtitles. It was really interesting to learn about Mendel’s life as a priest, because I really only knew about his scientific legacy. The Father of Genetics was a religious father to so many.

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.

Art and adventures in a Spanish grocery store

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — The Reina Sofia contemporary art museum was mind-blowing! It is the perfect way to start my day, as the crowds were thin and it woke up my senses, as beauty tends to do.

On the way to the museum, I read the “Habemus Papam!” manga comic book that was in my pilgrim “mochila.” It was a very quick read, but light, fun and informative. I wasn’t aware of the fear Joseph Ratzinger had about becoming pope before the decision was made. According to the comic, he prayed to God that he not be made pope because he thought he was too old. He put his trust in God though, and answered the call to become pope.

The last line of the comic reads, “Never doubt that placing your confidence in Him, the unimaginable will become possible.”

When I arrived at the Reina Sofia, I set off to see works by Dali, Miro, Picasso and Sonia and Robert Delaunay.

There were a few temporary exhibitions as well, and I found myself drawn to the work of Yayoi Kusama, a female Japanese avant-garde sculptor and painter. Gentle Are the Stairs to Heaven is a painting so beautiful I wish I could turn it into a dress! Instead, it will have to do as the new background on my iPhone.

One of Kusama’s installation pieces, created specifically for the Reina Sofia, made me feel like I was inside of a sci-fi movie, or among a room filled with fireworks!

My next stop was a walk to Plaza Mayor, where I witnessed some Spanish-speaking pilgrims playing games and singing in the center of the square.

I made my way to Puerto del Sol where I wanted to take a look inside El Cortes Inglese, one of Madrid’s main department stores. Going to places that locals frequent is my way of getting to know the people of a culture. It hasn’t failed me yet!

I did a quick browse of all the departments, and let me tell you—this place is a one-stop shop. It’s like a multi-level upscale mini-mall. It has all the typical sections of a department store, but also a restaurant, take-away café, souvenir shop, travel agency, bakery, auto body shop, bookstore, media department and supermarket.

I spent some time walking through the aisles of the grocery store and picking out some unknown foods to try later. They had an entire aisle dedicated to olives! The Spanish really do love their olives…I’ve had them served to me at every meal, but I’m not complaining!

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.

Busy streets in Madrid, and the opening Mass

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — I was completely unprepared for the sheer volume of people that would be taking over the Spanish capital this week.

It’s Tuesday, the official start date of WYD, and I think most Madrileños have left the city to escape the hoards of pilgrims that have invaded. Almost everyone I saw today was sporting a WYD shirt, hat, backpack or other item emblazoned with “JMJ 11.” It’s great to see so many people here, but I’m getting the sense that it will take some real digging to get to the heart of this city and really experience its culture.

Luckily, tomorrow is a fairly “free” day for pilgrims, with no major events planned. It is a day to embark on a cultural journey across the city, that is all part of the specially designed program, “A faith made culture.” Over 300 organizations are taking part by providing free events that highlight Madrid’s rich history and culture.

I had a taste of the cultural program this morning, when I paid a visit to the Prado museum, one of the biggest cultural attractions in Madrid. Thousands more had the same idea, and the lines stretched on (see the CNS video on our Facebook page.)

I dodged through the crowds to see the highlights of the museum, such as Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation, Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Child and Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas. My favorite piece, which I was really looking forward to seeing, was Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights.  It’s a fascinating and gruesome work.

I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the city and watching all the interactions between pilgrims. There is always singing going on, wherever you go. Many groups have chants about their country that they yell while walking through the streets in hopes of inspiring other groups to respond with their own chants. People are so proud of their country, and many are focused on that.

The display of national pride is fun to experience, but I hope that by the end of the week pilgrims will be less focused on their nation, and more focused on the Universal Church.

Pretty soon, it was time to head over to Plaza de Cibeles for the opening Mass and ceremony. Pilgrims began gathering even before 5 p.m., though the event began at 8 p.m.

