Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Melillo's Montserrat and Manresa




Once again (not that I don't plan it so that we stay on the time schedule I planned),

 the alarm went off in time to fulfill the plans I had for the day. We quickly showered, packed up and we lugged down our overnight bags to the car before "Bread-Fast". They owners were ready for us. Last evening when we asked what time in the A.M., they said ... well, it is Sunday. So, maybe 9:00 A.M.? Susan and I quickly (but politely) asked for 8:30 A.M. at the latest.


We walked into their Dining Salon a bit after 8:30 A.M. and our table was ready for us. fresh juice, a platter of meats and cheese, juices, homemade breads (a la "Angel"), jams & jellies .. a delectable treat. The Chef/Owner was also our server this A.M. and when his partner came down, we asked for their business cards, names, etc. (last night was too busy for us to interrupt them). As it turned out ... Reniere' and Angel own the Inn. They run a first-class and first-hand accommodations and they wanted to be certain that we enjoyed our stay there ... and we had.


We decided to name René ire & Angel our "Angels of the Day".


We finished our Cafe Leche on the outdoor patio of their establishment, went up to our room to retrieve the last of our bags and went down to bid "Adios" to our friends. As is the usual when we make new friends, we did our traditional adios, kisses & hugs to Renoise & Angel (and their little doggy) and headed on to our day's mission ... Montserrat & Manresa. It was an easy drive (in the beginning) although a bit hazy. It was nothing compared to the beautiful and endless hours we have spent, almost every day since

our sojourn began ... but we still have time.


I almost ran out of gas but was lucky to catch the last petrol station before the exit.  $100+ later we were on our way. Gas has been costing between $8 - $9 a gallon.  I’ll not complain when we get home.



We made our way up the mountain ranges to Montserrat ... lots of them ... and lots of cars and tour buses. We had hope to get there a bit early because we knew that, because it was Sunday, it was going to be more crowded than through the weekdays. About 1 mile before we got to the Shrine, it was bumper to bumper as the high road and the low road merged into one as they headed for the "pay our way" booth on to the property (frustrating but they have to be able to support themselves). It took us about 45 minutes to sit, idle, in the car and in the waiting line to reach the "ticket station". We knew it wasn't going to be easy since we had been here before about 6-1/2 years ago. However, it was just not possible to beg, borrow or steal a place to park our car ... and we weren't alone ,... cars, tour buses mobbed with frustrated travelers, motorcycles, bicyclists, people, pilgrims ... all trying to get to the Shrine ... not a soul was around (as far as traffic control, security, etc.) to help anyone, any car at any time. That saddened

us both but we kept going.


So now we got to the merge "pay for it" station ... $8.00 bucks to park to enter.. Nowhere near the Shrine or any related sites to visit. And, we could not even find a way to turn the car around and head out of Montserrat at this point. So, we followed the traffic flow and ended up at a "circle" before the Shrine with ONE LONE SECURITY PERSON constantly shaking his head as the cars/trucks/buses/people stopped to ask him what to do and all he did was shake his head "no".


It was our turn ... as we approached, I asked Susan to pull my "trusty cane" from the back seat of the car. It was a last ditch effort to get into the Shrine. As we approached him, Susan rolled down the window and gave the puppy dog eyes as he indicated that there was not even handicapped parking available. He then motioned us to continue on around the circle ... at this point, heading down the mountain from the Montserrat Shrine. It was sad as we saw so many people being pointed in the same direction.


Susan and I had been here over 6-1/2 years ago on our first "driving personal pilgrimage" so, at least, we knew we had seen the Shrine had heard the Boy's Choir sing ... although, even on that trip, had not the opportunity to walk up and venerate Our Lady of Montserrat. We knew that it was not going to be possible to visit Her Shrine today so we made the decision to begin our descent and head to Manresa.


It seemed like ages as we went down (not even through the pay station). It was, of course, frustrating and saddening but we kept reminding each other than we had been here and that, apparently, there were many traveling for their first time who were on a time frame and would not be able to park, walk to and, at least, see the Shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat.


