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Day 5 in Madrid: The Way of the Cross and a Blessing by the Pope

Our Register staffer's faith-filled trip continues with reflections on the cross and feeling very blessed ... literally.


| Posted 8/19/11 at 7:53 PM

Rachel Howell

What an incredible day! Tears start dripping down my face and onto my keyboard as I sit here and type this. It is a day where memories and feelings will be forever in my heart.

I got to see the Holy Father! Not just see him: He was within a few feet of us, and he blessed us! One hardly knows how to describe the peace and joy of that moment. There is an amazing feeling of unity with the whole Church here and a power that is above normal circumstances.

The day began different then I had anticipated. I am a person who likes to control things, and all of my plans for the day were not going well. A late start and large crowds made seeing the city difficult and getting to the talks out of the question.

Finally, around 4pm Madrid time, my friend Maria and I left our group and headed over to the Plaza de Cibeles in hopes of finding a spot near where the Stations of the Cross were going to be held. We were truly guided by divine Providence, as we walked straight to an open place right against the road in front of the 11th Station. There we stood for three hours and waited for the Holy Father to come by.

When he finally came, there was calmness in the midst of the cheering crowds. We looked up at our smiling Holy Father, and he looked back on all of his children, blessing us.

I was aware that he knew all of our struggles, all of our brokenness, and knew how much he loved us. I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that right before my eyes was the Successor of St. Peter, the man chosen by God to lead his Church. The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 16 verses 18-19, came to life for all of us: “And so I say to you: You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Participating in the Stations of the Cross with the Holy Father made the stations take on a deeper meaning. We were praying as one Church, one voice for our brothers and sisters in their daily struggles, for all those of us who have fallen, that we may have the strength to get back up again.

From around the world, we gathered together. We were praying for the people hurting and for those who do not know love. All of the friends and family and members of the universal Church who are praying for the success of WYD were united in prayer with us.

All throughout WYD, I keep being reminded that the focus of life is Christ! Nothing else matters, and when you focus on him, he will make everything else fall into place according to his will. Our faith is so alive, so present and approachable. The words of Pope Benedict from 2006 seemed written for today: “What we believe is important, but even more important is the One in whom we believe.”

Rachel Howell, the Register’s customer-and-administrative-support representative,

is blogging about the faith-filled events of World Youth Day 2011 from Madrid.

She is traveling with a group of first-time pilgrims from her parish in Alabama.

Read about Rachel’s other WYD adventures:

Praying for World Youth Day
4 Reasons to Go to World Youth Day
Madrid, Here We Are!
Opening Mass Welcomes Pilgrims to WYD
Day 3 in Madrid: A Trip to Confession Park, Vocational Booths and ‘Life on the Rock’
Day 4 in Madrid: The Pope Has Arrived!