Saturday, 24 September 2011

Days Thirteen and Fourteen

We were given the choice of going to Mass at 7:30 on the Monday, and so Marie and I decided we would go, as a nice way of rounding off the pilgrimage. We gathered in the room we had Mass the night before, and it was lovely to see so many of us up and joining in the celebration of Mass. We then had a lush breakfast, there was so much stuff on offer it was crazy, but it was so good.

Then we had to go and get our bags and bring them down to the lobby. Slowly the word was disseminated that Jonny had left his passport in the safe at the hotel in Madrid. Hannah decided that she would go and help him look for it and lo and behold it was in the first pocket of his suitcase that she looked in! It certainly had everyone in the group checking that they had their passport and that it was in the right bag!

We all piled onto the coach and began the long journey up to Calais. But instead of putting on the Sound of Music and getting it finished Fr Phil put on Karol. It was a shame because I don't think one person saw the whole film because we were all still shattered.

We finally stopped at a service station for lunch in France. It was so expensive in there so my lunch was some pasta, some madelines and diet coke. The woman who served me was really unfriendly, and I was quite miffed by it all. After eating our food, we were back on the coach, said a cheeky decade, and watched Sherlock Holmes, before we stopped again. Yet again the services were really expensive and I made do with some very insubstantial food. At this services I found a make your own egg mayo kit, which was very strange. You got a boiled egg and a sachet of mayo...weird!!

The coach drivers were doing their hardest to get us to Calais in time for the 12:45am ferry. Whilst journeying on we passed Rouen Cathedral, said another cheeky decade, did diaries, did two quizzes, watched the end of Sound of Music (finally), and got some sleep until 1am when we had to get out and go through border control. I was asked by my less than cheery guy, where we'd been.

We all got back on the coach quickly and headed to the ferry. We were told that we wouldn't be getting a ferry until 3:20am, which made everyone groan, but luckily for us we managed to get on the ferry that was just closing boarding. Although we did leave one of the Leeds coaches behind in the process.

The cafe was beckoning and I ended up getting some lovely beans on toast. It certainly hit the spot. After this we didn't have much time before we were docking, just before, Rory led us with a few songs which was great.

We then got back on the coach, after saying goodbye to Sophie Barrett, and gave Andrew and Peter our gifts, of a bottle of whiskey, and (on my suggestion) a diocesan shirt each. We then said our goodbyes to them because it was quite clear that when we stopped to let them off and get our new driver, we would all be asleep, and we were, I don't even remember the coach coming to a stop!

We made our way to Norton Caines where we had breakfast and we said goodbye to Rachel. After we got back on the coach we all wrote in cards for Fr Aiden and Fr Bob before we got to Knutsford where me, Sophie Benson and Amelia got out.

Sophie's parents kindly gave me a lift to Manchester airport where I got the train down to Swansea, finally getting in about 5pm. And there ends my wonderful pilgrimage to Madrid.

Day Twelve

I surprisingly managed to sleep quite well and woke up at 7 to the dulcit tones of Fr Phil telling everyone it was our last chance to go to the loo. After packing up I ventured off and discovered that the burst pipe leak was 100 times worse, and ended up with wet muddy feet. Luckily, it was already quite warm so they did dry quite qucikly.

When I got back to camp, I managed to swap one of my polo shirts for a Mexican one. That was very much down to Alan and I was so chuffed because it is a great t-shirt. We all then grabbed our stuff and walked towards one of the exits. After we got there and Fr Phil gave a few announcements we were aloud off, and so Lizzie and I went off to swap some shirts. We ended up swapping some shirts with some American's. Didn't get the shirt I wanted but it's still cool.

Laura and I then went on another search to find people to swap with. We found some portuguese people to swap with, and I got a Chinese shirt, which I was over the moon with. Laura later got the kind of shirt that I would have preferred but I was just so happy to have a Chinese shirt and it had the guy's name in it so now whenever I see it or wear it I will pray for Anthony. Laura managed after a lot of persuasion to get a Brazilian shirt, though they were rather reluctant. Lizzie tried her luck, but they didn't want to swap another one.

I also met some Syrians, some Macedonians, some more Chinese people and we also found some people from Hereford who had lost their group, and we managed to reunite them.

Before we knew it Mass had started and so we all re-gathered and attempted to partake in Mass. We read the readings and then the decision was made that we should leave. So, like a bunch of pack horses we gathered all our stuff together and made our way to a tube station. Fr Phil kept driving us forward and it was really hard for a lot of us to keep up. We finally got to the station and filled an empty carriage. We were travelling from one end of the line right to the other, but we managed to keep our spirits high, even through all the exhaustion, heat, and people insisting on cramming onto an extremely packed train.

Eventually we got on the coach and made our way to Vittoria. Everyone was shattered and I think everyone must have dozed off numerous times on that journey. Whilst we were awake we did some evaluations and we also shared the things that we had enjoyed the most, it was great to listen to all these things. Later on we put the Sound of Music back on...but it was on for all of about 5/10 minutes because we then began the approach to Vittoria. So we were destined to need yet another day to finish off the Sound of Music!

Lo and behold, just like in Valladolid, the road the coach needed to go down to get to the hotel, so we had to divert ourselves, but it was nowhere near as bad as in Valladolid and we were at the hotel shortly. The hotel was beautiful, and I feel like the best was saved til last. We were told that the Leeds coach had suffered a punctured tire, so we would have the hotel to ourselves for a while. We then treated ourselves to the best showers ever...simply because we had slept on an airfield the night before. We then went down to the lobby for 8pm to meet everyone for Mass, and it was so lovely to look around the lobby and see so many smiling faces. Everyone looked beautiful, and really relaxed.

Mass was yet again really lovely, even though I was really tired and things weren't really processing, it was great to have that time together. Fr Augustine did a fantastic homily, only because I was so tired I don't really remember the content, I just remember thinking it was really good and funny too.

We then had food and all us special diet people had to sit on one table, though there were so many of us we had to be on another table as well. It was quite funny actually because they wouldn't give me the normal dessert because I was one of the special diets so I was given a bowl of melon. However, John Paul and I swapped very quickly because he couldn't eat it because of his egg allergy and I could :) We were sat with the coach drivers and it was a highly entertaining time with them. I had a good chat with Peter, and they had us laughing a lot.

We then went and chatted in the bar for a while, and enjoyed being in a clean environment, before I headed to bed exhausted from the fun of the day.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Day Eleven

We were afforded a lie in today which I took full advantage of before we had to be out. As Marie and I were packing we put the TV on and saw some of the seminarian Mass, sadly there was no sign of JP, Daniel or John. It later transpired that JP and Daniel were outside and John was at the back.

The rest of the group met at 10:45 for a brief update before we clapped in the Bishop. We then had a cheeky Diocesan photo with him which was nice. Lizzie and I then joined the music group for Mass. Weirdly I had woken up with Majesty and then Zaf said that we would be starting with it. Mental!

Our bishop did a lovely job of Mass and told us that the clergy all really appreciated us young people, and how we were the missionaries of the Church.

After Mass, we all rushed off to find food and go to the supermarket so we'd have supplies for the vigil. Because Foyer's Hollywood took so long getting our order together we were late back, but so were lots of people so it wasn't too bad.

We then all grabbed our vigil stuff, gave the keys back to reception, and got on the coach. We were then taken as far as it was possible to get us to the vigil, but before we knew it we had to get out and walk. It was baking as we walked towards the air field, and Fr Phil was keeping us going at a rate of knots. We eventually made our way to just outside Cuatro Vientros and then Fr Phil went mad at the people who didn't have a hat on!