We neared the pay station and I think I was more upset for others and I was going to "dispute kindly" the $8.00 entrance fee. I got out of the car and walked to the teller. I spoke nicely and said "no parking!". He responded very matter of factly ... "No Pay" and motioned us to exit ... I really feel these poor workers had already had a difficult day of complaints.


Trying to get down the mountain was a choir in itself. There were buses going up and down and unable to make the curves unless traffic on both sides was clear (they do "hair-pin" turns on these mounts). There were aggressive motorcyclists and bicyclists (sorry, but it seems that the car traffic lanes belong to them and makes vehicle journey tedious and dangerous). There were people walking up, down and across the lanes of the roadway ... all this on a very narrow road taking us down from Montserrat.


Patience is a Virtue ... today, a true test of that but we realized that more people were frustrated than we ever could have been.


We finally made it off the Mount of Montserrat and headed towards Manresa … the place where St. Ignatius lived as a hermit, found his vocation, began to write and died.

Our dear GPS Princess took us to the Cathedral of Seu De Manresa. I saw a sign that I took to be an underground parking lot and pulled in.  There was an elevator (a/k/a “Lift” to take us up to the Church.  Not the “No Pain Guy”, we walked the entire way up and, actually, climbed the last part of the way on the long staircase leading to the Church.  Finally at the entry to the Church, we found (nothing new) that the doors were closed and locked.  But, then, we saw signs … “Under Renovation”.

Not discouraged, we took a walking path that went around the Church.  Lo and behold, we found one door open near the rear of the building.  Before we entered, there was a book store and I asked the elderly gentleman about “how to find St. Ignatius of Loyola”.  He pointed his finger in yet another direction away from where we were.  He was kind enough to hand me a small brochure (“in English”) and indicated that we were on the “wrong side of the street” …

Although not on our plans for the day … how could we not explore a Church dedicated to “Our Lady” … little did we know.

The Cathedral is a very, very old Church from around 1040 … hence; the renovations must be long overdue.  Instead, it is a tribute, once again, to Our Blessed Mother.  The depictions, imitation statues from Our Lady of Montserrat, Our Lady of the Pillar (Zaragoza), Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima and we will need to find out the story of Our Lady situated in grandeur over the Main Alter. 

The Basilica was virtually empty except for a Baptismal Mass taking place in a side Chapel.  The child … the “new Catholic” was adorable so I had to shoot a couple of photos.

We spent time, Prayed for those of your Intentions we thought appropriate for this new-found Shrine and headed out in search of “St. Ignatius Loyola.

We left the Shrine and headed out over the “plaza” to try to get our bearings.  Having looked at the brochure the man had given me, I saw the St, Ignatius Shrine and knew that if we got back in the car, I could get there without the help of “GPS Princess”.  10 minutes later, we pulled the car almost to the very front of the Cathedral.  We parked and walked to the doors … only to find them closed and locked (what’s new).  Alas, we read the signs as best we could interpret, we found that this Church was open only ½ day on Sunday (in the A.M.) … go figure.  I told Susan that if we had gotten up around 3AM, we could have made it but would have missed our “bread-fast”,

So we walked up and down the hills in search of any type of Shrine/place relating to St. Ignatius to no avail.  We stood in front of the closed and locked doors to the entrance of the Shrine, held the Special Intentions in our hands and Prayed for each of those Intentions while standing on the stairs outside of the Church.  That was as good as it was going to get … I didn’t think it was going to matter to God that we were standing outside.  We planned to light an additional candle at our next stop to fulfill our “mission”.  Joan L. … this stop was for you in particular and for your Intentions.  We hope that your Prayers will be answered.

We reluctantly left the property of the Shrine and went in search, driving through the town, to try to find a religious store that might be open … today … ON A SUNDAY … no such luck. 

We had about a 1-1/2 hour ride to our overnight hotel in Cambrils, Spain. On the way, GPS “Princess” took it upon herself to give us one last ride via the narrow mountainous roads for about 1 hour of a harrowing ride up and down the paths.  Once again you will see some special “Susan Dashboard Photos” as she tried like a hero to get photos while “hanging on” and grunting quietly as I made my way around the narrow mountain curves.  We left the mountain ranges, were led onto an extended, new and rarely traveled highway until we arrived, safely, at our haven/hotel for the evening... the one I had booked that was specifically located on the Mediterranean Sea. 

