Sunday, August 28, 2011

WYD part 5

Friday of WYD started much the same as Wednesday and Thursday with catechesis at the Love & Life Centre. As a funny reminder of what had happened with Cardinal Erdő, both Archbishop Dolan and pretty much everyone who spoke in the morning, kept repeating "Praised be Jesus Christ." To which we all would respond "Now and forever." After catechesis, I got lunch with some of the group. Food in Madrid was set up differently than in Toronto and Cologne. Rather than having food tents or trucks sponsored by WYD, we had coupons which could be used at hundreds of restaurants throughout the city. That kept the lines down (somewhat.. lol) and provided many different options. The place where we ate lunch on Friday was a little Spanish restaurant. They were taking pictures of different pilgrim groups that came through with their flags. I don't know the name of the restaurant, but somewhere on facebook, there is a picture of me as part of the group... and I'm one of the people holding the Canadian flag :-D

On the way back to the L&L Centre I did what no trip is complete without...

got a picture with a pig!

I had wanted to go to an exhibit at the L&L Centre entitled "You and Me" and finally had a chance on Friday afternoon. Sponsored by the Sisters of Life, this chronicled the stories of four people/couples faced with unplanned pregnancies and how they responded to them. It was a very interesting set up with each person being given an mp3 player with the people telling their stories as we walked through the exhibit. I was definitely fighting tears at a few points as it was moving to see pictures of the real people and listen to their voices.

Because Friday is the day commemorating Christ's passion, the Pope always leads the Stations of the Cross. A popular Catholic devotional, this is a set of 14 stations telling the story of Jesus' way from the garden of Gethsemane to His burial. At each station there is a prayer and a short reflection on that particular situation. Typically the stations are posted (for example on the walls in a church) and one walks from one to the next, but this setting was different. Towns all around Spain nominated statues to represent the different stations and they were displayed in the main square where Papa Ben had been the night before. Different groups of youth carried the WYD cross from one statue to the next as we "walked" with Jesus.

Each group was somehow connected with the station, for example after Judas Betrays Christ with a Kiss (the some of the stations were different from the traditional ones) the cross was carried by young people from areas where Christians face persecution because of their faith.

For the station, Jesus is stripped of His Garments, young people from Rwanda/Burundi carried the cross as a symbol of people who are stripped of their dignity through genocide.

After all 14 stations, Papa Ben gave a short homily on the importance of carrying our own crosses and following Christ. Although the stations took place outside, we stayed and watched them from inside the L&L Centre... I was glad not to have another long day outside in the sun.

When the stations were finished, I stayed with some of the group for Lectio Divina - a time of reading and meditating on scripture. Concluding the night was a healing Eucharistic Adoration service with procession. There's nothing like quiet time with Jesus... especially when He walks through the room.

I was a bit worried because I had wanted to stay for Adoration but knew that I needed to eat as well. Just as we were leaving, I mentioned to the girls I was with that I needed to stop somewhere and get some food on the way home. No sooner had I said that then we passed someone who offered us most of a pizza that they couldn't eat (we were still inside... this was other pilgrim not some random person on the street). Amazing how God provides!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

WYD part 4

Thursday was the day that Papa Ben (The Pope/B16/etc) arrived in Madrid. After catechesis, I went with most of the group to the welcome ceremony. We arrived around 2pm and got pretty close -- we had a good view of a screen and could even see the stage somewhat.

People that arrived after us:

There were pilgrims from ALL OVER the world.

We had to wait from 2pm until the Pope arrived at 7:30 so we saw a ton of strange/awesome things... for example

The "Monk-arena"
(sorry it's turned sideways, I couldn't figure out how to fix that)

It was terribly hot. I'm amazed that I managed not to get sunburned. That's only because I was reapplying sunscreen about every hour. Unfortunately, some people got really nasty as well. I went to the toilet with a couple of the other girls and we had a serious problem getting back to the group. Some other pilgrims wouldn't move a few feet (they had loads of room because they were sitting in a circle playing cards) to let us past and even when a girl fainted from the heat right behind us they didn't want to move. They did finally move so that the girl could get medical assistance and we were able to fight our way back to the group.

Over all, though the atmosphere was great. So many young adults so excited to see the Holy Father. Seriously, there has to be something to the papacy. Otherwise, there is no reason for 100's of thousands of youth to be gathered in the 40+C (well over 100F) heat to see one short, 84 year old man. There is no other reason for us to be chanting with one voice (as we did dozens of times throughout the week, both in the presence of the pope and anywhere else... opposite platforms of the metro, walking down the street, you name it) “¡Esta es la juventud del papa!” ("We are the youth of the pope!") He really is our spiritual father. Forget Dumbledore's Army... I'm in Benedict's Army. Which, ultimately, is Jesus' Army.

Finally, Papa Ben arrived! And we could see him!!

Five young adults representing the five continents presented welcome gifts to the Holy Father. I didn't catch a picture of him putting on the cowboy hat from the North American representative but I did get one of him wearing the flower garland from the Asian rep.

