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A Pilgrim’s Perspective
INTERNATIONAL | APOSTOLATE | NEWS
World Youth Day through the eyes of Margaret Antonio, age 17.

madrid crowds
Arriving to Cuatro Vientos airfield for the Saturday vigil.

August 22, 2011. Regnum Christi Live, the blog associated with the Regnum Christi web site, has a series of 25 blog posts crammed with colorful photos and videos, documenting a young pilgrim’s experience of World Youth Day.

Margaret Antonio, age 17, currently attends Immaculate Conception Academy, a high school in Rhode Island for girls discerning consecrated life in Regnum Christi. Her trip to Madrid for World Youth Day came with a special responsibility: to document the experience in words, pictures, and videos—all of which were uploaded onto RC Live during the past days.

Some excerpted highlights from her experience are presented below, and the complete blog can be read either on RC Live or in a single pdf document here.

***

“When we arrived to the Madrid airport the entire atmosphere seemed to be absorbed in WYD fever.”

***

“We showered for the first time after 36 hours of traveling and we
group second madrid
Some members of the ICA group on the streets of Madrid.
were able to begin the pilgrimage with Mass that evening in celebration of the feast of the Assumption.”

***

“At one point, in the metro, a group from Mexico started to heer "Me-xi-co. Me-xi-co.” Of course, that set off a chain of patriotic cheers for Germany, England, Brazil, USA, and the list goes on.”

***

“About 95% of the people on the streets are there for WYD. […] The big thing around here is trading pins, flags, bracelets, hats and whatever else could be a memento or a sign of the country you are from. One group from Italy actually traded a little bunch of noodles wrapped in green and red ribbon attached to a safety pin (to put on backpacks). After the opening Mass, a guy from El Salvador asked me for something in exchange for his El Salvador post card. Everyone is extremely friendly and enthusiastic.”

***

“Every day during WYD we will be going to the 10am catechesis and the mass following it for English speakers. Today, we went with over 12,000 people from the English speaking countries to hear Cardinal Pell (the archbishop of Australia) speak about the existence of God. His words were very penetrating and, at the end, the entire stadium gave him a standing ovation. What was even more moving was participating in mass afterwards with everyone, including
soccer field madrid
The soccer stadium that became a Vocation.com Coffee House.
the archbishop, approximately 350 priests, and around 30 bishops. From this experience I have started to realize how much the Catholic Church is truly one, holy, catholic, and apostolic!”

***

“While we were waiting for an hour in the line, we met many people and learned that just a few blocks away there were protests against the Pope. That would explain why the metro exit we were supposed to go out of earlier was closed. The police tried to make sure that the WYD groups didn´t go near the protesters. While we were eating our pizza, a concerned Spanish lady came up to us and warned us to stay away from that area. However, while walking to the metro station, we did pass by a few people holding signs calling Pope Benedict a dictator and saying no to his arrival in Madrid. Please don´t be "disheartened" by this in any way. Those protesters were nothing in numbers or in passion for what they believe in compared to the thousands of young people gathered to walk alongside the Pope this WYD.”

***

“Fifteen minutes later,
popemobile madrid
The Pope's arrival for the Holy Hour on Thursday.
the crowds began to cheer again but this time it was real. First came the police, then a pick-up truck with camera men, and finally, the Pope Benedict XVI! Everyone started cheering, "Esta es laz juventud del Papa" "This is the youth of the Pope!" I was about 10 feet away when he passed. It´s something you always see on TV, but you never actually imagine yourself there. I quickly ran back to my group and found them standing on the edges of chairs. I gave my camera to two of my friends (who are both fairly tall). We were ecstatic! We saw him greet the people representing each continent and then they set off red, yellow, and white balloons.

Next, we watched the Pope on a large screen as he addressed the youth in several languages. He told us to always remain firm in the faith and to root our lives in God alone. At the sound of his words, I could feel (and hear) a rush excitement run through the crowds. I think his presence as the Vicar of Christ on earth has filled the youth with great hope. Hopefully, we too can be ambassadors of that same hope to the rest of the world.”