Not knowing what our hotel room would be (2 “ok” beds was fine with me), I was grateful when I found that we were on the “ocean side” , with an ocean view (instead of a street view), and that we were in Room 113 … a very lucky number for the two of us … we actually met on the 13th … Friday, January 13, 1988) … so this is a very lucky number for us.

We grabbed our bags in the lobby after I had parked the car.  We went to our room that was so close, we could have jumped into the ocean, the ocean’s sand or the pool … it didn’t matter. 

It was so hot … we have been used to 2-3-4 layers of shirts and clothing since the beginning of our journey.  Now, even a thin t-shirt in the few minutes we arrived in this oceanfront town, we are hard-pressed.  Standing in the lobby with heavy jeans, socks and “hiking shoes” was quite funny as people in bathing suits and shorts passed us by.

In moments, I told Susan that I was “hitting the pool”.  Invited her to join me but she felt she still portrayed an “Alaskan Eskimo) in her winter gear.  I left … and went down to the hotel pool … I really needed to cool down.  Well, once I took the plunge, all of the heat I was experiencing disappeared … THE POOL WATER WAS COLD... but only for a few seconds.  I then enjoyed myself as Susan shot photos from our balcony.

We didn’t do much else after that … downloaded some photos from the camera and relaxed on our oceanfront balcony.  I had done a “half-board” type of reservation at this hotel … Dinner and Bread-Fast Buffets.  We enjoyed the buffet dinner … it was nice and of great variety.

Before retiring to our room, we took a short walk on the boardwalk and the ocean.  We collected a little “sand” for a special friend (whom we have-not met to this day but have developed a great relationship with her … this is for you, Cindy!).  We wrapped the sand, held hands and journeyed our way back to our room.

To leave you with this evening’s “thought” …


My Jesus, Lord

I take my daily cross.

I welcome the monotony

that often marks my day,

discomforts of all kinds,

the summer’s heat, the winter’s cold,

my disappointments, tensions, setbacks



Remind me often that

In carrying my cross,

I carry yours with you.

And though I bear a sliver only

Of your cross,

You carry all of mine, except a sliver,

in return.

God Bless


Tom and Susan


Our Lady of Montserrat, Spain: 718

Blackened by candles that burned before the statue day and night this particular image dates back to at least the twelfth century. St. Ignatius of Loyola made an annual pilgrimage to Montserrat as have a million or more pilgrims every year in modern times.

The mountain named Montserrat rises 20 miles northwest of Barcelona, in the region of Catalonia, which takes it names from the Spanish, Catalan, for "sawn mountain" probably because its rock outgrowths seem to be the teeth of a saw from a distance. These most unusual lofty cone-shaped jags are almost perpendicular. The highest cone rises to a height of nearly 4,000 feet, while the circumference around the entire base of the mountain is measured at about 12 miles. The church which contains the miracle-working statue of the Madonna and Child sits about halfway up the mountain.

According to tradition, the miraculous image was first known as La Jerosolimitana (the native of Jerusalem), since it is thought to have been carved there in the early days of the Church. The statue was eventually given to St. Etereo, Bishop of Barcelona, who brought it to Spain.

In the seventh century, when Saracen infidels invaded Spain, the Christians of Barcelona heroically defended it for three years until defeat appeared imminent. Knowing that they could hold out no longer, they decided to take their treasured image of Our Lady to a secret, safe place. Quietly, with the knowledge of the Bishop and the Governor of the city, a group brought the statue to Montserrat, placing it in a small cave, April 22, 718. A complete account of the origin of the miraculous image, the cause of its removal and the place of its hidden security were recorded and in the archives of Barcelona.

Even though the location of the statue was eventually forgotten, the people of Barcelona never forgot the holy image for almost 200 years. Then, in 890, shepherd boys from Monistrol, a village at the foot of Montserrat, were sent unbeknown to them to be the source of the discovery of the treasure:

While tending their flocks that night the shepherds were surprised by lights and the sound of singing coming from the mountain. When this happened once again, they reported the situation to their priest, who looked into the matter. He, too, heard the singing and saw the mysterious lights, so he reported this to the Bishop, who also witnessed the same occurrences. At last the statue of Our Lady was discovered in the cave and brought out and placed in a small church that was soon built; this little church developed into the present church that was completed in 1592.