After the gifts, there was a short prayer service with a reading from the Bible and intercessions. Papa Ben greeted the pilgrims and gave a short message in each of the "official" WYD languages (Spanish, French, Italian, German, English, and Polish) eliciting massive cheers from each language group in turn.

After the prayer service, he rode back out of the square in the pope-mobile. We were kind of disappointed because there had been plenty of space right along the fence on the street where he came in but we chose to get closer to the stage rather than stand there. Oh well... we were still there.

We waited a little while for the crowds to start to clear (hah) a little bit and then headed out of the square to find some food. On the way, we passed two cardinals walking down the road. Now, one doesn't normally see two "Princes of the Church" ambling down a city street. I caught a picture and then some of the group decided we should talk to them.

American's are often very irritating in international settings. Not everyone and not always but there is enough truth in the stereotype for me to downplay my citizenship when abroad. Because of this, I was telling people at WYD that I live in Hungary. When we met the cardinals, the rest of the group said they were from Canada and I chimed in (as I had been doing up until that point but sort of stopped afterwards) that I was coming from Hungary.

One of the cardinals looked at me strangely and asked
I figured that he either hadn't heard or didn't know where I was talking about so I repeated "Budapest, Hungary."
No sooner had I said that then, in flawless Hungarian, he says
"Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!" (Praised be Jesus Christ!)

Now, you have to understand that for Hungarian Catholics, that is the common greeting from a priest to the people. If you're Hungarian and Catholic it's about as well known as the Sign of the Cross. Basically, if you don't know it (and the proper response), you are either not Hungarian or not Catholic or neither. When I'm in Hungary, the response flies off the tip of my tongue as easy as pie. However.... I was NOT expecting this random cardinal to be Cardinal Erdő -- the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest (my home diocese) and the only Hungarian cardinal. I knew that he had to be in Budapest on Saturday for St. Stephen's day so I figured he wasn't going to be at WYD. Apparently, I was wrong. My poor brain was so befuddled with the sudden switch from English/Spanish to Hungarian. I recognized the phrase to be Hungarian, I knew it was the standard greeting from a priest, and I knew that I knew the proper response. What I didn't manage was to come up with the response. Instead, I mumbled, "igen," (yes) looking quite bewildered, I'm sure. The cardinal frowned and, somewhat sharply, gave me the response "Mindörökké, ámen!" (Forever, amen!)

I can't blame him... the poor guy was probably thinking "who is this girl and why is she claiming to be Hungarian/Catholic?!" ... Sorry, Your Eminence, I promise I'm not that thick - just wasn't expecting the language switch.

After that excitement (read: embarrassment -- at least for me) we got dinner and then headed home after a LONG day in the sun.

WYD part 3

Continuing the impossible task of setting my World Youth Day experience in words.

As I briefly mentioned, I spent Monday evening/night with a group from Edmonton, Alberta (hereafter known as Alberta group 1... or my (adopted) group). We got tapas that evening and then I stayed the night with them.

Tuesday morning I had to go to registration. There were some problems: because I registered so late, I never actually got a "pilgrim registration email" and they didn't want to give me my meal tickets and transportation pass without that. Finally, it got worked out and I left the office with my backpack, meal tickets, transportation pass, and some of the books/maps (not everything was in my backpack). After registration I went to the Love & Life Centre which was a "home" for English speaking pilgrims sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Sisters of Life.

First on the schedule was the opening concert by L'Angelus (a Catholic Cajun band of four siblings from Louisiana). They were awesome! Not only was the group itself great, they also had their little siblings perform with them. Here's a clip with all of them -- not from the concert but still at WYD... the little twin boys are named Maximilian and Kolbe.. how cute is that! I don't typically listen to that type of music but they are enthusiastic performers and it was very enjoyable.

Fr. Robert Barron spoke next, giving a preview of his new tv series "Catholicism." If you are in the States, I highly recommend this series which will start in the fall on both EWTN and PBS to anyone who is Catholic or interested in Catholicism... especially the historical aspects of it. Apparently, Fr. Barron will be the first Catholic priest to have a show on public tv since the 1950's (Archbishop Fulton Sheen).

A lot of people left at that point to head over to the Opening of WYD Mass but I stayed at the Love & Life Centre for Catholic Underground with Eucharistic Adoration. It was amazing but I basically missed Mass because of it.

By the time I got out of Adoration, there was only an hour before Mass and I ended up on the very fringe of the crowd -- well outside of the area with screens and speakers (I'm sure I was at least a mile away from the actual Mass). That was incredibly frustrating and I ended up leaving before Mass was over (I couldn't see, couldn't hear, and I didn't have the English liturgy booklet so I couldn't follow along). At that point, things got a little funky. I had hoped to run into the Alberta group 1 at some point during the day but that didn't happen (something about there being a few hundred thousand - literally - people there made that difficult). Since I didn't, I found myself wandering home... only I didn't know exactly where "home" was. Somehow, I didn't have the address of the church which was my "home base." I wasn't even sure what metro stop I would have to go to -- much less how to get back from the metro. This sent me into quite a panic. I managed to find an information center with some volunteers and thankfully, I at least knew the name of the church. They managed to point me in the right direction and I made my way to the metro. While riding back, I met another group from Edmonton (Alberta group 2) and rode the rest of the way home with them. When we got back to the church, one of the volunteers took me over to my host family's house. That was when I met my "Spanish Grandma" Filo (short for Filomena).