The early birds had the advantage, because Cibeles was not large enough to hold the estimated 500,000 people in attendance, leaving many on side streets with no view of the stage. Despite all the waiting and the intense heat, singing, dancing, chanting and flag-waving commenced.

Hours before the opening Mass, excited pilgrims wait.

The archbishop of Madrid presided over Mass and there were nearly 800 concelebrants. Even after three months of living in Rome, I have never seen so many priests in one place. Surprisingly, Holy Communion went pretty fast.

The majority of Mass was in Spanish, so it was tough to follow along, but everyone understood the several mentions of Blessed John Paul II and the crowds went crazy!

Giving the sign of peace was no problem, even with the language barrier. Everyone speaks the language of a big hug, and hugs filled Plaza de Cibeles tonight.

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.

‘Off my game’ in Madrid, keep the prayers coming

By Emily Anderson
One in a series

MADRID — I am totally off of my game this World Youth Day. I am not sure if it is because I am in a non-English speaking country or if it is because it is so hot down here, but either way, the first two days of WYD haven’t been fabulous.

I managed to get separated my group tonight for the opening Mass! It was beyond frustrating. At least I had someone with me. It was difficult at the Mass because it was soooo cramped and not in English made it hard to enter in. But, this isn’t the big papal Mass. Please keep praying for us! We did go to an exhibit at the Love and Life Center hosted by the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus. It was awesome and really made us consider life and the choices we make. There were a few tears shed, but overall, it was today’s high!

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.

Parents of seven living the World Youth Day experience

By Tom Tracy

MADRID — You might say Steve and Nicole Kerekes have really lived the World Youth Day experience.

The California couple met at World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, even though Steve Kerekes said that, at the time, he wasn’t particularly religious.

Today, the couple have seven children with one more on the way — and all of them are in Madrid this week for World Youth Day. Steve and his sister and a small team of coordinators and volunteer guides are responsible for bringing more than 2,000 people to Madrid for the event.

The organization is the San Diego-based Youth in Europe, technically a travel agency but one that is changing its name to JMJ Youth, and Kerekes is seeking nonprofit status for his company.

“This is what we do as ministry,” Steve said while the phone rings off the hook at their temporary offices in Madrid.

Nicole Kerekes and the kids have a Spanish nanny helping them out this week and taking them on some of the side excursions with other parish groups.

“We are excited to be here. It is a blessing to the city to see the youth singing on the trains, chanting and praying,” Steve Kerekes said.

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.

WYD: Experiencing the church as a worldwide family

By Emma Luigard
One in a series

LOURDES, France — It has been five days since we arrived in Lisbon. Since then we’ve visited Fatima, Santiago de Compostela and Burgos, spanning a total of two countries and are in transit to visit our third, France.

In each city we’ve encounter multiple groups of other pilgrims from a wide range of countries. So far we’ve met pilgrims from Australia, Korea, Lebanon, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Poland and other groups from the U.S.A. Every encounter begins with face-splitting grins and frantic waves from both sides, followed by the signature question, “Where are you from?” Pictures are then taken and items exchanged — in one case a Canadian flag pin for a U.S.A. flag. The groups then part ways, but not with “good-bye” but with an enthusiastic “see you next week!” The easy ways between fellow pilgrims is a wonderful display of the church as family around the world.

On Friday we went to Mass, and a group of Polish scouts was also in attendance. The Mass was celebrated in Latin, Spanish and Polish. During the Latin parts of the Mass it was incredible to see everyone singing in unison because Latin is a universal part of Mass. However, what was even more incredible was watching the Polish scout sitting in front of me participate in the Spanish parts of the Mass, not just the Polish parts. But then I realized he wasn’t much different from me. I speak primarily English and bits of Spanish, but I’m traveling with a group of primarily Spanish speakers who only speak English to make sure I’m not left out. Just seeing him in a similar position as myself made me realize that even though we may not understand each other’s spoken language we do understand each other’s faith, and that is what brings us together — our love for God.

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.”

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