***

“The first event of our day was the mass with all Regnum Christi members at the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium, the same place where the Vocation Coffee House is held. Not only was it cool to have mass in a soccer stadium, but it was
flag first pic
American and Canadian pride on the streets of Madrid.
also fun to be with my family in the movement. We saw many people who we hadn´t seen in months or, for some, years. Prior to mass, everyone cheered and sang together with the music while waving their flags. It was definitely a ‘family moment.’”

***

“[On Saturday] we had a big day ahead of us: walking several miles to the Cuatros Vientos airfield where the all-night vigil will be held. We attended mass at the university and then received (in a single bag) all the food we would need for the next 4 meals. If you´re curious, it included:
• 3 bottles of water
• 3 juice boxes
• a small packaged pizza
• 2 packaged tuna noodle casseroles
• 2 (non-perishable) yogurts
• 1 package of tuna "meatballs" in red sauce
• 1 pastry
• chocolate milk

***

“A walk that would have normally taken about 40 minutes, took us nearly 3 hours. Under the hot sun and through the masses of people, we walked on the dirt road at an average speed of about 2 strides per minute. As we neared the entrance, the crowds pushed in and, as in the metro and papal route, we were squished between strangers. After sleeping next to people sardine style and being crushed in crowds to the point that I have been lifted off my feet, I will never think of the term "personal space" in the same way.”

***

“It´s pouring down rain at the moment. We have covered our backpacks and sleeping bags and we are now huddled in small groups making
seating chart madrid
Checking out the group's seating location for the Saturday vigil.
the most of the few umbrellas, ponchos, and emergency blankets that we have. It´s interesting to see the different reactions of people. Some are running away with all their bags (I have no idea where they are going as there is no shelter in the 3-mile radius) while others (like us) are enjoying the "togetherness." We sang the Ave Maria in the hopes that it would pacify the nerves of those people who are panicking.
As soon as we finished singing to Our Lady, the rain and thunder stopped. Mary always listens to her daughters! The Pope just spoke to us saying, "Thank you for your joy and resistance. With the rain, God sends down many blessings. This vigil, with so many experiences, creates a new memory in our hearts..." His spontaneous words created a certain joyful and passionate hysteria that swept the crowds.”

***

“As the Holy Father exposed the Eucharist in the beautiful monstrance that came from Toledo, the once rambunctious crowds were silenced to the point that all we could hear was the rain buffeting against our ponchos. In the silence and fervor of the moment, Pope Benedict consecrated all the youth to the Sacred Heart, a moment that we have been anticipating for several weeks before. He then blessed the 2 million young people present from all around the world. Accompanied by the angelic choirs and symphony, the majestic moment created an ambience of great fervor and peace.”

***

“We woke up this morning to the sound of a loud,
margaret antonio and group
Margaret Antonio (far left) with classmates on the Madrid metro.
‘Buenas dias.’ Imagine waking up entangled in your sleeping bag, on a dirt floor, with 2 million people in the same position around you. This is just one of those experiences that words will never do justice to describe. Our first piece of morning news over the loudspeaker was that through the night, 27 children had been lost and if they were found, to please bring them to such and such gate. It was a little shocking, but children had been lost the day before, and all of them were eventually found. The next piece of news, however, was an outlier on the other side of the age line. An 83 year old woman was also lost. I´m sure they will find her soon since the other 2 million people (minus the 27 missing children) are all between the ages of 14 and 35, which is what WYD defines as ‘youth.’”

***

“At 9:30, the Holy Father arrived. He greeted us with the following, "Dear young people, I have thought of you much in this time that we have been separated. Let us start our Eucharistic celebration with enthusiasm and firm in the faith." He truly is a father figure. We have all felt his closeness during the vigil last night when he encouraged us to persevere through the storm, and now, he has not left us alone. He continues to walk on this journey with us as Christ walked with his disciples.”


PUBLICATION DATE: 2011-08-23


 
 

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