Suffice it to say staying with Filo and her husband was a fascinating experience. I don't speak Spanish although I can understand a little thanks to studying French and Italian. Filo doesn't speak English. I'm used to not understanding everything (in Hungarian) but being completely unable to communicate was something I'm less comfortable with. We made it work though. She and her husband were incredibly sweet and accommodating. Unlike 99% of the pilgrims I actually had a bed (which I didn't really tell anyone during WYD... didn't want to rub it in) and Filo even insisted on doing my laundry later in the week. Staying there, I learned an interesting fact about differences between Spanish and Hungarian culture: both have greeting kisses on both cheeks (or the air next to your cheek) but in Spain it's left then right and in Hungary it's right then left side. That took me a little while to get used to.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings were spent in catechesis at the L&L Centre. A traditional part of WYD, this consists of the pilgrims being split into language groups (there were 250 of these catechesis sites all over the city ... 24 in English and the rest in all sort of languages from Spanish to Hungarian, Arabic to Mandarin). In each of the sites, the pilgrims gather to hear teachings from a bishop/archbishop/cardinal in their language and then celebrate Mass. There are also other speakers or music groups before the main address. On Wednesday, Cardinal Pell from Sydney, Australia spoke on belief in God being rational. He gave some funny statistics on how it is more likely for a chimp to produce a Shakespearean sonnet than for amino acids to randomly arrange themselves in a way to produce life without someone/something prompting it. Thursday, Archbishop Miller from Vancouver, Canada spoke about the parable of the wise man building his house on the rock and the importance of building our lives on the Rock of Christ and His Church. "Lose yourself in Jesus to find out who you really are," he encouraged us. He was preceded by Jason and Crystalina Everett who shared their experiences on the importance of chastity. I hadn't heard them speak before and found them very real and engaging with some humor thrown in for good measure: "Daily Mass is only for those who have nothing better to do ... which is all of us!" Our final catechesis was lead by Archbishop Dolan of NYC. He gave a very practical talk on ways to witness to the faith, listing four main points: charity, joy, hope, and love for the Church. He also repeated a short prayer over and over which was ironic because of something that happened Thursday night (my "infamous" run-in with Cardinal Erdo -- my archbishop -- story here!). The Masses which followed were enormous -

30 bishops at each of the first two days and closer to 50 on Friday

250-350 priests depending on the day
(that white stream.. coming from the right side and filling up the seats on either side of the floor -- that's all priests)

On Wednesday, I went to catechesis with the Alberta group 2. Afterwards, we tried to see Christopher West but the line was too long for us to get in. We did a little shopping and then headed home "early" for a prayer service at 9pm followed by dinner hosted by our church. The evening ended with the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona match. I went back to Filo's house and went to bed before the match ended... she told me she and her husband were praying for Real Madrid to win but I heard the next day that despite a valiant effort Barcelona won.

While I was very grateful that the Alberta group 2 welcomed me on Wednesday, they were quite a bit younger than the first group. Of course there is nothing wrong with that and I was glad to have met them. However, given the choice, I would rather spend time with late college/grad school/working young adults over high school/early college students. Because of this and the fact that timing worked out well, I spent Thursday (and then Friday-Sunday) with Alberta group 1. At that point I was pretty much "adopted" as part of the group -- they even told me I was an "honorary Canadian" for the week!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

WYD part 2

Short note in pictures....

World Youth Day is one of the most visible signs of the thriving Church.


But the cross by itself doesn't save us. It is the Crucified One who saves us.
Taken from the WYD Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) text

"If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion"
~~ St. Maximilian Kolbe

Which in the broadest sense, means universal.


Not only were hundreds of bishops there (the successors of the apostles) but so was ...

Papa Ben!
The Vicar of Christ on Earth:
the successor of St. Peter,
still holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven given him by Christ.
Matthew 16:13-20


Oh how I love being Catholic!

This cool guy I met in Madrid

I promise that I will write about everything that happened during WYD, but if I had to sum it up... I'd have to simply tell you all about this guy that I met.

Before I left, at least two of my friends here made comments about how amazing it would be if I met someone in Madrid. Coming off of this summer (and the months leading up to it), I wasn't sure if I wanted that to happen or really hoped it wouldn't. Taking into account all the gory details not included in my blog post (and there were many, unfortunately, even continuing after the relationship ended), things just got really ugly. I understand that this guy was lashing out because he was hurt. However, that didn't make it any easier. Add in a heavy dose of "Catholic guilt" due to some rad-trad beliefs that he has and I was a mess. Although I doubt he meant to, some things that I heard over and over again really gave me a beating. These aren't doctrines or dogma. Nothing that is essential to Catholic teaching. To sum it up... I do not believe that a woman has to wear a high-necked shirt with a long skirt and a veil to be modest. Modesty is awesome, don't get me wrong. And I definitely consider myself modest. But, when I'm subjected to talk about legalistic rules, I want nothing more than to put on a bikini and go to the beach. When Jesus appears to me and tells me that I must only wear blouses dipping no lower than two finger widths below the pit of my throat and a skirt that fully covers my knees while sitting or standing, I'll listen to Him. Until then, I'll have to keep fighting this ridiculous guilt over nothing. Honestly, when I think about it, what comes to mind is Eowyn's comment to Wormtongue in the Two Towers: "Your words are poison!" ... minus the evil intent.

