As I mentioned in my last post, blogging is harder than it looks when you're running around in every direction and using an ancient laptop (six years old is now almost antique!). Actually, it's a shame that neither I nor my younger fellow pilgrims have been sending despatches from Madrid, because there's lots to report on.* World Youth Day is anything but boring, to say the least.
For instance, the epicentre of the demonstrations against WYD (and government expenditures related to it) is less than two blocks from our hostel. A huge square filled with protestors greeted us on our way to an evening prayer service, while an empty one ringed with riot police was what we found on our way home.
Happily, signs of joy and faith completely overpowered the negative impressions of the protests. The crowds welcoming the Pope are very difficult to describe: there's literally a football stadium of people lining every avenue.
The number of people makes it difficult to move about, and often uncomfortable, yet the easy manner and good cheer of the young people is a wonderful thing to see. In a crowd so tight that I felt the stirrings of panic, I was surrounded by people who looked as contented as if strolling through a park.
The English-language presentations--given in a massive indoor stadium seating (I'd guess) close to 20,000--have been stellar. Cardinal Pell of Sydney (who came to dinner at the parish with our pilgrims before the last WYD), Archbishop Dolan of New York, and our own Archbishop Miller have all given great talks to the throng, and celebrated Mass for us.
The heat is less oppressive than I feared. It's not as humid as, say, Washington or Toronto on a bad day, and air conditioning is more common that I'd expected. But I say that just an hour before heading out on foot to the papal Mass site, where we will spend the night outdoors!
Time for one last shower before heading off on our pilgrim walk!
*For much better blogging, check out http://www.vanwyd.blogspot.com/