We finally got in and already thousands upon thousands of people were there. We began to walk to our designated zone, and as we were walking a fire engine came along and the firemen sprayed us with water. It felt so good, and so many people had their arms up taking in the water. We were soaked but it was amazing! It certainly made me feel a lot better. We finally made it round to D3, passing quite a few people who had fainted, only to be told at the entrance that we weren't allowed in because it was full! So we had to find somewhere else to set up for the night. Fr Phil suggested F3 so we went towards there, and as we did there were a lot of volunteers carrying this girl who was completely out of it and even had a tube in her throat. As they passed, her arm scraped against mine, I wouldn't be surprised if that girl had a dislocated sholder after that!

We got into F3 and after people had a row with Fr Phil they agreed to move forward so we could get in behind them. We started putting our tarpaulin out and then another row ensued with another guy. In the end we just had to try and ignore that man and get settled. I sat and ate an energy biscuit, which really did give me more energy, and then Ruth and I headed out on an adventure to find some water. In the scrum of people trying to get water, we met a guy from Zimbabwe who chatted to Ruth for a little while, and some people from Brooklyn. We ended up singing Beatles songs and I had so much water in my arms it was crazy!

We managed to get enough water to share out for everyone, and then got back to the others. They had kindly laid out my sleeping bag as this adventure for water took over an hour. Sadly I was on the edge of the tarp near to the guy who was going nuts about it all and also a massive ants nest. A little while after this the group leaders came back with the food. My veggie stuff was interesting to say the least. They had given us microwave meals and a veggie burger. Everyone was very kind though and gave me all sorts of things out of their bags that they didn't like or want.

Not long after this the Pope began his journey to the air field, and as he did the storm clouds were gathering. We quickly tried to get our stuff into bags to be protected from the rain and before we knew it the thunder and lightning show began. It was fork lightning on a huge scale, the storms surrounded us before it began to pour and we were told to get ourselves and our stuff under the tarpaulin. It ended up being really scary and Lizzie and I said a decade of the Rosary and then Marie, Laura, Lizzie and I said two more.

The rain abaited for a while so we all got out from under the tarpaulin, where all we could hear was screams from the people around us, and we were addressed by the Pope before we had adoration. The screens, or at least some of them, had gone off and the sound was affected for a while, we got it back after a while, but it was clear that others couldn't hear or see anything, because there was still chatter, singing and dancing.

Still we adored Christ and were blessed by the Pople, and the Blessed Sacrament was removed before we had more rain, and were again under the tarpaulin. There was a beautiful firework show to round the night off. After a little while the rain stopped and we got ourselves ready for bed. As I lay down, it rained a little bit so I put my rain jacket over my face and tried to get comfy. I had to get up in the middle of the night to go use the loo, and it was amazing how many people were still up and singing. One of the water pipes had burst and was creating a rather large pool. We got back and went back to sleep again.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Archbishop Dolan's Homily 19/08/11

'My job is to preach the good news. Here's the good news: there's no collection today!'

There are 350 priests, 50 bishops, and 10 deacons here today. If this Mass doesn't work then we're in trouble! It's amazing to see so many of you enthusiastic about the Mass.

In the Gospel we hear the last words of Jesus. It's an evangelical commission, a missionary mandate to go out to the world. St James took it so literally he came to Spain. St Peter also took him very seriously, he is the prince of the Apostles, and he went to capa mundi, Rome, where he became Pope. How blessed we are to be in the presence of the successor of Peter.

The pivotal teaching of John Paul II is the theology of invitation. The supreme task of inviting is what we are charged with, to invite others to Jesus. We're in an invitation business. This invitation is free. We have as sacred responsibility to know and love Jesus. According to John Paul II 'The Church never imposes, the Church only proposes.' We invite people because we believe that it is worth people's attendance, something that will sustain and excite them. The Church affirms everything that is good in humanity. When we invite people we are saying we will be there too. It is important that we make sure that we're burning passionately for Jesus and his Church. We will also never give up on inviting people, we will keep renewing the invite. We're in the company of a million young people who have taken up the invite to follow Jesus.

St Paul, although not with the Apostles when Jesus gave the commission, really took the invitation and missionary charism very seriously. He also came to Spain. Mary is the patroness of Spain after her vist to St Paul - she thanked him for bringing the flesh of Christ to Spain, and thanked him for giving a human heart to her son again. No wonder the Spaniards have such a great love of Mary.

Catechesis 19th August 2011

Maggie and Bob McCarthy

They told us that they were working for the De La Salle Brothers at the moment. The asked us to imagine what it must have looked like from space, seeing this mass migration of people to Madrid for this event. They told us that our tradition is filled with the saints who challenge us in our faith. Our community of saints remind us to be witnesses of faith.

On Holy Thursday Jesus washes feet, and breaks bread, he comes to us.  The cross marks us as followers of Jesus. Are we more loving, peaceful, forgiving, joyful, compassionate, and courageous? If we want to combat the big issues we need to be people of Eucharist and justice.

Archbishop Dolan

Archbishop Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said that he was asked if he was nervous about speaking to so many young people and he said 'I'm not nervous because Jesus told us to not be afraid.' He told us he would be speaking on being a witness to Christ in the world. He told us how much the bishops love us, are proud of us and that as young people we are a huge catechesis to the bishops.

The result of being planted and built up in Jesus is that we are to share Jesus with others. By its nature, faith in Jesus is contagious, we're busting to share it with others.

St James and St Paul came to Spain itching to tell others about the faith and the people who had passed it on from generation to generation. Whn Columbus went exploring in the Eighteenth Century the king and queen of Spain told him the first thing he was to do was to spread the faith. So when he got to the Americas the first thing he did was plant the cross in the soil.

Our call today is to be missionaries. Four ways we can be missionaries and being evangelists, so being salt and light are: charity, joy, hope, and love for the Church.

Charity: What captivated people from the beginning of the Church was the love the followers had for each other. The love and charity for God was so profoundly deep, passionate, and consuming that they would rather die than deny Jesus. Tertullian: the Blood of the Martyrs is a great witness. Catherine Doherty, set up houses of hospitality throughout Canada, she would welcome the poor in and then they would live in community. She was called to one house which was having a lot of conflict in it. She told them they were going to have to close it, and the people asked her why, and who was going to help the poor. She told them the government could do it but they were called to do it with love, and charity, and if we can't do that then we go out of business. We are called to this life.

John Paul II's idea on the law of the gift tells us that we are at our best, how we are meant to be, and most notably human when we give ourselves away to another human. That's the law we are called to obey.

Joy: Joy is an infallible sign of God's presence. A french philosopher, when he was a student at a Catholic University in Washington DC used to help in a hospice for dying AIDS patients.
He asked to go in on Good Friday and went around with the cross for the patients to venerate it. A man was calling to him to come over, and he was told by the sisters of charity that the man was dangerous, and advised him not to go over. However, he told them he had to go over, 'you walk in front of me', and the man did venerate the cross. On Holy Saturday the sisters told the archbishop that the man was close to death and wanted to be baptised. The archbishop went to him and asked him why he wanted to be baptised and he said, 'the sisters are so full of joy, they got it, I don't, I want it now and I want it for eternity, I want to be baptised.' So he was baptised.

Mother Teresa said that we should always think JOY: Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.