What does any of that have to do with WYD in Madrid?

Well, my friends were right - sort of. I did meet a guy in Madrid. But then, I've known Him for years. Even so, I really needed the week away with Him. Jesus is the only one who can heal my heart and clean up this mess that I've gotten into. And WYD was the beginning of that. Through the people around me, speakers, bishops, Papa Ben (of course!), and just the general atmosphere, He was present in so many ways. But nothing compares to the sacraments. I was blessed to spend time in adoration twice (technically thrice if you count the Saturday vigil but I wasn't participating in that much for reasons which I'll get into later) -- there is nothing more beautiful than gazing at the very face of God and letting Him gaze back at you... except for receiving Him at Mass. I really needed to go to confession (yet another very tangible expression of His love) and had the chance - finally - on Friday morning. While I don't recommend getting into such a situation, after not being able to receive Communion before I went to the sacrament of reconciliation, it was incredible to to to Mass directly after. Although knowing that I was still so unworthy, being able to welcome Christ into a "freshly cleaned house" was priceless.

SO, was my future husband in Madrid? No clue. I kind of doubt it, even though I met some awesome people and there were more than a million who I didn't meet, but I don't know for sure. And, theoretically, there is always the option of religious life... although there really aren't many opera singing nuns. In any case, the week was spent rediscovering the love of the One who has always loved me and can never stop and, especially right now, that was better than being with anyone else.

Monday, August 22, 2011

WYD part 1

Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ,
firm in the faith

Colossians 2:7

That was the theme of World Youth Day this past week in Madrid.

I'm at quite a loss as to how to describe/condense my experience into a blog post(s) but I'll give it a shot.

From my notebook in the air on the way there:

Of course, as soon as I begin writing we hit some turbulence. The trip is going fine so far. I was worried about my backpack being too big to carry on - with my sleeping bag and foam roll both inside but it was fine. Interestingly, they were more concerned with number of bags rather than size. Two girls who had been in Budapest for Sziget had some trouble because they had sleeping bags and bed rolls separate from their carry ons - they each had about three things. Wizzair is very particular about having one item.. including purses/laptops/etc that most other airlines allow in addition to one carry on. I had everything in my backpack and just took things out on the plane before putting my bag up.

There is at least one WYD group on board. The priest traveling with them is sitting directly in front of me. I always feel much better about a flight (not that I usually feel bad) when I know there is a priest on board. Probably even more so than if I knew there was a doctor.

One of my goals on this pilgrimage is to actually interact with other people and not just stick to myself. That is such a challenge for me. I'm hoping that being alone - without a friend/group to find behind - that will be easier.

Speaking of friends, I'm curious to see if I run into anyone I know. When I was a volunteer in Cologne, a girl on the other volunteer team working with mine had been my babysitter when she was going to college. She came to WYD from her home in Kenya. That's the crazy type of thing that can happen at these. I do actually know one person who's here. A girl I went to school with our first time in Hungary is on the Hungarian social media volunteer team. I haven't talked to her in years but I've seen things she's posted on Facebook.

I really hope there is someone at the airport to pick me up. I called the volunteers at the parish that is hosting me and told them what time and from where I'm arriving. Hopefully they automatically knew which terminal to meet me based on my coming from budapest. If not, I've got my phone. Which I really hope is not the reason we're going through so much turbulence. I don't use it much so I forget about my phone all the time. By the time I remembered it was turned on, my bag was in the overhead a few rows ahead and we had started taxiing. Must be better about remembering that!

I hope this doesn't turn into a lonely trip. The group next to me is having a blast. I miss traveling/going to events with a youth group-type thing. If they weren't all a big group, I might be able to screw up the courage to talk to a person or two but alone compared with a group it's extremely hard. I'm such an introvert. Sigh.

(This next bit was written Tuesday night)

Just a quick note before I fall asleep. Got in fine last night. A volunteer picked me up at the airport. Spet the evening with a grad school group from Alberta. I was suppsoed to stay with a host family but we got back from "dinner" too late -- this is Spain -- we didn't start getting our food until 11:20 - so I spent the night on the floor with that group.

This morning I had to spend a few hours getting paperwork sorted out. Will have to finish in the morning because I'm exhausted => you'll see why soon.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Quick note

Just a short post to say that Madrid is awesome! Christ is so present! Got to see Papa Ben last night and I'm about to watch Stations of the Cross on the screen in the huge "home center" for English pilgrims. I've been hanging out with a group from Alberta, CA who have made me an honorary Canadian for the week. Had a horribly embarrassing run-in with Peter Cardinal Erdo of the Esztergom-Budapest diocese... talk about a slice of "humble pie"...

Gotta run because there is a line for the computer!!

