Under the care of the Discalced Carmelite Friars
If I could sum up my WYD Madrid experience in a few words, it would be “Keep the Faith.” From even just a few weeks before Marco and I embarked on our journey, I was uncertain of many things and not sure if I could make it.
Once in Europe, Marco and I missed the Paris to Madrid train by 3 minutes after running a country mile across Paris to find our correct station (part our fault and part of the taxi driver hahaha). It all seemed doomed – we were to arrive late to WYD ….
Then we found a train, slept for 5 hours on the floor in the train station and got across to a Spanish town called Irun. At the station there, we met three Brazilians and two Indians who were going to WYD. The Indians gave Marco some Our Lady of Lourdes holy water to drink with his medicine because he was very sick. We found a bus first thing in the morning to Madrid and 7 hours later arrived.
Marco was wanting to rest and was getting angry because I was turning my map upside down to find our Church accommodation. He was just about to lose it with me when out of nowhere two South Korean girls came up to us and asked, “Are you staying at Nuestra Señora de Granada?” I glanced to the heavens and gave a little smile.
Once at the Parish we met the most amazing bunch of people with the kindest hearts. I will never forget the humble double handshake Padre Paco gave me when we said hello. It was the type of greeting I am just not use to and I had to think to myself, “wow he is really glad to see me”.
It turned out after all that happened, we were still going to make the opening mass taking place in little over an hour. The parish volunteers, other pilgrims and I went by train to the opening mass. On the train, I said to a parish volunteer, “I am a little scared because I am here without my friend”, because Marco was at the parish sick. Then moments later a girl from the US came up and asked for my Aussie flag in exchange for her wrist band which said “Be not afraid – JP 2”.
On the final day a group of us walked the extended pilgrimage walk which must have been over 20 km in 40 degree heat which ended at the naval site where we were meant to camp out. Apparently people who had not paid had gone in the morning and taken the places of the pilgrims who had paid. I read somewhere that 200,000 pilgrims were displaced. So as you could imagine Marco and I were not happy campers and many others were not too. I began to ask in my mind again “What is the purpose of this God? I mean honestly?” Then storm clouds came in. Marco and I huddled under some plastic bags to keep dry. It was funny and cry worthy at the same time hahahaha. When there was a break in the weather we decided to go back to the parish. After going through a forest of jolly Brooklyn nuns and some interesting Spanish policemen we made it to our parish and funnily enough a small group had the same idea. We slept outside under the Madrid night sky and shared some laughs, it was perfect.