Hope: No coincidence that Pope Benedict's first encyclical was entitled spe salve. We have a critical need of hope. This God keeps his promises. The archbishop was the chair of the Catholic relief service that went to Haiti. He went to the rubble of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and there in the middle of the mess, untouched and unscathed there was the cross of Christ. Thousands of people were there clamouring to touch the cross of Christ. They still had hope. 'Their hope is resiliant, they'll never give up.' He said this in reference to the people of Haiti. Our missionary zeal comes from our hope. Cardinal Von Thuan from Vietnam had a cross and ring that was made out of electrical wire. He was in communist prison for 11 years and the only thing that kept him going was his hope. On the day he was released the guards gave him the cross and ring as a gift and said to him 'You never lost your hope.'

Passionate love of the Church: John Paul II said that the love of Jesus, and his Church must be the passion of your lives. Jesus is alive, powerful, teaching and accessible in and through his Church. A theist believes in God, a Christian believes in Christ, a Catholic believes Jesus Christ is alive in his Church. People tell us they want spirituality without being religious; we say no can do, that's impossible for a Catholic. Jesus and his Church are synonomous, see when St Paul is on the Road to Damascus, and Jesus said 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me.' This is because Jesus and his Church are one. It is no wonder that he used such beautiful imagery to teach us about the Church. At times it is difficult to love the Church but the Church is Christ and he is true God and true Man. He was most God when he was crucified. The Church is the bride of Christ. The Church is the body of Christ; at times it is attractive and at others it is ugly but it is still the mystical body of Christ. A show of that loyalty and allegiance is a great strategy of evangelisation.

When he was the Archbishop of Milwaukee, there was a beautiful old parish and the decision was made that it had to be closed. The people were very good about it and he celebrated the last Saturday night Mass. It was a beautiful Mass, and all that was left was the wooden structure of the Church as the other things had been taken elsewhere. The people of the parish wasked if they could bur it to the ground, and offer it as a sacrifce to God, rather than it standing there abandoned. After Mass they went outside, said the Creed and then the voluntary fire service set the fire. They all then departed. The following day the archbishop was going passed the ruins and the Church had completely burnt to the ground. The only thing that was left were nails stacked around the foundation. People were taking the nails as souvenirs abd he asked for one. Those nails held the building together, like the nails of the crucifix held this Church together for the last 2000 years. It is strong and by still loving we show the nails off because the nails of Jesus keep the Church together.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Day Ten

On the way onto the coach to go to catechesis, I asked Andrew if he was having a good time and he told me that he and Peter saw the Pope yesterday, just near the hotel! Was rather jealous of them seeing him realtively up close.

We made our way to the love and life centre again and today we found that the Sisters of Life were not there today because they were at a Mass with the Pope. Instead we had a married couple, called the McCarthy's. They seemed lovely and were excited to be there with us, sadly just not quite as charismatic as Sr Bethany Madonna.

This was made up for by Archbishop Dolan from New York, who had charisma in abundance. He was awesome, extremely funny, and so enjoyable to listen to. It was by far the best catechesis we had because he put his personality into it. At one point he caught himself on the big screen and exclaimed, mid sentance, that he needed to go on a diet! The way he said it was hysterical. He talked to us about how we are missionaries. It was very captivating.

In between catechesis and Mass, as the stage crew were setting up, this German guy managed to somehow get onstage and aquire a microphone. He said 'Praying with the Pope in the day, and sex, drugs, and rock and roll by night. Shame onyou!' The mic was then ripped from his hand and he was escorted out. To begin with in response the crowd booed and then we began chanting the name of Jesus. I told Fr Phil about it after and he said that it was a good challenge.

We had Mass, and the praise band that was there earlier were doing the music today due to the choir being out at Mass. It was quite a nice change. Archbishop Dolan told us that there were 350 priests, 50 bishops and 10 deacons celebrating this Mass with us today. He spoke about St Peter, and St Paul's zeal for the faith. Our final song was fun to sing and the chorus went: 'We'll shout it out loud from the rooftop, we won't be quiet, we've fallen for you hard and we can't stop, we won't deny it. No, no, no (and the no's went on for a while with everyone punching the air with every one).'

After Mass we got on the metro and went to find food near to the hotel. Some of us went to the buffet place across from the supermarket. It was really good especially not having to eat chips! We went to the supermarket and Laura and I got a newspaper each, headed back to the hotel and got ready to meet for evening prayer at 5:30pm.

When we met up it turned out that the other groups hadn't made it back to the hotel area for food, but had been wandering the streets of Madrid. They were not happy bunnies.

Evening prayer was lovely. It was really nice to spend that time altogether in prayer, just our Diocese. I think it was a great way to begin our evening together. After prayer we were going to make our way to a park to watch the Stations of the Cross on a big screen. But then Fr Phil thought it might be better for us to go back to the love and life centre, and after they would be having Eucharistic Healing.

So we got on the metro and managed to get there just in time, and sat in the well of the stadium, where the priests would sit for Mass. We then got the live transmission through. It wasn't what I expected because I thought the paseos would be moving, but instead the WYD cross was taken to each one. This was quite beautiful though, to see the youth of the world take the cross to see the journey of the cross 2000 years ago. It was amazing, and the statues were so lifelike I was fooled by the first one thinking that they were people. We saw all the stations but the live feed cut before we had the chance to see the final one for Mary.

We then were meant to have lectio divina, but the people that were running it talked all the way through it, and had us singing too. It didn't work. They also wanted us to use silly putty but that seemed useless too, all you had to do was play with it.

We then were led into adoration, I'm pretty sure that it was Fr Emmanuel from Youth 2000 that did the introduction. We listened to the story of the haemorraging woman and then the Blessed Sacrament was brought in. A bishop then talked to us about what was going to happen and how important adoration is.

After a short period of adoration, the Blessed Sacrament was processed around all of the well of the stadium. It was beautiful and when they brought Jesus down the aisle nearest to me, I didn't want him to pass by, but stay near to me.

I left there with a real sense of peace and then we headed to the train station. We met some people down there from Oregon and I swapped a badge for a little angel tile. Then I swapped a peg for a badge from Malaysia on the train. And once we were back to the hotel it was time for bed, after a bit of packing.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Archbishop Miller's Homily 18/08/11

Each of us has a name given to us by our parents. Our names are precious to us. In Jesus' time names were meant to describe some aspect of the person. This is not much different today. Once you know someone's name then they are no longer a stranger, it is a gateway to friendship.

Today's Gospel tells us how Jesus got his name. Neither Mary nor Joseph picked it. God had it all sorted. They angel told Joseph to name him so that he would have a connection to him. Jesus is the Saviour and he will carry out his mission because he is Emmanuel, God-with-us.

In a world filled with empty ideologies the name of Jesus is a source of life for those who believe. There is no other name under which we are saved than Jesus. We cannot save ourselves, Jesus is the one saviour of mankind.

We know and believe that salvation is mediated through Christ. Jesus' name is at the heart of Christian Churches worldwide, also at the heart of Christian prayer, and it inspires love of the least of our brothers and sisters.

The name of Jesus Christ is also your name. The name of Jesus Christ brings salvation and life as well as struggle. Our mission is to make Jesus' name known to everyone. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Archbishop Miller then finished his homily by quoting from Pope Paul VI's pastoral visit to Manilla 40 years ago.

