Cara Millburg was chosen by the Salesian Sisters from her former grade school Villa Madonna to attend 2011 World Youth Day. After two years of planning, the group met up with girls from another Salesian school in New Jersey. From August 14-22, Millburg took part in a pilgrimage to Madrid, Spain, to attend World Youth Day, preceded by a visit to Lourdes, France. Below are excerpts from her journal:
We arrived in Lourdes, France, jetlagged and cranky. Lourdes is famous for the Marion apparations that occured in 1858. To stay awake we staggered over to the grotto where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette. Tourists flooded the streets. People in wheelchairs made their way to the healing baths.
“Ready for the baths?” asked Sr. Maryann, our fearless leader.
To some people, using the baths in Lourdes is a renwal of their Baptismal Commitment. The water for the baths is provided by the spring of the grotto.
Our group joined the massive crowd to wait in line for the healing baths. After the seemingly wait of a lifetime, we were finally handed robes.
I was shaking for two reasons: I was nervous and the water was ice cold. When I stepped in the water, I felt a calming sensation. I could really feel the presence of St. Bernadette.
Feeling refreshed, we attended a youth Mass at the grotto. The priest did the Mass in four different languages! Looking at the fog surrounding the grotto I could just picture St. Bernadette seeing Our Lady.
This morning I awoke to what sounded like a choir of angels. It turns out that our hotel was next door to a church that was holding choir practice. It seems like the whole city of Lourdes centers itself around the the spirit of St. Bernadette.
Today’s activity was Stations of the Cross. The Stations were beautifully affixed on the bank of Gauve de Pau. The priest that was travelling with us told us that by going to Lourdes and participating in the Stations and the baths, we received an indulgence. An indulgence is “the full or partial remission of temporal punishment.”
Our night activity was a candlelight procession. They hold the procession for the pilgrams who come to Lourdes. Pilgrams carry candle as another reminder of Baptism. Being a self-diagnosed claustrophobic and arsonphobic, you can imagine my misery.
Hearing everybody praying in different languages was beautiful. All in all, it turned out to be a breathtaking experience despite the terrifying circumstances.
Goodbye, Lourdes! Hello, Madrid!
Today we took a bus through the winding hills of France to the winding mountains of Spain.
After teetering on the edge of mountains, we arrived in Madrid safely.
Opening Mass= tons of people. Flags were waving everywhere. It felt like the Olympics. There were so many people that we weren’t able to take Communion.
This morning we woke to a note from Sister. “The tour bus is coming at 9. Be ready.”
Cesar, our tour guide, showed us all over Madrid. Some sites included the Temple of Debod, the Real Madrid Stadium, El Prado, and El Plaza de Toros.
The rest of the day was spent shopping being the typical all-girl group.
This morning marked our first World Youth Day event. We attended Catechesis at a local churched. A very dynamic bishop talked about living a faithful life through times of adversity.
Because I travelled with a Salesian group, we attended the Salesian party of course! We met tons of kids from other countries and traded little patriotic gifts. I even met a group from Slovakia.
Another day of Catechesis didn’t jive well with only four hours of sleep. Let’s just say every person in that Church struggled to stay awake. After Catechesis, Sister treated us to an afternoon nap.
Rejuvenated, we made our way to the famous El Retiro to have adoration with the Pope. It was an amazing experience to see how much of an impact he makes on other people’s lives.
After Adoration, we broke up into smaller groups and talked about our experiences thus far. Relaxing in the park made me realize how lucky I was to be able to travel and experience these new things. Needless to say, it was emotional for everyone to reflect on all that we had done.
We had a nice sit-down dinner and went to bed to be ready for the next day.
We didn’t get to attend the Vigil tonight because of a couple reasons. The weather wasn’t that great. It was really hot, and when the sun wasn’t beating down, it was raining. Some people in our group were getting sick so the weather would not have helped.
The protests against the Pope were also getting bad. We had already had some encounters with protestors so we decided not to risk it.
We spent that time watching the vigil on TV and enjoying our last night in Madrid.
All in all, this trip changed how I look at the world. I realized I take a lot for granted in America. I also realized that I need to try to accept others because we may have the smallest things in common.