There is a beautifully written Ancient Pilgrim Prayer by Philo of Alexandria that summed up my expectations of the pilgrimage we would make to Spain.
We travel in weakness, hoping to find strength,
We travel with sickness, hoping to find health.
We journey in confusion, seeking peace,
We journey in doubt, seeking true faith.
We come carrying despair, looking for hope,
We come unready.
We come alone.
We come together.
Never in my life have I ever been so tired. Never in my life have I ever walked so much. Never in my life have my feet hurt as much as they did. In short I managed to conquer a multiple of ‘nevers’ in my life. And yet still I stand here today blessed enough to share my experience with you. One of the things I learnt during my experience is that God never provides you with a situation you cannot handle, every doubt I had in my mind, how would I manage to walk on such sore feet? How was I to survive in such immense heat? And yet with all these doubts each day I journeyed further than the day before.
Our days in the diocese were spent in Palencia, a small yet exquisite town in the north-northwest of Spain. During this part of the pilgrimage we visited numerous churches. Most of the churches were very simple and yet in all of their simplicity they had such an elegance and beauty about them. My favourite church was that of “San Juan Bautista,” the second oldest church in Palencia. It was extremely small; I don’t think that more than 50 parishioners could celebrate mass in there at one time. The church was made of concrete and stone, nothing more, and yet in all of its simplicity I was reminded that God relies less on the look of something and more on its inhabitants.
Whenever I get goose bumps I say that God’s work is in motion. Before finally heading off to Madrid we had a send-off mass at Palencia’s Cathedral, St Pueblo. I was in such awe of the masses of people, the music and the diversity that I sat through the entire mass with hairs on end. It was one of those defining moments when I realised the church is still strong and well and she has so much to share and give.
When we reached Madrid it was a complete 180 of our experience in Palencia. It seemed to get hotter, as hard as that is to believe, and you cannot begin to comprehend the masses of people that surrounded us. As I began to talk to people from all over the world, it become real for me, God understand all languages. How incredible?
On one of the mornings of Catechesis we were privileged enough to have Cardinal Wilfred Fox Napier address us. From the moment he began to speak it was evident that he was on fire for Jesus. He explained that Jesus is THE most beautiful name you will ever come to say. How true? He was certain that we as the youth can make a change, a profound one too. He used the analogy of a mosquito. He explained that a mosquito may seem very insignificant but when it bites it leaves a mark. We as the youth can have the same effect.
The biggest challenge was the language barrier. There is so much I feel like I missed because I didn’t understand but it’s not something I choose to see negatively. Instead I hope to revisit what Pope Benedict had said in hope of understanding better. I learnt to completely humble myself and I feel like I have grown as a person.
I want to send out a huge thank you to Margret and David Hill for their continuous support as well as to Father for all the time he has taken out of his schedule to motivate and prepare us for the journey. To all the parishioners, thank you for all your support and prayers, please know that I took each one of you along with me in my prayers and in my heart.
I went off to Madrid “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ” and I came back “Firmer in the Faith.”