Catechesis 18th August 2011

Jason and Crystalina Evert

Jason spoke first saying that today's talk would be spending some time on the truth and God's beauty in love. He told us the story of his grandparents, who were married 67 years before his grandma died. He said that they would always flirt together and he saw his grandpa give his grandma her last kiss. He leaned over the casket kissed her on the nose and said 'love ya Babe.' He felt that, that was the real deal and he wanted to find that as well.

Jason said that in order to find this you need to love your spouse before you even meet them. Christ tells men that you must conquer yourselves for the sake of a woman. The message of the world however, is very different.

Jason said that a guy gets emasculated by porn. The crucifix is a show of masculation. The church is for not the annihilation of our sexuality but the perfection of sexuality. One of the Church's saints spent all his money on prostitutes, so that he could convert them. He saw their dignity when they had forgotten it. Redemption of the human heart is possible, because God can make all things new.

Crystalina then took the mic, and told us her story. When she was 15 she lost her virginity and she ended up feeling that her boyfriend just seemed to want to spend time with her body and not her. When they split up she knew that he was walking away with something she could never get back. This began her spiral into sin. She was into partying and drinking, and even though she pretended to be happy she wasn't deep down. Her mum made her go to a chastity talk and God really spoke to her through that man giving the talk. Even though he had done things he wished he hadn't now he was not ashamed of himself. She realised that she had never had the peace that this man had and realised that she needed to start respecting herself and God. She wrote a letter about what she had done and all the nos she'd said in her life. She said she believes that she wouldn't have her family if she had not decided to say yes to Jesus everyday. She told us not to underestimate the power of our testimonies to other people.

Jason then resumed talking, he told us girls that modesty makes you look classy and captivating. It tells others that you are worth waiting to see. We should say to ourselves and to men that a man will not lift the veil over this body without lifting the veil over this face. Woman are at the pinnacle of creation. Adam is in awe of Eve. Chastity tests love and like fire will burn everything away.

He told us all to enjoy being single, get on our feet, go to confession and wash your soul, more than your car. Daily Mass is made for those with nothing better to do, and none of us have anything better to do. Devotion to Mary is also important. Love Our Lady.

He told us to spend some time on their website and that was the end of their talk.

Sister Bethany Madonna

Told us today that we are at a palace for Jesus and that there is no sin greater than the cross.

Sister Mary Deus (I think) some of the friars and some of the other sisters then sang a song about chastity. It ran:

Part 1: You are beautiful, you are precious, you are sacred, in the eyes of the Lord.
Part 2: I must confess, I look for holiness, a man strong in virtue.
Part 3: My Saviour and my God. I lay my life down before Thee. I place my faith in your
           truth. I trust in your mercy.

Part 4: I thank you Lord for making me. For truth, goodness and beauty. I thank you Lord
           for your ways do bring me greatest peace and freedom. Greatest peace and

Archbishop Miller

He began by saying 'Whoever has God has enough.' He then told us to think about the parables at the sermon on the mount. We need to be like Mary hearers and doers of the Word.

We can be for or against Jesus. We can go on the narrow path to Jesus o the broad road to destruction. We have many decisions to make in our lives. These days are grace filled and are time to make decisions. It is a decisive time. We have one choice to make that is greater than any other, whether to be a disciple or not. We need to build on a rock solid foundation: the Word of God himself. He is the one who prevents our house collapsing. If you build on this foundation you will combat any problems. We need solid foundations to endure.

We need to surrender to the Lord because he knows what is best for us. Often Jesus is ignored or mocked. For faith to survive we must survive those who scorn and mock you. There will be trials and misfortunes, but we can get through it and withstand it.

We are grafted on to Christ like on a vine. With him all things are possible. With him we truly live. He, himself is our life. There are no people that equal young Christians in their vitality because they have the life of Christ in them. This starts at baptism. We should not say I was baptised but I am baptised. We are immersed in the pascal mystery of Christ. We live through him, with him and for him. You are never alone, because he never lets go. Let us never lose hold of the hand of Jesus.

It is up to us now to affirm if you are a friend of Jesus and want to be his friend. He urged us to recommit ourselves to living a Christ centred life. At the centre should be a personal relationship with Jesus, be with him, imitate him, have the same mind with Jesus, know him, listen to him, and stay with him.

Jesus is present, he is not a man of the past. Lose yourself in Jesus. Being with Christ frees you, and allows you to become the person you should be. Do not be afraid of Christ, he takes nothing away and gives everything.

The Church implores you to give yourself to Christ.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Day Nine

We had to move a bit quicker this morning because Fr Phil was keen that we get out on time for catechesis. It was good that we did because when we turned up there were lots more people waiting to get in than yesterday. Yet, we still managed to get seats futher down than before.

Sister Bethany Madonna was still MCing and was on top form yet again. Our first speakers were none other than Jason and Crystalina Evert! It was good to hear them again and see them doing a proper talk. They certainly have a unique way of putting their message across.

We then had Archbishop Miller from Vancouver for the actual catechesis. He brought out a WYD rucksack and I thought that he was going to use things from in his bag during the talk. I was deeply disappointed, and it was good that I was writing in my book, because I easily could have slept through it!

Before Mass I went for a bit of a wander around and as I was going met these girls from the Philippines. When I said I was from the UK they bombarded me with stuff to swap. I think I did really well, especially swapping pegs for some really great stuff. They were lovely though, and I enjoyed meeting them all.

The Mass was lovely again today, and we had hundreds of priests concelebrating again. The best bit of the Mass was the end, because when Archbishop Miller went to put his mitre back on he managed to push it too far or something and it tumbled off his head. His face was a picture!!

3 of the groups stayed at the love and life centre for lunch and I had 2 very oily, but nice, tuna salady things. After lunch we headed to Retiro park where we met Alan's group and then all of us made our way to the Big Screen some of the group watched the opening Mass on.

It was a nice shady spot there and we could see thousands of youth pouring up this street to get closer to the Pope. It was amazing really. Some of the group went and danced in the street, but at that point I felt so hot I couldn't have gone out there. Instead I went and bought a badge, after checking with Alan that it didn't say anything weird. Later I went out to do the macarena, but they kept interrupting it which made me sad.

It was a lovely afternoon waiting for the Pope to arrive, I sat and chatted with Alan for a lot of it, then spoke to some El Salvadorians, and then I turned around and Brendan from Brentwood had managed to find us. It was lovely to see him out there, amongst 2 million or more people. Lizzie and Ste were there at one point as well though, I didn't really speak to them sadly.

Typically, I went to the toilet about 20 mins before the Pope was due and lo and behold, just as I was nearing the front of the queue the Pope arrived. I was so annoyed, but I don't think I missed too much.

Anyway I got back before he said anything. He was very sweet with his little 2 hand wave. He spoke some very lovely welcoming words to us: "I extend an affectionate greeting to the many English-speaking young people who have come to Madrid. May these days of prayer, friendship and celebration bring us closer to each other and to the Lord Jesus. Make trust in Christ’s word the foundation of your lives! Planted and built up in him, firm in the faith and open to the power of the Spirit, you will find your place in God’s plan and enrich the Church with your gifts. Let us pray for one another, so that we may be joyful witnesses to Christ, today and always. God bless you all!"

Some of our group then left, which was a shame because they missed the best bit. The Pope was presented with many gifts from different young people representing the different parts of the world. He was given a sombrero by one of the young people, and you could see a cheeky grin cross his face before he put the sombrero on!! He took it off very quickly, but it was a lovely moment. Then he was given a leis, which he also put on. This was swiftly removed by the officials.

