Play time is over. Today the main work of the congress starts in earnest. After breakfast, we are whisked away to the convention centre. From morning till lunch half past one, there was talk after talk. I would be lying if I said I heard every word. My neighbour, a priest from Ghana, had to nudge me a couple of times during the day, not so much to wake me up, but to stop my snoring from disrupting the simultaneous translators in the booths behind. There were some interesting talks from the rectors of the shrines of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe. The theme of the congress is inspired by the passage of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus on Easter day. On their journey, perplexed at what had happened on Good Friday, they are joined by the risen Lord, whom they do not recognize. At the end of their journey, they recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. They then return to Jerusalem to spread the news and share their encounter with the risen Lord. There was talk of the spirituality of pilgrimage and how it is also has a symbolic meaning for the life of the Christian. An idea I really appreciated was how the pilgrimage, in its most primitive form is its strong penitential significance of purification, expiation and a new beginning in the walk of life and faith. Here is a quote from one of the talks: “The pilgrimage, which is the exit from the ordinary place and way of living, with little baggage, to begin a laborious trip towards a sacred place, exemplifies and therefore profoundly realizes the will and the grace of purification and of a new start in life.” After all this talking, it makes you want to go on a pilgrimage yourself. I’m feeling better about going to World Youth Day in the heat of August 2011 in Madrid.
Finally lunch came. We started with a delicious green soup. Among my table mates was the bishop from Ethiopia, I call Abunay, a priest from Ghana who knows Fr. Joseph Domfeh and Fr. Augustine Addai, who, as you may remember, have been guests at St. Jude’s. The entre was some kind of braised beef with veggies. Dessert was sort of cheese cake.
In the after noon, some more talks, and then they broke us up into small groups of about eight, according to language. I found myself with a bishop from Iraq and one from the Philippines, a priest from Tanzania (a classmate of Fr. Henry Mrema — the world is getting smaller and smaller), from Australia, Ghana, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Uganda. I was elected the secretary of the group, which was led by the bishop from Iraq. I can’t say the small group work was particularly enlightening — a lot of rehash of what the speakers had been saying all day long.
After the small groups, onto the buses from a ride downtown. We had free time until Mass at 8. Some more sightseeing: Holy Mass, with a whole mass of bishops and priests, was in a beautiful baroque chapel. It was in Latin again, with the Ordinary parts sung in Gregorian chant. Supper followed in a huge monastery refectory. Here is the coretto from which the reader would have read to the monks during their dinner in silence. Supper was a nice cabbage and bean soup with huge hunks of spongy bread. Then fried coddy fish, lightly battered, with sauteed potatoes, and local Galatian cheese and some kind of gelatiny sweet fruit stuff.
After dinner, all the participants were given an exclusive to the cathedral, where we could get an up close look at the high altar, give the traditional hug to the statue of the Great Saint James, and venerate the Apostles tomb. What a treat to be in this shrine without the huge crowds all around. Carissimi, I must now take my leave. Until tomorrow, Vaya con Dios.
btw. Today I have walked eight and two-thirds kilometres, or 12,387 steps.