Thank you Spain!
Our first two days of our 2016 pilgrimage were spent in Barcelona Spain. Our first sleep in an actual bed since leaving in Auckland was 36 hours later at Hotel Coronado on Carrer Nou de la Rambla.
After unloading our gear at the hotel our first act of the pilgrimage was to give thanks to God for arriving safely in Spain. The first Mass of our pilgrimage was celebrated in the Cathedral Church of Barcelona, commonly called by the locals as La Seu. The imposing cathedral stands as an anchor to rich catholic history of Catalunya. Our Mass today being said in Catalan, the local dialect.
Being only day one of our conquest of Europe, and wanting to spare our pilgrims of a culture shock, our first meal in Europe was oh so American – Burger King!
After lunch we headed to the awe inspiring basilica of the Holy Family, Sagrada Familia, the unfinished masterpiece of the one-day-to-be saint, Antonio Gaudi. Coming out of the subterranean metro station, our pilgrims were immediately struck by the sheer size of this gargantuan monument to the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Entering into this other-worldly structure you are immediately caught up by the amazing use of light and colour. There are no straight lines in the architecture. The pillars which upholds this mammoth structure take their inspiration from nature, like mighty totara trees soaring towards heaven.
Our pilgrims were totally overwhelmed by the ethereal beauty of the basilica. Perhaps because their minds were totally blown away by the sheer size and beauty of this place that our first mishap occurred. Nothing major, but we lost one of our pilgrims who left via the wrong exit, causing a small panic amongst some of the group. Within a short time though, we were all reunited again.
The first day.
On the morning of the second day, our pilgrims set out on an hour long train ride to the mountain monastery of Montserrat. There are two ways to get to the monastery, by a rack railway or by Aeri, the cable car. Being intrepid pilgrims, we rode the cable car. Thirty five people crammed into the almost century old yellow cable car as it began its dramatic ascent up the jagged mountain.
Mass was celebrated in the basilica and then our pilgrims lined up to view the famous “Black Madonna” of Montserrat. The attendants at the door allowed small groups of people into a side door of the basilica, which for this year of Mercy had been designated as Holy Door. Ascending a narrow staircase lined with mosaics of female saints, individuals approached the statue of the black Maddona and spent a few seconds of silent prayer. The statue itself sits proudly in a niche above the altar where she watches maternally on all who come to Montserrat.
Barcelona, you are beautiful. Gracias. Now, onto Lourdes.