By the time the welcoming ceremony was over half of the group had already made their way back to the hotel. There were about 25 of us left and John Millar was in charge of getting us back. He did a really good job because when we were separating he made us hold on to the person's rucksack in front of us. So in our crocodile we swam along with the rest. We had quite a walk to Velasquez station but it was enjoyable, and even funny at times being pulled along in the crocodile.

When we got down into the metro station, a Spanish group asked us to sing a song and when we finshed we were asked to sing again. Then once we'd started we couldn't stop ourselves, we sang together most of the way home. It was so much fun and definitely kept us sane on the metro home.

When we got back to Canillejas half of us went to Burger King and the other half went home. The only problem was they didn't have anything for veggies, so I ended up with a Whopper, without the burger, which was actually quite nice, followed by a salad, a diet coke and 2 BK shots. They were just cheesecakes. They were nice. Daniel aquired a crown whilst in there and became king for the night. He even walked back to the hotel in it! Some of us went to play in the play area in Burger King. It was really good. There was an interactive floor screen in there and it was so much fun. Michael was having a great time in there squishing the beans and other such stuff.

When I got back to the hotel I realised that I lost the bracelet I bought in Avila. I was gutted. I really loved that bracelet. So I began praying to St Anthony and St Jude, but nothing yet.

Alpha Awakening 17/08/11

Karen from Kuala Lumpor, attended Alpha in 2008 at uni. It was arranged by the Catholic Society there. She was initially reluctant to go and wasn't sure about faith at all. She was about to leave the Church when she went to the course. Her friend had organised it and she was put on the committee so had no choice but to go. She loved the experience of sharing a meal together which is how each of the meetings started. There would then be a talk and then the best part, sharing. It was great to share with the group because she had a lot going on at the time. God really touched her through Alpha. God was there all along and she hadn't appreciated the little things that he had done in her life. She would tell people to go for it, restart your relationship with God through Alpha.

Alex from London said that 5 years ago he wouldn't have called himself a Christian and wasn't sure God was a part of his life. He said no to going to Alpha, and then finally after asking his friend also called Alex lots of questions about it, he went on the course. He went to one held in an Anglican Church and enjoyed the talks on Jesus. It all made more sense in his head but didn't feel anything in his heart. Then he went for the weekend away, he heard a talk n how to feel the Holy Spirit and then really wanted to know God but still didn't feel anything. He left the room disappointed, went to his room and wanted to experience the relationship with Jesus that the others had and prayed to know him. He was then filled with God's love and knew he was real and loved him for him. It was the first time that he felt secure.

Toby, an Anglican priest said that he was loving JMJ. He asked us: How secure do you feel? How safe do you feel in your future? He told us the story of an old lady in Florida who went to the supermarket, and when she got to her car 4 men were in it and about to drive away. She took out a gun from her bag, pointed it at them and said 'Get out of my car or I'll shoot you, you scumbags.' They ran away. She was really shaken up. Put the bags in the car and she couldn't start the ignition because she was shaking so much. Slowly she got out of the car and looked and 3 rows down was her car! She was so embarrased, went straight to the police and told them about it. They couldn't stop laughing and pointed down the counter to the 4 men who said they had their car stolen by a crazy granny.

So we are not always secure, nationally, politically or even personally in our relationships. We try to make ourselves more secure and sometimes this doesn't work. Three things we use to make ourselves secure are: fame, fortune and facebook. He then told us a story about the first of these, fame. He tried to be in a band, he went to the audition thinking that it was just a visual audition. He queued up, and at the end got a ticket and was told congratulations, so he thought he was in the band. However, he then had to do a vocal audition. He was not prepared at all and was then ushered into the audition room, and was told to sing the song he prepared. In that moment he couldn't remember a single song. Then he remembered 'Stand by Me'. He thought now don't start too high, so he started really low, and had to carry on. Eventually he was told they'd call him but they never did. We want to be famous and rich to fell secure but we don't really achieve this. Amy Winehouse is a really good example of this.

How can we find security? St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians said'pray you'll be rooted and established in love.' You need to have firm foundations. For firm faith in God you need:

1) Trust in the Word of God.
You can trust in the Word of the Father, more than anyone else. When you feel insecure say 'God loves me.' Remember Ps 139 'I am fearfully and wonderfully made.' Also Isaiah 49 'He has written my name on his hand.' Also Jer 29:11 'I know the plans I have for you...' When the words of others make you feel insecure look to the Word of God. He is for you, he loves you, and is with you.

2) Trust the work of the Son.
This is the work of Jesus on the Cross. Toby told us that his father was a physics teacher and Toby was terrible at it. He would hate having to show his Dad his report, and everytime would hope that he had a good mark. Sometimes we feel like that with God.  If I do everything I can, maybe then God will love me. We're trusting in the work of ourselves not the messgae of Christianity or the Church. It doesn't depend on our work, but that of Jesus. Jesus got perfect results on his report cards. He swapped them with ours, so that when God calls us to him and we wonder about the result, we take out Jesus' card and God tells us well done, I accept you. We are totally forgiven and loved because of Jesus. If we want to trust in Jesus we need to take that leap of faith.

3) Trust the witness of the Spirit.
Toby told us, that he never goes to the gym. His brother went once and chose the wrong one. He chose a man's gym with huge men lifting huge weights. His brother was skinny and tried the smallest weight, did one and couldn't lift anymore. One of the big guys came over to him and said, 'You've not done this before have you?' His brother said no and asked if he could help him. The big guy said that they needed to build up his core strength. If you try and lift weights without any core strength, you can't do it. If you don't have core spiritual strength then you can't do it in hard times. The Holy Spirit gives us that strength. We don't need to get him in because he's already there, but St Paul says he needs to be filled again and again. The Holy Spirit gives us power. He lives in us like a flame, be filled and he'll give you the power and strength to live for Jesus.

So we need to look to God when we feel insecure.

Cardinal George Pell's Homily 17/08/11

We have heard today, of Peter and Paul's different ways of faith. Paul showed evidence of things not seen (in Hebrews). He was an intellectual. N.T. Wright said that his image of Paul was solidified when he saw an image on tv of an Islamist terrorist, he was zealous and fanatical. He translated all the promises from God to Israel and centred them in Christ.

Peter was a very different kettle of fish, he was a fisherman from Galilee, not only that but one of the leading fishermen in Caepernaum. He would have been well set up. Because of his faith Jesus chose him, the rock man, rocky. Jesus loved him but he also got on Jesus' nerves. Some of his faith was fundamentally missing. It is easy to understand Peter not wanting Jesus to suffer. The flaw in his faith was that he didn't understand suffering as part of Jesus redemptive plan.

Think of the story of walking on water. When Peter concentrated on Jesus he was ok, when he looked around he was scared and started sinking. It is easy to imagine them saying 'Truly you are the Son of God' when he calmed the storm.

He is telling us today not to be afraid either. Let us pray that our faith will remain strong. Be generous, be servers this will help your faith.

He then talked about the dead sea and how the water can't go anywhere 'I say it's selfish' it has become poisoned. Let us pray that our faith won't be like this.

Catechesis 17th August 2011

Sister Bethany Madonna

She told us the story of how she had an identity crisis when she was 5 because of her haircut. She said she was 'a walking mushroom head.' She told us that when your identity is in Christ then there will be no problems.

She told us that it is no mere coincidence that we were there that day. We were there because we are known by God personally and intimately. Whatever we did to get us to World Youth Day it was done because God is so in love with each of us.

