Excitement is beginning to build in Madrid, Spain, with the anticipated arrival on Thursday of Pope Benedict XVI for the final four days of World Youth Day 2011. The 64 Diocese of Raleigh pilgrims began their day on Wednesday, joining Bishop Michael F. Burbidge for the celebration of Mass at the Pontifical Basilica of St. Michael, a 266 year old structure that is the church of the Apostolic Nunciature to the Kingdom of Spain of the Holy See.
Following Mass, the Diocesan group gathered outside the Basilica for a catechetical session offered by Bishop Burbidge. The pilgrims then took part in the Bishops’ Vocations Fair.
The Holy Father is scheduled to arrive in Spain at noon, Madrid time (6:00am Eastern). He will speak to the pilgrims at 7:30pm (1:30pm Eastern). His greeting is planned to be carried via live streaming on the virtual pilgrimage page, which is accessible through the Diocesan website. EWTN will also carry the Pope’s greeting on its channel also at 1:30pm Eastern.
Bishop Burbidge has provided the following reflection on the first days of the Diocesan pilgrimage:
Our pilgrimage began with a journey to Lourdes. The pilgrims and I were deeply moved with the faith that was so evident in this sacred place. I had the unique privilege of celebrating Mass with a brother bishop at the grotto at which our Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Bernadette. Our pilgrims and thousands of others from around the world were present. Later that day we celebrated Mass for the Vigil of the Assumption and then participated in a candle light procession.
The sight of so many people demonstrating a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother is an experience I will always remember. In addition, seeing the number of seriously ill people at Lourdes touched my heart. Dedicated volunteers brought them to the liturgical services and to the holy water at Lourdes. I am confident that miracles took place right before us as the Lord touched those in need with His healing love and gave them strength, grace and perseverance. It is a reminder of the call we all have to lead others, especially those in need, to Jesus!
We also made a trip to Avila and learned about Saint Theresa, a Doctor of the Church. Her writings, the example of her life and her great commitment to prayer greatly assist us in our call to holiness.
We have been in Madrid since Monday evening. The opening Mass for the pilgrims was on Tuesday evening and it was a joyful and beautiful celebration. Today, we had a diocesan Mass at Saint Michael Basilica followed by a catechesis session. Later in the day, there was a vocation fair that included testimonies, concerts, talks and a Holy Hour. All the pilgrims were reminded that an essential step in discerning one’s vocation is to be still and quiet with the Lord, for he truly speaks to our heart!
There is much excitement in the air as we await the arrival tomorrow of Pope Benedict XVI. One young man said to me, "I am so blessed to be a Catholic and to know how much the Holy Father loves his young people." I am sure that all the pilgrims gathered in Madrid will soon echo those same words.
May God bless and protect Pope Benedict XVI and all the pilgrims who have gathered to be with him.
Above: Diocesan pilgrims attending morning Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge at the Basilica of St. Mark in Madrid.
Above: Bishop Burbidge offering catechesis to Diocesan pilgrims outside the Basilica.
Above: Bishop Burbidge with pilgrims participating in the opening service of the U.S. bishops' vocations fair during World Youth Day in Madrid Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)