In 888 there had already been a chapel dedicated to Our Lady and it was at that spot that the present shrine is located. Eventually a monastery was added, which grew rapidly, because of the miracles wrought there by the Blessed Virgin. According to the caretakers of the shrine, the statue that still presides over the monastery was introduced in the twelfth or thirteenth century. This statue might have replaced an earlier one, which could have been destroyed during one of the many wars:

Carved in wood, the statue is in a sitting position and measures slightly over three feet in height. In Romanesque style, the figure is slender, with an elongated face and a delicate expression. The dress of the Virgin consists of a tunic and cloak both gilded and plain in design which is draped. Beneath the crown is a veil adorned with stars, squares, and stripes in subtle shades of color. The right hand of the Virgin holds a sphere, while the other is extended in a graceful gesture. The Child Jesus sits on His Mother's lap and also wears a crown and lovely garments. His right hand is raised in blessing; His left hand holds an object that resembles a large pine cone. A cushion serves as the Madonna's footrest; she is seated upon a chair that has large legs and whose back is topped by cone-shaped finials. The statue is highly revered not only as a religious treasure, but also because of its artistic value. It is almost completely gilded, save the face and hands of both Our Lady and the Child Jesus [and His feet also]. Unlike many old statues which are black because of the kind of wood or the effects of the original paint, the dark color of Our Lady of Montserrat is attributed to the innumerable candles and lamps used in its veneration. Because of this dark color it is affectionately called La Moreneta, The Dark Little One. Thus, the Virgin of Montserrat is classified among the Black Madonnas.

The image is in an alcove behind the main altar. It can be reached by climbing decorated stairs to the side of the church. The stairs lead to a large room which is directly behind the alcove where the statue is enthroned. This large room is called the Camarin de La Virgen, the Chamber of the Virgin. A large number of people can fit in the space to pray beside the throne of the Blessed Mother. The pilgrim cannot touch the image, however, since it is protected by a glass.

Although not located on the peak of the mountain as are the sanctuaries of Monte Cassino and Le Puy, the monastery is situated high enough from the surrounding area to make one think it safe from attack. Yet the monastery sustained considerable damage during the Napoleonic invasion. Additional harm was inflicted during civil wars and revolutionary disturbances. The treasured image of the Madonna and Child was hidden during these times, but was soon restored to its place of honor when the church and buildings were quickly repaired. These buildings were spared during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 by the Autonomous Government of Catalonia.

Benedictines settled in the monastery hundreds of years ago and still maintain the sanctuary and provide hospitality to the steady stream of pilgrims who go there. The number of historical figures connected to the sanctuary or who have visited it, including one of its hermits, Bernat Boil, who accompanied Christopher Columbus to the New World, thus becoming the first missionary to America. One of Montserrat's first abbots became Julius II, the Renaissance Pope for whom Michelangelo worked. Emperor Charles V and Philip II of Spain both died with blessed candles from the sanctuary in their hands. King Louis XIV of France had intercessory prayers said at Montserrat for the Queen Mother, and Emperor Ferdinand III of Austria made generous financial gifts to the monastery. All the kings of Spain prayed at the shrine, as did Cardinal Roncalli, who later became Pope John XXIII.

Some of the Saints who visited there were St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Penafort, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Francis Borgia, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Joseph Calasanctius, St. Anthony Mary Claret and St. Ignatius, who as a knight was confessed by one of the monks. After spending a night praying before the image of Our Lady of Montserrat, he began his new life and the founding of Jesuit order. A few miles away is Manresa, a pilgrim shrine of the Society of Jesus. The shrine holds the cave wherein St. Ignatius Loyola retired from the world and wrote his Spiritual Exercises.

The Virgin of Montserrat was declared the Patron Saint of the Diocese of Catalonia by Leo XIII. The statue has always been one of the most celebrated images in Spain.

A historian wrote: "In all ages the sinful, the suffering, the sorrowful, have laid their woes at the feet of Our Lady of Montserrat, and none have ever gone away unheard or unaided."