More when I get back!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Today's the day!

I still can't believe that I'm actually going to World Youth Day in Madrid... today!!

Now that all of the little details are worked out (paying, where I'm staying, my worries about finding a flat for next year (my landlady offered me a discount for a second year so I'm not moving), etc.) I feel I would be remiss to not write a little about WYD itself and my personal reflections before heading to Spain.

A brilliant "brain-child" of Blessed John Paul II, WYD began in 1985 in Rome. JP invited the youth of the world to gather to join him in a period of prayer geared toward the young Church. Following that, every two - three years, there has been a gathering in some part of the world drawing thousands of Catholic youth and young adults.

I have had the privilege of attending WYD twice in the past: 2002 in Toronto and 2005 in Cologne. Toronto was simple because it's pretty much the backyard when compared to the whole world. Cologne wasn't much harder because my family was moving to Europe only a few weeks later so I went early. Both were incredible experiences. I desperately wanted to go to Sydney in 2008 but the flight alone was more than I could afford.

I am thrilled to be able to go to Madrid. Actually, thrilled doesn't begin to describe what I'm feeling right now. I found this video while looking up some WYD info and stopped to watch it.

Honestly, I cried.

I can't believe I was going to stay home. Especially when I am so close this time. WYD is unlike anything else I have ever experienced. Even the hugest Steubie conference is like a birthday candle when compared to the forest fire that is about to blaze in Madrid.

How can one describe the feeling? Surrounded by 100's of thousands of young adults all gathered for the same purpose: to unite in our common faith and love of the Lord. AND, to have Papa Ben there will us. Joining with pilgrims coming from literally, the ends of the earth: Alaska to Afghanistan (OK, I can't say with 100% certainty that there will be any Afghans ... but with 200 countries represented in Cologne, it really wouldn't surprise me!). And, it's different from a vacation. Honestly, I haven't taken a single minute to investigate any of the (I'm sure, amazing) sights in Madrid. No, this is a pilgrimage. We are going to meet Christ in Madrid. And His vicar: Pope Benedict. If there was ever a sign that the Catholic Church was instituted by God Himself, it has to be the papacy. No merely human office could have lasted 2000 years through so many wars, scandals, plagues, etc. Yes, there have been heart-breaking divisions. But the papacy remains. In Papa Ben, we see the representative of Peter - still holding the keys Christ gave him in Matthew 16:19. That's who is waiting for us pilgrims: Christ and His "right hand man" Peter.

How did I almost not go!?!?!

Will try to update but I'm making no promises until I see what the internet cafe situation is like. I'll be praying for you all. Please pray for me as well!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Getting closer :)

Two major things accomplished today in my WYD scramble...

1. I picked up the backpack I'm borrowing from Deb


2. Heard from a volunteer at the parish where I'm assigned to stay... which means -- I've officially got housing and have an address to go to from the airport... YAY!

Also bought a rain poncho, sunscreen - it's supposed to be 90-100F all week, and some plastic painting drop-cloth stuff for sleeping outside on Saturday night. I wanted to get a plastic pool air mattress but the Tesco where I looked only had kids Disney ones and they were really expensive. I'll check at another Tesco tomorrow and might get a camping mat if they don't have the air mattresses.

On a not-so-pleasant note, I still have no place to live after August 31st. I looked at a room this afternoon but there were a bunch of things that weren't great -- one or two I could have handled but it was more than that. It's frustrating... last year, I saw ~18 apartments in August. This was the first one I've seen this year. For some reason, people just haven't been getting back to me. Please pray that I find a place to live!!

2 Days!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I just checked my registration online and my payment went through for WYD!

Now I'm just waiting to hear where I'm staying. I really hope that going by myself will force me out of my shell so that I have to interact with people I don't know.

T-minus 4 days!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sorted out... I think?

I got an email from my credit card company warning me of suspicious account activity.

Well, I'm sorry that the conversion from Euros to Dollars and the fact that "Archdiocese of Madrid" was in Spanish made it look odd. I assured the automated message system (through g-mail phone calls -- a lifesaver! -- although I have to use my vpn to access that now) that I did, indeed, authorize such a transaction. Hopefully, that means it will show up on the WYD website in the next day or so and I can find out where I'm staying.

YAY for (hopefully!!) not sleeping on the streets of Madrid!

Also, I'm borrowing my friend Deb's backpack (she has an actual "backpacking" one) for the trip so that should be much easier to carry than my Jansport one... plus, I'll have a new backpack once I get to Madrid :)

5 Days!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Prayers appreciated

Just a quick note with two rather important prayer requests regarding Madrid...

1. I checked on my registration this evening and it still has the payment pending... that's worrisome for two reasons - first, the fact that I've already bought my plane ticket and the second, while they are still taking registrations, as of this evening, you can't request accommodation anymore. I'm praying that it goes through and that I have a place to stay because sleeping on the streets of Madrid for a week is a little to exciting for me!

2. I had saved next week to finish all of my summer work which still needs a good bit of work. Now, I'll be scrambling to get it done in the next few days before I leave. I've procrastinated quite a bit because it's hard to be motivated after an experience like this.

