Fr. Mark Blogs From Spain
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Day Four in Spain

Pre-Production WYD Wrap-up!

Today is the last day of the conference. We did some interviews with young people, bishops and those in youth ministry. We also had the great fortune to interview Bishop Joseph Clemens, Archbishops Secretary for the Pontifical Council for the Laity. This is the council that is responsible for WYD, and the bishop was here to give an address on the Holy Fathers message to WYD. Bishop Clemens also worked with our Holy Father for twenty years as his secretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, so he understands the thoughts of Pope Benedict very well. I asked him questions about WYD, its message, and its impact on the Church and the young. He also graciously answered our questions about the Holy Father and what it was like to work with him.

Even though our conference ended today, we drove into Madrid to do some promotional videos for WYD. I am here with Pepe Alonzo, host of EWTN Espaols Nuestra Fe En Vivo, Enrique Duprat, Director of Spanish Production, Peter Gagnon, Director of Programming and Production, and John Kuklinski, Remote Production Coordinator. Of course, Pepe is here to do coverage and promotional work for our Spanish channels. It has been fantastic working with them.


Friday, Day Three in Spain

The Highest Altar Ive Ever Seen!

Today, we did a lot of interviews with young people and various organizers of WYD, and I was not able to attend any conferences. But an exciting interview for me today was with Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity. This is the congregation in charge of WYD. I was able to attend his talk the other day in the conference hall, in which he gave a very theological presentation of WYD. In the interview, he responded to my questions in Italian which we will have to translate later. I dont know Italian, but he knew enough English to know what I was asking. He had a very gentle spirit and was very willing to help us out and give us an interview.

Later on in the evening, Cardinal Rylko offered Mass in the Basilica San Lorenzo with all the majesty of a prince of the Church. The Basilica is quite beautiful with its granite stone, immense paintings, and, literally, the highest altar I have ever seen. The steps to the altar alone are quite numerous, and the altar paintings extend all the way to the ceiling. The boys choir was fantastic, and, with all the granite stone, the acoustical properties of the basilica allowed the voices to blend and resonant into the most beautiful sound that one can imagine. When the Mass is celebrated with such beauty, one is reminded of the beauty and majesty of God and His Church. Certainly, this WYD the young people will have opportunities to attend Masses offered with such solemnity and reverence. Pope Benedict, himself, makes a point to have moments of silent adoration at the liturgical events, and I know this will be a great blessing for the young people.


Thursday, Day Two in Spain

World Youth Day Planning Conference in Madrid, Spain

Today was our first real day at the conference. Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco of Madrid welcomed us and gave a talk, followed by talks from Bishop Cesar Franco Martinez, an auxiliary of Madrid, and Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity. The talks were very theological referring to Pope Benedict XVIs message for WYD 2011 and previous messages by Pope John Paul II to the youth. In listening to the talks, I felt like I was in Rome because of their style and content.

There were then various conferences on the practicalities of how an individual or group would register to come to WYD. The people attending the conference are workers and volunteers for WYD. There are religious, priests and laity making up the mix here. There are many young people here volunteering to help organize the conference, and they are very friendly and have a spirit of joy in serving the people here. I think their witness is very powerful in that youth can speak to youth in a powerful way.

We had lunch here at Maria Cristina University, and then we went out to Quatro Ventros, an airport used by the military and small planes. Here will be the Saturday evening prayer vigil and the closing Mass on Sunday. This closing Mass and the welcoming ceremony will be the largest events of the week, and, since we are in Europe, the crowds will be large.

Afterwards, we went to St. Isidore and St. Maria de La Cabeza Church, the patrons of Madrid. We had Mass with Cardinal Rouco deep in the heart of the city. On our drive into the city, I had to wonder, seeing the city life of Madrid, if WYD would speak to the modern secularized city. Today, many desire to push religion aside, but there in the Church of St. Isidore was the WYD cross and I was reminded of the many testimonies surrounding the pilgrim cross. In preparation for WYD, the cross travels around the world ending up in the host country, and there are many stories of conversions and healings surrounding the cross.

Before WYD in Denver in 1993, Pope John Paul II said, "Follow the pilgrim Cross; go in search of God, and you will see that he is also to be found in the heart of a modern city." The cross speaks to everyone. Everyone knows suffering, and a faith that does not speak to our human condition does not really have much say. To know that Jesus suffered and died for me out of love; that my suffering has meaning and is redemptive when united to the cross of Christ, lets us know that we are not alone and have not be abandoned by God.

We should not underestimate the convincing power of the truth of the Gospel, even in the heart of the modern city. At the end of the day, the whole group of us met with the mayor of Madrid. He was very positive and hopeful about WYD and its effect on young people. He welcomed us all and even treated us to hors doeuvres. Thats a nice way to end the day!

Fr. Mark meets with Cardinal Antonio Mara Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid, Spain



Wednesday, Day One in Spain


Today, Wednesday, we arrived in Madrid, Spain. Our Birmingham to Atlanta flight was canceled due to a winter storm, so Br. Leonard drove us to Atlanta to catch our flight to Madrid. With all the delays, we were pretty worn out by the time we got here.

We are in Spain to attend a conference for the organizers of World Youth Day this August. Those covering the event in the press were invited as well. The conference takes place in San Lorenzo de La Escoriol near a beautiful summer residence that was built by Philip II. Today, there is a wonderful basilica and monastery nestled in the mountains, here, outside of Madrid.

In the Basilica of San Lorenzo, there is the most spectacular tabernacle I have ever seen. I will try to get a picture of it when we have Mass there later in the week. As we move closer to World Youth Day, I am reminded of the tremendous history of Catholicism here in Spain, and I look forward to World Youth Day this summer and the fruits that such an event will have on Spain and Europe.

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