The tenth day of our pilgrimage coincided with the last day of the immediate preparations for the celebration of World Youth Day, which we will observe with the Holy Father this coming Saturday night/Sunday morning. There was an increasing level of anticipation and excitement in the city today as we draw closer and closer to the climax of this World Youth Day experience.
We chanced our arm at yet another venue for this morning’s third and final catechesis session, and we finally struck the jackpot. At a small, almost missable, church just a ten minute saunter around the corner, we finally found the right combination of those things we had been looking for: intimacy, good speaker, great atmosphere. Although the session was coordinated by American Catholics they were unlike the American Catholics we had encountered over the last two days, being a little more reserved and more balanced than the previous versions we had encountered.
Unfortunately I wasn’t present to hear the content of the catechesis session, as one of the other leaders and myself had a very important – and very secret – mission to attend to. All the reports of the content of the session from other members of the group however were effusively positive, and my only comment is that it was a shame that we had taken three days to get our selection of our catechesis location sorted. Oh well, these things happen when you’re on pilgrimage…and we were definitely pilgrims not tourists.
After the conclusion of the catechesis session and the Mass that followed, we all returned to our (very close) residence for lunch and whatever. My whatever eventually took the form of a siesta (yes, I am fully embracing the Spanish customs) and awoke, slightly late, to head to the Way of the Cross in towards the main WYD area of Madrid. The crowds were large again, as you might expect, and although our group had again staked out a good position, with a reasonable view of both the space for our station and the screens that would allow us to see the other stations in turn, we were again gazumped by latecomers (mainly from a North American country south of Canada and north of Mexico) who seemed to have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement – or were very very selfish. I can’t decide which epithet applies, but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. One could imagine at a World Youth Day event, people might be prepared to put the needs of others ahead of, or on par, with their own.
The Way of the Cross however was unlike that of Sydney three years ago. The various stations were not acted out but were rather represented by large wooden statues, carried or pulled by large groups of men. They were ancient, aged in the hundreds of years, and normally live all across Spain. They had been brought together in Madrid especially for tonight’s celebration of the Way of the Cross. But when combined with the large crowd tonight’s celebration left me a little disappointed – but I quickly recovered by grabbing a couple of very nice Flemish beers at a bar on the way back to the residences.
And with the conclusion of Day 10, we are preparing ourselves for the culmination of this World Youth Day…the all-night Vigil and the final Papal Mass.