What a powerful day. We finish the day very tired, dirty, and hot, but filled with a great joy for the gift of the faith and the Church. What a powerful experience of both today....
We began our day each at our homes, and met at the parish in the morning to gather. Everyone arrived full of joy and gratitude for all the love they had been shown in their homes by their host "parents." They were well fed and well loved!
From there we boarded the metro and went to visit the First Monastery of the Visitation Order. What a powerful gift for our hearts! We arrived and were welcomed by the Sisters that tend the door and led into their very beautiful and majestic chapel, where we had the gift of listening to Sr. Michelle speak on the virtue of generosity, where we were moved to give ourselves more fully and more lovingly over to the plan of God for our life. It was a very fitting reflection for this place, for this monastery was the home of the Seven Visitation Martyrs that were killed in 1936 and beatified by JPII in 1998. The relics of their bodies were there and we were able to kneel in front of their relics and pray for their intercession, so that we could too live with a generosity willing to die for Christ. Next we were given the immense priviledge of of visiting with the Sisters of the monastery and listening to them tell the story of their seven sisters who were martyred only years ago. Since the Sisters are cloistered, we visited with them behind the grill. However, this only was a physical separation, as our hearts enjoyed a beautiful communion of hearts with the joyful and generous nuns. Each one of us left enflamed with the desire to respond with the generous giving our lives. What a perfect beginning to WYD, which, according to JPII, was started so that he could "greet the martyrs of the third millenium." May it be so.
After lunch, we went into the heart of Madrid to visit the Cathedral. Here we encountered for the first time the WYD crowds. What a moving moment for all to see the young Church, joyful and alive with life, gathered from all corners of the world. From that point on we were immersed in the crowds of singing, chanting, and excited youth from all languages and nations. It is very difficult to desribe with words how beautiful it is to see so many joyful youth united for one reason - Jesus Christ.
In the evening, all came together in beautiful Cibeles Square to celebrate the opening outdoor Mass. The crowds reached as far as the eye could see, an estimated 600,000, all joined in the celebration of the Holy Mass. Long before and after Mass, groups interacted, cheering and singing and speaking with one another.
In general, it was a long day filled with heat, fatigue, thirst, and crowds. However, all this became secondary to the experience of the joy of being part of our young Catholic Church. To be able to come together and unite ourselves, despite being separated by language and culture, is an irreplaceable experience of the power of being Church. We see a miracle - we really are one Body in Christ.