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.

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