SamanthaParedesWednesday, Aug. 24, 4:13 a.m.

You may be wondering why I’m awake at 3:30 a.m. I was wondering the same thing myself at first. I got tired at 7:30 p.m. and woke up spontaneously at 2:30 a.m. because that translates to 2:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in Spanish time. Since I can’t sleep and my heart is still in Madrid, this would be an opportune time to write about our time there, right?

The week was rather overwhelming. If we thought the 3,000 MAG+S pilgrims were plenty, boy, were we wrong. In Madrid, there were pilgrims in every direction! We had no chance of even seeing the altar at the opening Mass for WYD because all you could see up and down the street were people – I’m not even sure where the altar even was! Either way, all week they were moving in packs down the streets and overflowing in the metros. I believe a reporter said our presence increased the metro activity by 200 percent; it’s a good thing that Spain was still on holiday because I’m not sure how many more people the city could handle!

You know how every now and then the Bible talks about running through the streets rejoicing? I never quite understood that notion until this past week. Everywhere you looked you would find another country belting out a song or people playing ridiculous icebreaker games to pass the time. You also couldn’t get very far without hearing cries of “Esta es la juventud del Papa!” or “Benedicto!” or “Viva El Papa! Viva!” People even started creating parodies of popular music to include sentiments of excitement about seeing El Papa (a.k.a. the pope). It was a complete madhouse of energy, excitement and absolute joy!

Oh yeah, the pope. We got to see him! He drove right by us in the PopeMobile the day he arrived in Madrid. People would bolt at the opportunity to even catch a glimpse of him. Any time there was an event over which he presided, such as the Way of the Cross, we would book it to the nearest giant TV screen set up in the middle of a park or a street because there was absolutely no chance of us being anywhere near the event site.

Even with papal activity, Spain didn’t give us much of a chance to let our energy go to waste. They opened their restaurants and their metro system to us, and we got lost in a flurry of activity. There were music worship concerts almost every night, catechesis sessions every morning (one of which was given by the hilarious Archbishop (Timothy M.) Dolan, former Archbishop of Milwaukee and current Archbishop of New York, famous speakers galore, including Christopher West and Jason and Crystalina Evert, and many presentations, exhibits and museums to explore.

I’m also glad to say that in the midst of all this activity, we were still able to spend some time with our Spaniard and Mauritian friends from Roquetas. We managed to squeeze in some much-desired down time with them, whether it was celebrating one of their birthdays in a park or watching the Madrid vs. Barcelona soccer game in one of their homes with their childhood friends. The bonds we formed during our service trip were only strengthened by our time in Madrid.

All of this leads up to the final WYD weekend: The pilgrimage, vigil and Mass with the pope. An entry on this will be coming soon! But for now, I should attempt to sleep since I have to wake up in about four hours đŸ™‚

Peace and good night,