Today was a very relaxed day. There was little in the way of scheduled events, and there was much time given over to time spent with our host families.
After Morning Prayer at the third parish church, there was a couple of hours of free time before Mass. I took the opportunity to sit in the main park with a cold drink, and a good book, although it was hard not to notice the goings on around me. The sight that struck me most was the way in which the local people enjoyed the open spaces. Old men, old ladies, families of multiple generations were all out enjoying the surroundings, the sun and the fresh air. From what I can gather this is the normal Sunday activity, and there is much to commend it. Spending time, not money, enjoying the company of friends and family, building relationships…and not being ashamed of it. Perhaps this is something to be encouraged in our own communities.
Mass today for the pilgrim group was in the Church of Maria Monte, and was again celebrated in a mix of languages – Spanish, Korean and English. The Mass was alas only for the pilgrim group, and there were very few locals present, apart from volunteers and host families. Upon reflection this has been the norm during our days here in Bejar, and I wonder what, if any, significance our presence will have to the locals once we leave. Or will some of the local parishioners wonder if we’ve been here at all.
The nature of pilgrimage – particularly World Youth Day pilgrimages – is to experience something of the local church to which we go. The hospitality of the people of Bejar has been faultless, but I wonder how our coming has been explained and prepared for – and how it will be viewed once we leave Bejar tomorrow. The answer to these questions may never be known.
This afternoon was given over to “free time”, and while many of our group took the opportunity to go swimming or exploring with their host families, I took the opportunity to indulge in that very Spanish custom of a siesta. It was truly wonderful, and I’m not sure how I’ll cope once I get back to Australia. I may just have to adopt the custom in its entirety.
Tonight we shared a lovely seafood meal with our host, Elena, and afterwards presented her with some gifts. She was genuinely taken aback, but her generosity deserved nothing less. We were supposed to go to a vigil liturgy, but – for the first time – the language difficulties got the better of us all, and we ended up strolling through the town before returning home to retire for the evening. These things were bound to happen. That they hadn’t happened before this is a testament of God’s providence more than good management.
Tomorrow is our last day in Bejar, with only a few activities in the morning. We leave after lunch to a diocesan celebration, and then on to Madrid.