Later we had a wave race and she said that waves of grace and mercy are passing over this place. She said grace and mercy need each other, but because the mercy wave won the race she said that, the Lord wants to give us mercy and reminded us of the opportunity to go to reconciliation. She also said that in the Eucharist Jesus is silent but in that silence he speaks to us.

She also said: 'Be not afraid prodigal one's God loves us. Let's run home.' Also she encouraged us to be devoted to Mary because she teaches us how to say yes to what God is asking us.

Sister Mary Gabriel

She began her talk saying 'I really like coffee and this morning I really needed it.' She then produced a little cup of coffee. She said I have it, I have what I desire but it's only ok. My heart is made for more than coffee.

She then quoted from Spe Salve, 'the distinguishing mark of Christians is that we have a future.' We thirst for more even when we see the most beautiful things here on earth, because we are made for God and His love. She asked us to think of a place that we have been that has made our jaw drop, we feel intense awe. It is amazing because God made it for us. She reminded us that humanity is the summit of creation.

Not so long ago none of us were here, and then God spoke and we were made. At the origin of our lives and our being is God's word and breath. She told us that nothing can take this away from us. In each of us is a space where the material and spiritual worlds meet. Our jaws should be perpetually open when we look at each other.

From the time of the Garden of Eden we have struggled to translate God's love for us. So God had to find a new way to communicate with us. He came to rescue us. Jesus allows us to live with the word of God now. Jesus opens us up to our deepest desires. He stays with us, and allows us to find in him the friend that we seek. He unites himself with us so we will never be alone.

What your baptism offers you is mindboggling, the very life of God living in you. 'We were regenerated.' The Holy Spirit is activated in our souls. The living gift of baptism is the key to living with God.

We need to take another leap of faith in Jesus. Let the Lord be at work in your life always. Enter into a perpetual game of trust in the Lord. If you do this you will not only find Jesus, but yourself as well. Jesus will never let you down.

We have everything we need to satisfy our desires, yet we're not on fire for Jesus because we doubt. She told us to say everyday: 'I want you to live with me and stay with me, together.'

Jesus wants you to know that the possibility for love, purity and holiness is real for you. No matter what has happened in your past. God doesn't love the perfected version of you that doesn't exist. He loves YOU.

Don't be afraid to live love boldly, after all this is what you were made for. Love is our desire and our destiny. Jesus awaits you.

None of us know the graces that will be poured out here in Madrid but you will go back changed for life.

Cardinal George Pell

He was one of the conclave that chose Pope Benedict in 2005.

He said that the transcendent Trinitarian God is our faith. The sacraments show us the way to God and the merciful love of God. He said that each of us have bits of the Bible that we love and he said that his idea of the most beautiful thing in the Bible is that of the good thief. He said that Jesus' response to this 'crook' is beautiful. He also said that there are lots of disturbing things in the New Testament but for him it's Jesus asking 'When the Son of Man returns to earth will he find faith on earth?'

He asked us to promise that we'll do our best to ensure that the flame of faith will not be extinguished on our watch. Faith is a fundamental life choice, and the strength of our commitment can wax and wane. The pure of heart will see God and we need to pray regularly, and struggle to be pure to survive our story of life.

Faith comes to us through the Church. The Church recognised the books inspired by the Holy Spirit and then created the canon that we have today. St Augustine said that he believed in the Church before Christ and God.

Cardinal Pell said that men and women throughout time have believed in God. In 1900BC God chose Abraham and the Jews to be his chosen ones. God promised Abraham that his spiritual follwers would number more than the grains of sand and stars in the sky. We're here today as part of this promise. We should be proud and grateful for this inheritance.

He then spoke about the story where Moses saw God walk by and asked what does it mean that Moses only saw His back? He said it shows that we see God through nature.

He then spoke about Elijah and how we have no writings from him and yet he was there at Jesus' transfiguration, why? Cardinal Pell said it was because in Elijah's time monotheism nearly vanished, and yet he managed to help keep it in the forefront. Elijah obtained the chance to battle the 450 prophets of Baal, and he won! Elijah had to flee because the crowd killed the 450 prophets. He was on Sinai searching for God and God came to him in the gentle breeze. This is something for us to think about. The struggle to maintain belief in God was hard for him and for us, so Elijah is a great role model for us.

Reason lies behind our beliefs. It is reasonable to believe in a creator God and that he's good. Christian belief is not a myth, not just poetry, not just a make believe story, he is inherently rational. Pope Benedict said that in the Prologue of John's Gospel you could translate it with 'Reason' instead of 'Word'. Cardinal Pell said that true faith is not maternal indoctrination. It is a matter of love because it's an issue of tyhe mind and a claim to truth.

Cardinal Pell then quoted from Anthony Flew's 'There is a God' saying 'Of all the disoveries of science, the greatest was the discovery of God.' The universe is finely tuned and if anything had been slightly out then nothing would have formed, no life at all. This is mysterious.

He said that living beings are purpose driven instinctively. All living forms of life are able to reproduce themselves. Life has not come about by chance because it was only a 10 to the power of 45,000, chance of life being created from amino acids.

In the moments when faith is hard we need to remember that we have chosen God. We need to remember science is with us because God is behind everything. We believe God is rational. Our God of love, that dynamo of love, is rational. Let us commit ourselves to maintain the flame of faith. You will need to battle yourselves and you cannot leave it to the Church and schools.

He then quoted a long speech from St Augustine of Hippo, which said, roughly, I beg you to join with me in love, run with me in faith, let us yearn for heavenly will see the light in all its are being made pure that you can see that are soon to go away to your home...when we part from one another, but let us not part from God.

Sister Mary Louise Concepta then gave us a singing lesson, teaching us the Latin Mass settings we were to use, which were shown on the 'jumbotrons' as Sister Bethany Madonna so brilliantly put it.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Day Eight

Back to 7am starts today :( We had to have breakfast by 8am and met at 8:15am. We then got on the coach, which I never thought I'd be happy to get on again but after the metro yesterday I was, to go to Catechesis at Palacio de Deportes.

Outside one of the Sisters of Life helped us to get in because we no longer had our passes, as we had to give them and our passports into our group leaders earlier on. We went in to find the band that was playing comprised of some Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. They were brilliant and they taught us lots of songs but my favourite was about being a friar. It went "I'm in love with Jesus and he's in love with me, I'm in love with Jesus and he's in love with me, I'm in love with Jesus and he's in love with me, I love the church, I love the Pope, I even love my rope."

After the band, the inimitable Sister Bethany Madonna took the stage. She was extremely entertaining and became the source of much joy throughout the pilgrimage. She got us to have Mexican wave races naming one of the teams grace and the other mercy. After the races she said that 'waves of grace and mercy are surging through this place.' It sounded rather cheesy in her accent, but a lovely intention behind it all.

She introduced us to Sister Mary Gabriel who did a brilliant, funny talk. She was followed by Cardinal Pell from Australia. His talk was good but quite theological. After this we had a lovely Mass, though we were stood for ages at the beginning because of the amount of priests and bishops that were concelebrating.

Throughout the talks I was sat with some people from the Caymen Islands. I was sat next to Caitlin and we swapped some things. I got a cool pirate turtle keyring from her in exchange for a badge. The pirate turtle is their logo. As they were leaving someone else gave me a hat clip before I could give them anything in return.

