Our last day in Bejar coincided with the Feast Day of the Assumption, a national feast day (and public holiday) here in Spain. It was in some fashion a perfect day on which to finish our Days in the Diocese experience in Bejar and the Diocese of Plasencia.
The day started easily with Morning Prayer in the last of Bejar’s churches, with our every affable host Don Miguel. This was followed by a nice slow perambulation to the Church of St Mary Major, where today’s (first) Mass was to be celebrated. The occasion was made all the more special because the Solemnity is also the patronal feast day of this particular church. It was a privilege to be part of the liturgical celebration of this particular solemnity, and the Mass was once again a mixture of Spanish, Korean, and English – with the added challenge of Latin for the Eucharistic Prayer.
This latest development, about which I wasn’t warned beforehand, had the potential to be very embarrassing for myself, given that as a concelebrant I would have to say part of the Eucharistic Prayer aloud – IN LATIN. I have to admit that my spoken Latin is rusty to the point of non- existence. But I apparently managed to bluff my way through, because I wasn’t taken outside the church and burnt as a heretic.
At the end of Mass both the Korean and Australian contingents were able to bid farewell to the people and parishioners of Bejar. Our Korean friends presented a statue of Mary (in the Korean style) to the parish, which went over very well given their personal and corporate devotion to Mary. Saying farewell on behalf of the diocesan contingent gave me the opportunity to say a very big “gracias” to those warm people who had made us feel so welcome, and who had welcomed us into their homes and hearts during our time with them. I apparently got my pronunciation of the few Spanish words I used correct enough to elicit applause and laughter, which is always a good way in which to say farewell.
After Mass there was the obligatory small servings of sangria and sweet biscuits which are the traditional food associated with the Assumption. After this, it was time to head off for our last lunch in Bejar, and then make our way to the park to await our bus to take us away from Bejar, and towards Navalmoral de la Mata, where our diocesan celebration of the Assumption and the pilgrims would take place.
What was surprising however was the emotion surrounding our farewell. Although we had only been in Bejar a very short time, there was genuine sadness at parting. There was much hugging and kissing, and there was even the occasional tear shed as we said farewell to these people who have become family through shared experience and the gift of hospitality. But it all came unstuck completely when they started singing – naturally and unashamedly singing farewell to new friends in a way that could never happen in Australia. It was powerful. It was profound. And I could feel my eyes starting to moist up. I must go back to visit again.
Our bus trip from Bejar to Navalmoral de la Mata was largely uneventful – until we actually got to Navalmoral de la Mata that is. It would appear that our bus driver hadn’t been told exactly where in the town he was supposed to take us. After a few aborted attempts, and several animated phone calls, we managed however to find the stadium, and were pleased to be reunited with our good friends from Spain, Austria and South Korea, and to meet new friends from Honduras, Uganda, Martinique, Mexico, Poland, American Samoa, Canada, Germany and many other places.
The atmosphere was positively electric. There was much music, much dancing, and much celebrating the one thing that all these people from all around the world had in common – Faith, and Faith as the Catholic Church proclaims it. It’s occasions such as this that reaffirm one’s faith, and generates a degree of excitement in the public profession of faith that is not achievable except during occasions such as this. While there are many national flags on display, that is not what gathers us here. What gathers us here, and into the coming days, is something far more intangible than national boundaries …and something far more precious! Thankfully the event tonight was not Mass, but rather something approach a ‘youth rally’ with an overtly Catholic Christian theme.
Eventually we boarded our bus that will be taking us to Madrid, the ultimate destination of our journey. As I write this entry we are still at least an hour from what will become our residence for the next week, and our experience of World Youth Day. But there’ll be more about that in tomorrow’s edition of this journey.