Besides these worries (just a chance to trust God, right?) I'm super excited for Madrid!!

6 Days!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

And now, for a Picardy Third for the summer

If I had made this decision earlier it probably would have been cheaper but no matter...


Beyond excited! Gonna hang out with Papa Ben and a couple (just looked it up ... more than 4!!) 100 thousand of our bffs!

I <3 our German Shepherd!

I soooo need this after this summer -- kind of like a Picardy third after a piece firmly set in a minor key. (Yep that's my music nerd coming out!)

OK... time for bed... I'm working this week so I have to be up early. But, really... how can I sleep when I'll be in Madrid in less than a week?!?!?


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Telling the truth is not enough

"Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."
- John 14:6

"Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love."
- 1 John 4:8

When I was a kid, I learned a hard lesson. I thought that honesty was always the best policy. While I don't deny that, taking into account both of the verses above, it seems to me that honesty with charity is really the ideal.

For as clearly as I remember the other details of this story, I can't remember what year it was. I must have been between eleven and thirteen but I'm not really sure. My friend "Amber" (names have been changed) and I were hanging out nearly everyday that summer. A younger neighbor "Monica" always wanted to play with us as well. This irritated Amber and I because Monica was younger and not nearly as "mature" as we thought ourselves to be. Monica wanted to do everything with us but her mom wouldn't allow her to do some things that we were doing. So, Monica wanted us to only do what she was allowed to do so that she could always be involved. We tried avoiding her. We tried not being available. We tried hiding. Nothing worked. Finally, in our pre-teen frustration we wrote a letter to Monica telling her that we didn't want to be friends. Not only did we lash out at Monica, we also made some comments about her mom because of the way Monica was trying to restrict what we could do in order to include her. We wrote this letter, sent it, and thought our problems were over. After all, we had done what was honest, right? We didn't want to spend time with her and we thought that it was nicer to actually tell her rather than just ignoring her.

Unfortunately, Monica and her mom did not see things the same way we did. I'm not really sure what they would have preferred that we do but apparently this letter wasn't it. Monica's mom called my parents and Amber's parents and the result was my being grounded the entire summer. All for telling the truth. The whole truth.

Since that time, I'm much more careful with how I tell the truth. Sometimes, it's not necessary or charitable to use all the details. For example... (these are made up situations that could realistically happen)

Say a friend asked me how a dress looked on her... I could say
"it's not really your style, why don't you try this other one. I think that cut/color/etc. would be more flattering on you."
OR I could say
"UGH... that is awful, it makes you look like a watermelon. Seriously, you look disgusting. The red emphasizes that big pimple on your chin and it's too tight so it looks like you're about to have a 'fat baby' .. NO NO NO."
(Please note, I would NEVER say that to any of my friends... can't even imagine thinking it!) Both of these statements could be telling the truth. But only one of them is charitable.

Another example: My mom makes something I don't like for dinner. Do I respond with
"Thanks for making dinner, Mom, but I'm not hungry." or a simple "it wasn't my favorite. I wouldn't ask you to make it again"
"Mom, that was awful. It makes me want to gag. NEVER make it again when I'm home."
Again, both might be the truth but only one is honesty with charity.

Bottom-line: sometimes, it's not necessary to give all the details. As long as you're being truthful it can be more charitable to leave out some of the nitty-gritty. Despite what people might think from reading this blog, I do not express every thought that comes through my head. There are many many things I could say about people, places, things, etc. which would be less than charitable. Do I always succeed in not saying these things? No. But I do my best. And the idea of people calling me dishonest because I try to avoid saying hurtful things is both offensive and immature.

Stepping down off my soapbox now.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What I did this summer (Part 4)

The promised story of my trip to the States... Again, without all the gory details. And, I'll do my best to have it make sense... well, at least as much sense as this story can make.

I love socks. I have for as long as I can remember. Some people go out and buy movies or overeat or get drunk or etc. when they are angry/sad/frustrated. Not me. Buying socks is one of the most common things I do in those situations. But this story doesn't start with me buying socks... at least not recently.

Once upon a time, I bought a pair of socks. Well, once upon a million times I've bought socks, but this time in particular, I bought a little pair of pretty pink ankle socks with the inscription: "Kiss Me, I'm Single." I loved those socks. They were cute, comfortable, and I liked the message. No, I didn't want some random guy to come up and kiss me because I was single, but I really wouldn't have minded meeting someone who might change both my (seemingly) perpetual single-ness and my status as "23-and-never-been-kissed." However, year after year went by and no such guy appeared. Until, it seemed, this January.

For the past five years or so, I've had an account on CatholicMatch. (**despite this story, I do believe this website is a great thing, I've heard plenty of success stories and I may be back on CM at some point**) Sometimes, it was active, sometimes not. I had communicated with a handful of guys from around the US but nothing seemed to "click" until this year.

At the end of January, I began communicating with a guy from Texas. I was thrilled. Here was this guy I could talk to about anything, Catholic, had direction - was pursuing a medical-ish degree, similar values (although, I realized pretty early on that he was much more conservative than I... and it takes quite a lot for someone like me to say that), a number of the same interests, etc. The emails quickly became pages long and CM chat was cumbersome, so within the first few weeks we moved to skype chat (just type -- no voice/video). These skype chats soon became an enormous part of my life. Hours and hours at a time were dedicated to chatting with him.

