This morning we got up early and, after a quick breakfast, boarded our bus and said goodbye to Alba de Tormes to make our way to Avila.
Avila is a city in Spain most important (to us, at least), as the birthplace of St. Theresa of Avila, and home to the convent where she began one of the great religious reforms in the church. It was here in Avila, at the Convent of the Incarnation, where St. Theresa had her great mystical experiences, as well as befriending another great Carmelite saint, St. John of the Cross.
Our first stop was the Convent of the Incarnation, right outside the city walls, where we celebrated Mass in the chapel right next to the cell where St. Theresa used to live. After Mass and some personal prayers of thanksgiving, we walked over to the part of the convent that is now a museum, seeing some of the places that St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross would have lived or met together, as well as some of the items that would have belonged to these great saints.
We hopped back on the bus and went into Avila itself. Avila was interesting in that it is one of the last cities in Europe to still have its old city walls still intact. Going through the gate is like stepping back in time to an old medieval city. We wandered the tight streets, seeing the home St. Theresa grew up in, the convent of St. Joseph, and the cathedral. After a quick lunch (where a few of us again indulged in some fast food, this time at Burger King) we boarded the bus and continued on our journey.
Next stop, Madrid. Madrid is more of a ‘home base’ for us, giving us a central place to stay so we can make day trips to some other noteworthy sites over the next few days. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get to know Madrid a little bit. Our bus driver, Jose, drove around town while our local guide, Carmen, gave us a driving tour of the city, showing us all the sites and landmarks around here. We also stopped for a few minutes at the Cathedral of Madrid, which was only finished in the 1990’s, making it one of the newest structures we’ve visited.
We got settled in to our hotel, and then made our way downstairs for our next Theological Reflection, praying with and discussing an article written by Archbishop Vigneron on intimacy and celibacy, two big topics for men preparing for the priesthood. This led to some great discussion on how we, as future priests, are to have close intimate relationships within the life of chaste celibacy that we are all preparing for.
We followed up with dinner, and then off to bed, as we had an early start tomorrow for our next destination, Toledo.