You know how you know some things or some people are exist because you see them on TV or read about them, but it never becomes really real until you see it/them with your very own eyes? That’s how I can sum up my third day of WYD 2011.
The third day of WYD’s highlight was Pope Benedict XVI’s welcoming parade in Madrid. Here’s the thing about WYD that I learned that day: you need to be able to
tolerate enjoy crowds if you want to enjoy and make the most of all activities. Remember that it’s an international crowd, too, so be prepared to squeeze in with people from all parts of the world, some of which seem even unfamiliar. And be prepared for all kinds of culture to surround you, especially those you are not used to. More often than not, you’d be standing with them for a loooooong time, so it’s best to learn to enjoy the experience because hey, all of you are waiting for the same thing, anyway.
So, we headed over as near to Cibeles as possible to wait for the Pope’s welcoming parade.
Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to arrive at around 7:00pm, but we were already at our spot by 4. So what do to while waiting?
Well, avoid all the water they’re spraying over the delegates to cool us off, for one (Madrid summer is hot! As in 38 C hot!):
I think we were one of the few people in the crowd who’d duck whenever the spray reaches our area. I guess Filipinos aren’t really one to let ourselves stay wet — pneumonia scare, anyone? Haha.
When they’re not spraying us with water, we’d talk to some people around us, like these sisters from New York City:
These sisters (whose group I forgot, I’m sorry!) were really friendly and taught us some cheers to do while we were waiting. I felt teary eyed when Leslie took a video of one of them and she said, “Hello Philippines, Jesus loves you!” :)
And take lots and lots of photos while waiting:
After hours of waiting, finally…
This is where I pause and stress this fact again: some people only exist in your life but don’t seem real until you see them in person. It’s like seeing celebrities — you know they exist, but when you get a chance to see them in person, somehow they feel like they’re larger than life.
We weren’t really expecting to see Pope Benedict XVI up close. We were all just hoping to see him even from afar. A glimpse for me would have been enough, because I figured I’d probably see him again during the Way of the Cross and the vigil. But I guess God thinks that’s not enough, and He wants to give me more. When the Pope Mobile finally arrives, I was surprised to see that we were only about five people away from it!
Here’s a very shaky, noisy video of Pope Benedict XVI as he passed by us. I would have zoomed it closer, but I totally forgot about it. Plus when he was finally near us, I looked away from the LCD of my camera and focused on him instead — when you get a chance to see the Pope, look away from the camera and look at him!
The moment I saw him smiling and waving at us, I burst into tears. Okay, it wasn’t boo-hoo-hoo crying, but I felt tears trickle down my cheeks. I know it sounds silly to say that I’ve always known he existed but never felt he was real until then, but that was exactly what I felt. This was the Vicar of Christ in front of us, and it felt like God was smiling at us as the Pope passed by. How awesomely amazing is that?
He passed by again, and this time we cheered, still overwhelmed by his presence. When he got to the stage, he greeted us all in Spanish (understood almost…well, nothing, but at that point, I really didn’t care much) and led us to a prayer.
I’ve always thought Pope Benedict XVI looked…well, fiercer and less friendly than his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, but I was proven wrong that day. True, JP2 had a different charisma (and watching his videos never fails to make me cry!), but Pope Benedict XVI doesn’t look less friendly as I expected. He’s just different, but equally anointed by God to lead the Catholic Church.
There were more Pope Benedict XVI moments the next day as we joined the Way of the Cross, or Via Crucis, after lunch. The Way of the Cross is one of my favorite Holy Week traditions, and I’ve learned to appreciate it more now that I’ve grown up. I like that I get to experience it differently this time, with Catholic youths all over the world and with the Pope.
Seeing the Pope and Via Crucis the next day hit me straight to the heart, but it’s funny that whatever patience and endurance I got from grace that afternoon was immediately challenged. I did say WYD was almost equivalent to crowds, right? Yep, that was exactly what happened after both events: we had to squeeze through an amazing (and I don’t really mean that in a positive way) crowd to get to the metro station so we can go to dinner. Like what I used to say, it’s like all the world’s sweat got transferred to your body while squeezing in. It was easy to lose energy and patience in situations like that, especially when you just want to go home and rest but can’t do so comfortably because the trains are all full. People in the Manila, imagine: MRT rush hour. That kind of thing.
While I never wished to not be there in Madrid for WYD after squeezing in the crowds, I must admit that I felt a lot of impatience, even with some of the people I was with, my new friends. I know I said that WYD taught me what a wonderful Catholic Church I belong to, but the third and fourth day of WYD reminded me that I’m still human, and it’s so easy to fall. And that it’s tiring to be always smiling, to be always positive, when you’re tired and hungry. It reminds me that I need to be more vigilant, to always hold onto grace, and yes, to be firm in my faith, so I can be faithful even in these small, trying times.
Little did I know that the next two days of WYD would be even more challenging, and what I experienced here was really just a preparation for that.