Things were progressing rapidly. By mid-March, he had bought a plane ticket to come out and visit me in Steubenville this summer. We were sharing pretty much everything about our lives with each other. That only increased when we started actually speaking at the end of April. This was building up and building up towards July 1st and neither of us expected that it would do anything but continue to grow past that. My friends and family were generally very supportive with the exception of one sister who insisted that "this summer would be awful. I would get my heart broken and move back to Budapest lonely and depressed." While I didn't put much stock in her fear (it seemed to be motivated out of jealousy more than anything else), I did recognize that no matter how unlikely I felt that to be, it was still a possibility.

Finally, I arrived back in the States on June 26th with less than a week until he was coming to visit. The next few days were filled with cleaning and organizing the house, getting over jet lag, and freaking out. (One of the most memorable moments was when we discovered that the caulking which had just been used on the bathtub would render the only shower unusable for a day and a half before the time he was to arrive... Miriam, bless her dear heart, spent an enormous amount of time - tearing the original caulking off, putting down new stuff, tearing off the new, and recaulking it again ... I love her!!)

Friday, July 1st arrived and I found myself at the Pittsburgh airport waiting to meet this guy I felt I had known forever. I was nervous but excited. After all, we had such a connection online/on the phone that meeting in person could only be better, right? He came down the escalator and we hugged. There wasn't any "jolt" or specific "spark" but I didn't think anything of it because I felt just as comfortable as I had when we were talking. We spent that evening with my family, eating dinner, playing a board game, and watching a movie.

Saturday, I was both looking forward to and dreading. I looking forward to a Kennywood trip with some of my friends. I was dreading the time that he wanted to spend praying at an abortion mill in downtown Pittsburgh prior to that. That is so far out of my comfort zone. I realize that everyone has to do things that get them out of their comfort zone, but this was a stretch. It went fine, however, and soon that was over and we were on our way to Kennywood. I was very curious to see how he got along with my friends. It seemed that everything was fine. It helped that I had friends from both my "Catholic" group of friends and my "regular" group of friends (this is not a slur on either group... they are both great and represent two different parts of my personality... this is also very important later on). The day progressed and everyone had a lot of fun. Something was nagging me in the back on my mind but since I couldn't figure out what it was, I ignored it. The evening ended with a rip-roaring time at Eat 'n Park with three of my friends before the drive back to Steubenville.

We had decided long before the visit that on Sunday, we would take time just the two of us. He also had this idea that he wanted to make me like hiking (which has always been a "four letter word" in my book). So, on Sunday afternoon, we went out to one of the state parks in PA. And I enjoyed it. After walking a while, we ended up sitting on a huge rock for over an hour... cuddling, holding hands, talking, not talking (no, there was nothing more than that). Just like the hug when we met, it was nice. Nothing earth-shattering, but I was content and comfortable being with him. On the walk back to the car, he asked me if I wanted to continue ("make official") the relationship. Because I was comfortable with him and couldn't imagine not talking to him as I had been doing for months, I said "yes." (Note... some of my friends jokingly called me a "holding hands whore" because we were doing that before we were "officially together" ... LOL ... BTW I don't think it was wrong in the least.)

Monday flew by in a blur and soon we were sitting at the airport waiting for his, delayed, flight. At this point we changed our facebooks to reflect that we were "in a relationship" with each other. Although I wasn't happy when he left, I also didn't feel distraught like I expected to feel.

Over the next couple of weeks, I spent some time in PA with three of my closest friends, started preparing for a recital I was asked to give at the school/store where I took voice lessons in high school, went to MN with my parents and brother, got to spend time with my friend, Jen, who I hadn't seen in nearly 5 years, saw various relatives and family friends, and spent a ton of time thinking. I still couldn't put my finger on exactly what it was that was bothering me, but I knew it was related to the relationship.

Finally, after many hours talking with friends and mulling it over in my mind, I accepted the fact that I needed to end it. The bottom line was: I wasn't ready for a relationship. But it was more than that. I mentioned my two groups of friends above. I can function just fine in both, although, I act differently in those settings. In this case, I felt I was involved with someone who fell even further on the one side as do my "Catholic" friends. That is not inherently wrong! And compromise is always possible as he pointed out when I ended the relationship just shy of three weeks after it began. But, in this case, there were so many things that would have needed to be compromised so much. And because I "float" in the middle between both groups of friends, I would have had to compromise so far to one side I felt I would be losing the other part of who I am. Conversely, he would have had to move so far to the left, even to meet me half-way. So, perhaps, it's not even that I'm not ready for a relationship. Perhaps, it's just that I wasn't ready for *this* relationship. I am not secure enough in who *I* am, me, Rose, by myself, not in comparison to anyone else, to not have changed into someone I really am not just to make this relationship work.