After Mass, we went in search of some food before we split in two, half of us going back to the hotel and the other half of us going to explore a bit of Madrid. So off we went to the metro and Laura, Marie, Sophie, Bridget and I went off towards the Prada. I was keen to go in but when we got there the queue was enormous so we went into the church opposite, St Jeronimo's. Bridget and Sophie headed in while Laura, Marie and I were taking pictures outside. As we went up the steps the aid to the Church in need was outside and mentioned that if we signed up we could get a free t-shirt and other things. So in we went to the portacabin to sign up. We got some great things and spoke to the lovely people at the stand. I even got a handshake for being Welsh!

We then went around the church which was beautiful, and had lots of paintings in there from the Prada. It was a really lovely way to spend the afternoon. We had lost Bridget and Sophie by this point so we waited at the front of the Church for as long as we could and then headed to the metro. When we got back they were at the hotel, so all was well.

After a short time at the hotel, we headed to get food at the McDonalds near to the hotel, before we all made our way to the Alpha Awakening event. Worship Central was the band for the night, they were great. We had a lot of praise and worship and some testimonies, and some things about the Alpha Course. We had a good talk from an Anglican priest called Toby. I think we were all shocked that he was an Anglican priest. They showed us some great cartoons as well. During some more praise and worship I felt really moved standing holding hands with our diocese. It was a very special moment.

On getting back to the hotel a few of us sat with our feet in the pool. It was so good because it was nice and cool after a hot night dancing and singing. Finally I collapsed into bed ready for a good night's sleep.

Day Seven

We got a small lie in today which was very welcome, though some of the boys had to get up early to go to get the missing items from our rucksacks. It was an entertaining breakfast because Fr Phil had picked up a yoghurt and when he ate the first spoonful he made a face and said it was disgusting. It was passed around most of the table because it reportedly tasted of nothing. I abstained from this delightful yoghurt tasting, and was really glad I spotted the rice pudding instead.

Before we met up a few of us ventured to the supermarket around the corner to get some supplies for the day. We then met the rest of the group and we were given our WYD bags. We were told to go and empty the bags and come back with it, food, water, suncream, hat, and various maps. I enjoyed briefly looking at everything as I took it out. I put on my crucifix, from the bag, which is really beautiful. As I went to rejoin the group I had a brief chat with Fr Augustine and he very kindly blessed it for me.

We were then given our passes, food vouchers and tickets before we made our way to the metro station. Our nearest station was Canillejas and we were all told to really pay attention to how we got there so when we came back later in the night we would know the way back to the hotel. We then got on the metro to Opera and then walked to the Cathedral. We then split into our groups and all went off in search of food.

Our group, on consulting the food map, decided to go back to Opera. We then stood in a burger king line for a good while before we realised that the queue just was not moving. Consulting the map again we went on the metro to Gran Via. There we joined the thronging masses attempting to get food in McDonalds. McDonalds was mental. It was comparable to being in the middle of a rugby scrum, only less orderly! It must have taken 2-3 hours from start to finish. I have to say I have never been so grateful for food in my life.

We got some other food at a place across the street, and then got back on the metro to Retiro to go in the park and sit in the shade and chill for the rest of the afternoon. Just across from where we set up camp, wheelchair and all, was a play area and off went Laura and Hannah to play. It was hilarious watching them on this spinny thing. After a while Marie and I went for a walk around the park, got some Madrid badges from some volunteers, and after queuing for ridiculous amounts of time to go to the loo, finally got back to the others.

We then made our way to the opening Mass. This was rather tricky, especially having to negotiate the crowds with the wheelchair. I was designated map reader and was taking us up and down side streets trying to get us to the right corner of Plaza Cibeles. At one point we were crossing a street full of pilgrims and we ended up in a disabled area. This was less than ideal because we were trapped then. Simon was in the wheelchair at that point and seeing that some of the others were going to have to pull the wheelchair up a rather high step sprang up out of it. Chris then thought we couldn't have no one in it so got in it. Someone wheeled him over and then he got out as well because the step was quite high up. It was all quite funny, especially seeing the faces of the group of volunteers sat on the bank.

After some more map consulting, and working out some new routes we got to Calle de Prim. Which was at least a little closer. However, we couldn't see anything and Mass was already at the Gospel. So after a group consultation we decided to leave, and make our way to the metro station, because we would then go and pray with the Scriptures at the hotel. Along the way we ended up going into a Mexican restaurant and having a good meal in there. The seats in there were made out of mayonnaise tubs!!

When we went down into the metro station we were all feeling quite cocky that we'd be on carriage to ourselves. That was until the train came in and it was heaving. So on we crammed, got back to the hotel and met to pray. While we were waiting for one of our group we had an interesting conversation. Then Darren led us in the prayer time, by reading the Gospel and then asked us if we had any thoughts. Some of the thoughts were really interesting including Darren's that the Gospel reflected something of the life of John Paul II.

Laura, Marie and I later went and had a cheeky glass of wine and chatted to Alan about the day. Quite a few of the groups were back quite late that night, everyone looked like they were ready for bed. But everyone seemed to have had a good first day out in Madrid.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Catechesis with Fr Augustine and Br Benedict

Fr Augustine, kicked off catechesis, and spoke about the Assumption. He said 'Thank God today's not about us it's about Our Lady.' Today is about the power of God in our lives. He then told us a little bit about how he got to this point in his life. He said, 'I can't deny what God has done in my life. I was minding my own business, went on pilgrimage, went to confession and came out wanting to be a priest.'

Br Benedict then took control of the mic and gave us his testimony. He told us how his Dad left and how he pretended to his friends that he still had a Dad at home, because they all did. He became a very angry child, and started stealing. He stopped going to church at 13 but he always believed in God. He got into drugs to try to escape from the hole in his heart because of his father leaving, and he didn't feel loved. He had to see a probation officer for a year at the end of school and it woke him up a bit.

He ended up getting into harder drugs and got the opportunity to go to Germany to try and escape that life but ended up getting even deeper into drugs. He eventually came home and got together with a woman that had a child. He ended up getting very isolated and one day was in the bath looking at a poster that said 'Get A Life' and he realised that he had nothing. In May 1997 whilst on holiday he was reaching for a cigarette in his hotel room got a profound sense of God's love. He went straight to confession. God opened his heart to what he could do in his life, and felt called to the Friars. He said that it has been an amazing journey this past 14 years, and he is still walking close to the Lord.

Fr Augustine had the final word and reminded us that Jesus is alive, with us, knocking on the door of our hearts, calling us to him.

Day Six

Today was the day we left Valladolid and headed down to Madrid. So after breakfast we all brought all our luggage down and took it to the coaches. Our group was then charged with leading everyone to the English College. I was put in charge of getting us there because I thought I knew the way, forgetting we weren't going to the Cathedral but to the English College. With the help of Laura and Marie I managed to get us all there.

At the College we celebrated Mass with Leeds, Middlesborough and Birmingham. It was the feast of the Assumption today and we heard yet again a little bit about the Vulnerata. We also sang the CJM Magnificat at communion, which made me happy. I love singing that hymn.

After Mass, the coaches came to pick us up and we were whinging our way down to Madrid. Fr Phil had gone on ahead of us so Darren and Trish were left in charge. Darren did the announcements and with his dry sense of humour, he made them very funny. We then put on the Sound of Music and after some trouble with the subtitles we managed to watch some of it. It was brilliant, Michael signed the beginning, and then Daniel and John were singing at the tops of their voices, Daniel as Julie Andrews and also dancing away. It was epic.

