August 22, 2011
Today was our day to relax and enjoy Madrid. In the morning, we had a prayer service and meeting in the school's chapel during which we reflected on our experiences thus far, especially those things that had surprised us over the last few days. It was a good way to share one another's impressions, observations, and thoughts. It can be quite profound to hear someone share a moment that, until then, had simply been a piece in a chain of moments but that now struck us with a new brilliance because of its personal significance.
Afterwards, we participated in a scheduled tour of the printing press next door. The Brother in charge took us through all aspects of the process, explaining as we went along. It was obviously a very extensive operation, with a lot of machinery and a fast variety of printing projects. Everyone was suitably impressed. The highlight for many was the machine that cut through stacks of paper with a razor-sharp electric cutter. Most of us could just imagine what it would do to an errant finger or limb. Clearly, this whole plant was a major player among the printeries in Spain and would certainly provide a good income for the District.
The group, without Br. Peter who decided to stay behind and rest, then proceeded to downtown Madrid on the bus, walking through the downtown area on the way to a large Daughters of Saint Paul bookstore where many shopped for small souvenirs to take back. Different groups went in different directions from there, the Brothers walking to where we thought the cathedral would be. Upon finding a small church that had "Cathedral" in its name, we also saw that it was closed. Since time was running out we proceeded a nearby Metro stop and returned to the school, since we Brothers had been invited to join the Brothers at the school for their 2 PM meal.
They were waiting for us when we arrived back at the community and we spent a fine hour with them, chatting in Spanish and enjoying the special meal (Paella, champagne, etc.) that they had prepared in our honor. At the end of the meal, the Director made a fine little speech, and Br. Ed responded in kind, having a good facility in Spanish because of his many years as principal in the Bronx. It was a warm gesture on their part and an enjoyable celebration of our common vocation as Brothers. We might not have fully understood one another's words, but we felt fully at home in our common life and consecration.
Peter had arranged to meet up with the others from our group who were already downtown, and we Brothers now tried to find the agreed-upon location. Emerging at a different Metro stop from those we'd known, we wandered around, finally realizing that this meeting might involve a bit of a walk. Nevertheless, we were able to see a good part of the city and eventually made our way to the actual Cathedral (not the "old" cathedral that had deceived us that morning), coming to it from below and visiting the crypt church before making our way along the street to the upper level. By now, we had missed our meeting time and thought we wouldn't be able to find our group. Then suddenly we say Thomas Gramc crossing a street about 200 feet ahead of us. We all shouted but he didn't seem to hear us. Then Ed used his NYC / Schoolyard voice and Tom noticed us, yelling at us to stay there while he retrieved the rest of the group.
And so we were providentially reunited. The reunited group visited the Madrid Cathedral and then followed Tom's plan to visit five historical churches in the area, saying a decade of the rosary at each one. First, there was the church of San Francisco (closed) where we ran into a group of primitive Franciscans of some ilk, several of whom were Americans. We chatted a bit and then said the decade together on the street before proceeding to the next church. This was a church that had been the resting place of the remains of St. Isidore (the farmer) before his body was moved to another, larger church down the street. Nevertheless, we stopped here and were offered a tour by a young man from Belgium who was part of an international religious group that does this sort of thing, offering tours in other countries at religious sites in a variety of languages. After we'd said our decade, he quietly gave us an extensive tour of the inside of the church, providing history and details that most of us would have missed.
On we went to the larger church where St. Isidore was currently interred above the main altar. A quiet decade in the back and then we wandered around the church, noticing the various artworks and side chapels. One interesting thing I found was a large wooden sculpture of the Dormition of Mary. This is a popular scene among icons of the Orthodox church, but I had never previously seen a Catholic depiction, let alone a sculpture.
We moved on to several more churches, ending up in a church where Mass was going and where each of said our decade silently. Along the way, we ran into a Dominican priest who knew the Brothers and an elderly lady whose brother had been educated by the Brothers. They both seemed happy to see us and eager to talk. It was all very friendly, serendipitous (providential?), and enjoyable.
The group ended up at one of the largest plazas in Madrid, lined with stores and restaurants. Scouts were sent out to check out the restaurants around the plaza. We ended up at an outdoor place in one of the corners of the plaza. Figuring out just what our left-over food vouchers would get us was a bit complicated, especially since our waiter was a Rumanian speaking a sort of Spanish that even our Spanish-speakers had trouble understanding, but eventually we settled down and enjoyed a good meal together. The group next to us was also from the U.S., with some having a connection to various Lasallian schools, and so we were soon trading small gifts and conversing together. When darkness descended, vendors with little neon-blue helicopter toys filled the plaza and the place was filled with small lights soaring up and down in the air.
On the way back, we were able to see the cathedral lit up in all its glory. Once we arrived at our "home" Metro stop, Peter spoke with the helpful station personnel in order to figure out how to get transit passes for the next couple of days, since our WYD passes would expire today. Eventually it was all figured out. He passed them out to us in anticipation of tomorrow's activities and we happily made our way back to the school for a well-deserved and peaceful night's rest.
All of the photographs from our WYD experience are here. Below is a slideshow of the photos from just today. For individual photographs, you can also click on the slideshow to go to the album.