August 18th, 2011
Let us start with yesterday, and I why it has taken me so long to get to my next post. I arrived in Madrid at 8:50 am with little more than 3 hours of sleep under my belt. I briefly met two young college students who had also come for World Youth Day, and they too, had only made the decision to attend two weeks prior. They were full of life, and the Lord, and full of questions about my conversion. One quoted an older convert he had met who told him, “We´re all Catholic, we just don´t know it yet.” I had never heard it put that way, but I smiled. In my heart I smiled.
As I left customs to get my bag, my day began to get difficult, and I encountered too many roadblocks to fully explain so I will sum up. My bag, which was originally my carry-on with most of my basics and my cherished camera to document my journey, is completely lost. Also missing, were my papers for WYD registration, and the address for apartment I had rented. This made the next two steps of my journey rather difficult. Had this been 5 years ago I probably would have stopped and prayed against the attack of the enemy for hindering my journey. But I knew something else was at play, and I thought about the prayer I had just prayed the day earlier – that I would welcome any challenge, and learn the smallest of lessons, hoping to respond like Christ.
Lesson 1 – Be patient and don´t sweat the small stuff. We have wars and people going hungry, and abandoned children in the world. Am I really going to waste time being upset or feeling sorry for myself?
Lesson 2 – Ask for help. I am terrible at this. If you only knew how shy I am when I think I am bothering people. But God used so many people who went out of their way to help me – I truly felt blessed.
So I finally arrived at my room at Ventura de la Vega #12 a little after 1pm. A short nap, and quick shower later, and I headed out into Madrid. The streets are full of foreign languages, priests and nuns, color coordinated shirts, and groups carrying flags from their respective countries. They sing in the streets, these young people, unashamed of their faith and shining proudly. That use to be me, jumping up and down with a praise song on my lips. Not as young as I use to be…but that is okay.
Walking became difficult as metros were crowded and my legs were exhausted. I stopped at La Iglesia de San Jeronimo simply to rest, and I discovered they were offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) in English for the next 45 minutes. I knew God had led me there just for that purpose.
I sat in line with a number of priests and nuns – I forget sometimes that they need the Sacrament too – and I made my confession with the most wonderful priest – a man from Nigeria whose name I could not begin to spell. His council was so solid, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit flowed through him like a fresh spring. The Sacrament of Reconciliation has been a hard one for me to embrace regularly in my Catholic walk. “I can pray to God without any help” I reason. And yet, whenever I have partaken of it, a huge wait has lifted and a light shines where there was once darkness. I need to remember that man didn´t make this up, it was Christ who said “Confess your sins, one to another.”
The rest of my day was spent meeting other pilgrims – 3 polish girls with thick accents and innocent faces, then a concert in Parque Retiro, and a long, difficult walk home. Metro stations were closed due to riots in La Puerta del Sol, and my body ached as I walked another 2 miles to the apartment. But I thought of other pilgrims, and Mary on her way to Bethlehem, and the apostles traveling hundreds of miles on dirt roads for the sake of the gospel. I prayed that God would keep my body healthy for the baby, and pushed through the hot night air depending on God for grace. When I got to my bed, I opened a meat and cheese sandwich and had never been so grateful for a piece of food and a place to rest my head. I thought of the children in Somolia now going hungry, and repented of so often taking food for granted.
God I pray for those without the most basic of needs – food, water, shelter, medical care. Lord, use those of us who have more. Lay it on our hearts to give. Do not let us grow complacent, or greedy, or dependent on luxury. As Mother Theresa said, let us “Live simply, so that others may simply live.” God thank You for Your lessons. Thank You for Your goodness. Amen.