We stopped at some services along the way and there were some Aussie and South African pilgrims there. A group of the girls were talking to a girl from South Africa so I joined in chatting with them. She was called Cinthea, and we were the first pilgrims she had spoken to. They'd been staying in Palencia and that diocese had given them hats!

We got back on the coach and we managed to watch just up to the wedding scene in the Sound of Music before we rocked up at our hotel in Madrid. We had to wait on the coach until Trish and Darren had sorted out our rooms. They came back bearing the news that we were going to have to wait 2 hours to get into our rooms. We were able to put our bags in one of the rooms and then we walked to McDonalds where everyone got food, I just had a drink.

When we got back our rooms still weren't ready, and finally at 6pm we got the keycards, with a lot of persuasion from Fr Aidan, Fr Bob and Trish and Darren. It was beyond belief really. I did some travel washing for me and Marie, before we went back out to the pool. Not being able to swim I just dangled my feet in the pool, and wrote in my travel diary. I was lovely and cool sat there.

After a while we had to get ready because we had catechesis with Fr Augustine and Br Benedict, in the bar area. It was lovely, Sister Catherine and Sister Veronica did the music. Fr Augustine I discovered has a wonderful sense of humour, and Br Benedict's testimony was really inspiring, just to know how much God has worked in his life, it's incredible.

After catchesis we had a bit of a wait before Lancaster and Middlesborough could have food so we sat and did diaries, though mine was up to date so I was just listening to Rachel take us through the pilgrimage so far. She was really funny doing it, commenting on people's rooms that had balconies.

We had our food and then we had free time until midnight. We had the opportunity to go to confession, so I went to Fr Phil. He was wonderful and he reminded me to just keep trusting in God. I think I really needed the reminder, and as time went on throughout the pilgrimage this message was really hammered home.

After confession I went and chatted to Amelia, John, Daniel, Bridget, Gina, and Sophie. I discovered that John had once been offered a modelling contract! From that to the seminary. He is very comical, I can really see him having his future parish in stitches. After a while I took myself off to bed and prepared myself for what was to come the following day.

Catechesis with Fr Phil.

Fr Phil spoke to us about 'The Life'. He said to us that 'When you come to a place like this you see what God is doing in the hearts of young people.'

It was the feast day of Maximilian Kolbe, and so Fr Phil told us his story. He told us that today there is a flickering candle in the cellar that the Germans kept him in Auschwitz, as a symbol of hope.

 Fr Phil said that death is not the last word, which is why Resurrection day is such a happy day. The Resurrection of Jesus is unlike any of the other resurrections that he performed. Love raised himself, and the power if love is invincible, it burns through everything. Resurrection is not just a spiritual experience, Jesus wasn't a ghost. God is interested in everything we are body, and soul and so Jesus takes our risen humanity and ascends to heaven. Our humanity is inserted into the heart of God. We will see God face to face.

Fr Phil, explained the idea of perichoresis after we watched the dance that Amelia had choreographed. It explains the great Divine movement, and dynamism. We're led into the life of God, and we are drawn into the dance of life, we can touch it now. Heaven begins now for each one of you.

Day Five

This morning things were a little different, because after breakfast we were due to have catechesis with Fr Phil, rather than heading out to do something straight away. I was due to help set the music up and got sidetracked so was a little late to help...oops. Zaf went through a song that we were going to sing that I didn't know and then Fr Phil kicked off his catechesis on 'the Life'.

Fr Phil spoke beautifully as usual, and after he had finished his catechesis he handed over to the dance group who danced to Alive Again, which Amelia had choreographed. It was beautiful and Fr Phil likened it to Perichoresis, the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity.

After catechesis we walked to the English College where we were given a tour of the college by Bishop Terry. He told us the story of Our Lady of Vulnerata and pointed out the paintings in the rafters showing stage by stage the story of the statue. Bishop Terry told us that for the 200 year anniversary of the statue being in the college, they took the statue to the Cathedral, and people came in droves to venerate the statue. Then they had a procession back to the college from there and a 5 minute walk took 4 hours! People even came out of the bars and toasted the statue... Amazing.

He also told us of the myth that there was a secret staircase up to the grills for the seminarians to remain anonymous during Mass because it was too dangerous for them to be out in the open. However, he dispelled this myth and we were told that the Chapel was constructed after this so it couldn't be true, and the grills were just there so people could go and say their private devotions.

We then moved into the sacristy where Bishop Terry told us about the window in there and how it lists all the martyrs of the college, it depicts the rivers of life and also the blood of the martyrs. The men who came to seminary in Valladolid had to sign a contract to say that they would go back to England after they finished their training because they knew they would be going back to die and so they probably would have preferred to stay in Spain.

After a brief stop in the refectory, seeing a painting that was in Seville seminary, then Ushaw and now here, we continued through the corridors seeing pictures of the rectors of the college, the beatified martyrs of the college, and then the canonised martyrs of the college. I was surprised to find a picture of St John Lloyd there, though it was good to see a Welsh link, and made my praying at the relics in the chapel even more special.

We had a quick look in the pig skin library which contained an original copy of the Nuremburg Chronicles! I got very excited at the prospect of all these books, and it really reminded me of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith's library. We then headed up to the other library upstairs and Bishop Terry told us about how the inquisition would take the books, read them, and anything they didn't agree with they would scribble out. He showed us John Speed's History of Great Britain which had a dedication to the King and the inquisitor (or as they now believe the rector of the college) scribbled out 'Defender of the Faith' and changed 'lowly' to 'cowly'. Whoever the person was they certainly had a sense of humour!

We then began the walk back to the hotel, and Fr Phil, Trish, Amelia and I took a little detour via the church opposite the Cathedral. It was very dark but beautiful none-the-less and as we went in we stumbled upon a baptism. That was a really special moment.

On arriving back to the hotel some of us decided to go to the Plaza Mayor to find a supermarket. We then met some Tanzanians, and Mary, Me and JP had a photo with one of them. The others had found some French people who I gave some badges to. We then went and got an ice cream and I got a lolly that had a water pistol in. On the way back to the hotel I filled it up and shot Hannah in the back. She thought a bird had pooed on her. It was so funny. When we got back to the hotel we found Fr Phil and some of the others sat outside and Fr Phil shot John right in the face. Hannah then took the water pistol and got Fr Phil in the face. It is rather powerful!

After lunch, I went to sit in the cool for a while before going to explore, but everything was shut. Though I did see some other English Dioceses around. At 4:30 we met in our small groups and headed to a bar near the Cathedral, where Darren filled us in on what would be happening when we get to Madrid. As he was doing this there was a mic check going on for the concert that was going to be taking place later on.

We then went to get some food and ended up getting a nutella croissant, that took a long time for us to get but it was hot and beautiful when we got it. We then met the rest of the group and headed to the Cathedral where we met people from Canada, one of whom gave me a Canada sticker for my lanyard. I also met some people from Thailand and Max (I think he said) swapped me a bracelet for a badge. I then swapped a badge with Sami from Wyoming and had a good chat with her and a girl from Laura. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all these people and the concert was awesome. There was a Spanish priest singing at one point and we did a dance to his song. It was so much fun.

We then went to an extremely long Mass in the Cathedral. The homily was in Spanish which was a shame because I think I only caught little bits of it and it did go on for quite a while. Ste ended up doing a little reading at the end which was really cool to see him, doing that. After Mass, we got given a picnic tea, ate it there and then headed back to the hotel.