Now, when I say "Perhaps, I just wasn't ready for *this* relationship," I am not implying that I see any possible future with this guy. To be blunt, I don't. He is a great person, but he's not the guy for me. AND... I wouldn't really be the girl for him either.

It would be nice if this story had a "happy ending" even on the level of we stayed friends. But that is simply impossible. When I ended the relationship, he asked if we could be friends. I cautiously agreed, but it soon became apparent that we have very different meanings and expectations of the word "friends." Add in the fact that, while our emotional chemistry (as seen by our online communication and to a lesser extent, in person) was great, there was - at least on my end - no physical chemistry. That's what was missing when we met. There wasn't any "spark" making it "better" than spending time talking online. When he left, I wasn't distraught because going back to talking online wouldn't be much different. Friends have told me, and I agree with them, that when I actually do meet the guy who I am meant to spend the rest of my life with, it will feel like an immense emptiness when he leaves. And, that when I am with that person, I will feel much more of myself. My whole self. Not like half of me would have to be compromised to become the "right person."

I'm not saying any of this to talk badly about this guy. Although things didn't work out between us and I can't see a friendship continuing for both the reasons listed and some that will remain unstated, I wish him well. The fact that my necessary decision has hurt him to the extent that it seems to have, makes me unhappy. But, that does not compare to the peace I feel knowing that I made the right decision. And, knowing that I made the right decision isn't even all of it. I know that I have nothing, NOTHING, to regret about this relationship. There is nothing that I would go back and "unsay" or "undo," nothing I feel guilty for, nothing I would have done differently. I wish it did not have to end with my being completely at peace while he is in pain. But, I can't change the way he has reacted. I only pray that he will be able to move on and find the same peace I have. And that someday, we will both meet the persons who will be everything we couldn't be for each other.

OH, and, Miriam, I know I gave you my socks, but I'd really like them back. They were my favorites!

What I did this summer (Part 3)

The rest of my Prague trip
(although, I am well aware that most people
just want to read about my trip to the States...
I'm writing this first.
Because I can..

All day Wednesday and the morning of Thursday I was at PQ, marveling at the exhibits and simply loving being surrounded by theatre. Thursday afternoon, I spent some time seeing Prague itself. I wandered over to Old Town Square for a free walking tour. This was the second free walking tour (first was in Berlin) I've been on in Europe and I HIGHLY recommend both of them! Because I was early for the tour, I walked around the square a bit looking at various booths set up for a cultural fair.
Langos - not just a Hungarian thing

Woven towels, bags, hats, etc...
And the woman who was making them

Look... it's a kovach! (well, at least someone working with metal)

That is one Massive pan of potatoes!

A grilled-cheese sandwich ... different from a grilled cheese sandwich (the cheese itself was grilled not the sandwich)
It's a nice sentiment... perhaps people do need extra luck... personally, I would prefer my luck lead me to a real bathroom but in a pinch I'll take what I can get)

The tour was great... lead by a local college kid, it covered a lot of basic landmarks of Prague.
Church of Our Lady before Tyn - various stories about why one tower is bigger than the other - Adam protecting Eve, someone screwed up the measurements, materials were stolen

Another church at Old Town Square... this one kept changing back and forth between Catholic and something else (can't remember what... it wasn't common). It's not Catholic now

The famous clock... we weren't there at the hour so we didn't see it in motion but it was still neat

Our guide told us all of the different things the clock tells - some of them are: the time, the phases of the moon, astrological sign, the date, if it's day or night

Statue used to determine which generation kids identify with... this is either Emperor Palpantine or a Dementor. In actuality, it's the ghost of Don Giovanni's father. The building is the only theatre Mozart's work was premiered in which is still in use.

Wenceslas Square... important site in the Prague Spring (1968) ... our guide told the story of how his father was almost shot while removing street signs as the Communists re-invaded the city

The Church of St. James ... with a dark secret

The mummified remains of a thief's arm after he was seized by a statue of the Virgin Mary while trying to steal her necklace.

Forgot your toothbrush? Never fear! You can get one in the bathroom of the bagel shop where we stopped.

Kafka.. at the start of the:
Jewish Quarter

Jewish cemetery - see how high the gravestones are compared to street level? Because they had no more land, the Jewish community had to add more feet of dirt and continue burying people over top of old graves.

The home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Funny story about the composer statues on the roof - one of the top Nazis got angry that Mendelssohn was featured because he was a Jew. This figure requested that the statue be removed but did not tell the workmen which statue was Mendelssohn's. They nearly removed that of Wagner by mistake!

After the tour, I wandered down to the Charles Bridge
The man himself, King Charles the 4th (I'm pretty impressed... I remembered that he was the 4th before I looked it up to double check)

From the bridge

All sorts of things for sale on the bridge

I remembered some advice I had read/heard about who to ask to take your picture: Look for someone with a nice camera -- chance are, they will actually get the picture you want (you AND the background)

Went to Mass in this church which seems to function as the Newman Center for a university.

I didn't go in, but the idea of Absinth ice cream intrigued me

The castle from the Charles Bridge before I headed back to the bus station.

I guess this means I need to figure out how to write Part 4 ... at least now I actually want to write about it, that's an improvement (more on that when I write it)