Day 9 – Toledo and Madrid

Today we had an early morning, departing at 7:15 for Toledo. By Spanish standards, it was so early that the hotel hadn’t started making breakfast yet. No worries, though, as most of us just went right back to sleep once we boarded our bus.

We arrived in Toledo and took a short drive around the city. It is simply stunning. It was built on a rocky peninsula, surrounded by a river. We stopped and got a great group photo with the entire city behind us that will be hung in St. John Vianney Hall at Sacred Heart with all the previous pilgrimage pictures.

Once we were dropped off by the bus, we made our way straight to the cathedral for Mass in the Hispano-Mozarabic rite. While many of us are familiar with the various eastern rites of the church (such as Chaldean and Byzantine), not everyone is aware that there are actually several different rites in the Western Church besides the Roman Rite that we all attend. There used to be many of these, typically regional in nature. Over the centuries most of them disappeared or were suppressed by the Church in an effort to have one universal rite. But a few of them survived, one of them being the Mozarabic.

This Mass has deep historical roots, going back to about the 7th century (though there have been updates and revisions, as with all liturgical rites), always centered here in Spain. Today, there are only a few chapels and churches that celebrate this liturgy, almost all of them here in Toledo, so it was a great privilege to attend.

The Mass follows the same basic structure, with readings, offertory, and the Eucharist. But there were many small variations that give it its own unique personality. For instance: the sign of peace takes place earlier, as part of the offertory and intercessions, rather than after the consecration; at the fractioning rite, the priest breaks the host into nine different pieces, each representative of different aspects of the Paschal Mystery (death, resurrection, ascension, etc.); the Our Father is not said by everyone, rather, the celebrant recites it and everyone responds ‘Amen’ after each line of the prayer. All in all, it was a unique opportunity to pray the Mass in a way that, while new to us, has been part of the Church’s tradition for centuries.

After Mass and some Q & A with one of the canons, we toured the rest of the cathedral, seeing the beautiful chapels and artwork they have all throughout. They had on display paintings of the 12 apostles done by El Greco, a famous artist from the 15th century who lived in Toledo.

We made our way out of the cathedral, seeing the local sites and another famous El Greco painting of the burial of Count Orgaz at the Church of San Tome (I’ll let you google that one).

Among the sites, we also saw the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. On the outside of their church hangs a lot of chains, hundreds of them. These were hung here by order of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1494. Just before this, the Catholic Kings (as these two are called in Spain) had successfully retaken Granada from the Moors, marking the final victory in the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula after several centuries. When they liberated the city, they discovered all the Christians in that town imprisoned and chained up. They freed the Christians, and hung their chains on the walls of this monastery as a symbol of their liberation and victory. They’ve been hanging their ever since.

It was a long, beautiful day in Toledo, but then we made our way back to Madrid for a tour of the Prada Museum. The Prada is a world famous museum here in Madrid and is home to some incredible artwork. We had two great tour guides who took us on a tour of the Christian artwork, with pieces by such artists as El Greco, Murillo, Velazquez, and many others.

We had a few free hours in Madrid before having our next Theological Reflection. This time we read the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, a document of Vatican II. We had a great discussion on priestly life, and what that should look like as we live that out in our daily ministry.

After a great dinner at the hotel, we had another postcard party for our benefactors, so watch for those postcards!

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