Sunday, October 14, 2012

Melillo's Personal Pilgrimage - Caravaca de la Cruz and Cuenca, Spain

Buenos Noches:
I woke up bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 5:15 A.M. this morning ... 45 minutes earlier than I had set the alarm for ... but I was refreshed so I quietly left the bedroom and closed the door so that Susan could "sleep in".  I made coffee (American Coffee ... grounds brought from home) ... and started to clean up and finish packing ... stopping every so often to sit on the patio in the quiet of the early morning and "star gaze".
I went in to check on Susan about an hour later and she was still sleeping ... so I thought!  I heard a loud "AAAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH ... her usual Garabandal cow call that she dreams about (a good dream) ... alas, she was awake.
We relaxed on the patio ... it was dark and beautiful.  I had already fixed "bread-fast" for this morning before Susan awoke ... not too much bread ... fruit, jambon (ham), cheeses, ONIONS, red peppers, olive oil and Dijon mustard (yum) ... it was a "perfect" way to start the day. ( I really have to change eating habits when we get back home)
With the remainder of the food we had from our shopping spree, I made TWO MARVELOUS "SANG-WICHES" for the road today ... they put my "forgotten sang-wiches in Betteneuser to shame!!!!
We finished packing up the car, said our Morning Prayers and Blessing for each other and headed out to our next destination ... to be able to see the "Holy Cross From Heaven" in Caravaca de la Cruz.  This stop was one of the main reasons I took this route.  This Sacred Shrine is an important Shrine for us and we hoped and Prayed that we wouldn't be disappointed by finding Church doors "closed and locked" ... and we weren't!
We started our drive to Caravaca de la Cruz a little later than I had planned but the drive was just wonderful.  We arrived in Caravaca and, after getting shut out of a parking place, I had to navigate some very, very, very small streets and turns in order to get to the main road leading to the Church (K-Turns are now my speciality).

We parked the car on the side of the road and began our walk (run) to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Caravaca.  Unfortunately, we arrived for Mass late (not our intention) ... Communion was taking place so we knelt and Prayed for the remainder of the Mass in this beautiful Church dedicated to Our Lady.
We were very disappointed that we hadn't made it for the full Mass, but we did receive a "Blessing" in disguise.  The Priest who had celebrated Mass and the Prayers and Songs to Our Lady after Mass, which we joined and tried to follow, was very helpful to us and explained and gave us directions to the "Miraculous Cross" which is protected in the Castle Church of Caravaca de la Cruz up on the mountain ... the place where the Miracle took place.  It is now a Basilica that houses the Miraculous Cross ... and this site is the Fifth Holiest City of Catholic Christianity in the World.  It goes without saying that "Padre" who directed us was our "Angel Of The Day"!
The Cathedral was very beautiful but they were closing after mass and it was too dark to get photo's of another wonderful tribute of Honor to The Immaculate Conception...Our Mother.
We walked back to our car through the winding little streets and drove back down through the town ... down very narrow streets with our side view mirrors in so they didn't scratch the walls ... a few more "k-turns"!
We didn't realize that we could have parked right outside of the "Castella of Caravaca de la Cruz", so we parked down below (just wanted to get there and hope that it was open).  It was a beautiful day and we wanted to take the walk to the Shrine in contemplation ... who cared!
There was no one around when we entered the Basilica Plaza ... but the Basilica and the Museum/Religious Store was open.  We were thrilled and opted to head, first, to the Basilica ... only to find out that the Chapel of the Miraculous Cross would not open until 10:30 A.M. (it was now about 9:45 A.M.). 
Not to worry ... we have learned patience.  We sat and Prayed and contemplated what we were hoping that we were about to see and how we would feel in the presence of this Miraculous Cross brought from Heaven by the Angels from God.
With a little more time to kill, we walked to the Religious Shop for a small memento for our "soon to be" very, very large religious table that graces the entry at our home.
At 10:25 A.M., we were back in the front pew of the Shrine, waiting patiently for the Chapel of the Miraculous Cross to open ... an experience neither of us will ever forget.  At 10:31, the Sacristan came out and motioned us (along with one other couple) to follow him.  So, the four of us entered this very small Sacred Chapel with two pews that can only seat 4 people each.  It seemed apparent to us that they have chosen to keep this miraculous site as small and reverent as possible ... and it truly was!
As we sat in front of the Miraculous Cross and pondered the story of the miracle, we didn't even realize that another 1/2 dozen people had arrived until we got up from our pew to walk up and get a closer look at this Miraculous Cross.  Standing about 3 feet from this beautiful "Cross From Heaven", it is hard to fathom that we were standing so close to something not "man-made" ... but something from "God and Heaven".  It doesn't get any better than that!
In awe, we got out of the way for others to get close to the Cross ... but we felt it was not yet time for us to depart this Sacred Site.  So we went back into the Church and then returned to the Chapel of the Miraculous Cross one more time ... The thought of this Heavenly object originating from Heaven and being delivered by Angels during Holy Mass ... and the sheer beauty of the Cross left us breathless!
(I admit that I did snap a couple of photos even though I felt sacrilegious doing so ... but I felt that I needed to so that I could share with all of you as you read the story of this "Miracle".  Nothing can do it justice except standing before it ... so while I feel guilty, I hope that it touches all of you in the same way it touched us.)
Reluctantly, we left the Sacred Chapel again ... thankful to have been guided here.  As we left, there were throngs of crowds entering the grounds ... time to get out of here!  Today is Columbus Day in Spain ... a national holiday here ... almost everything was closed and great celebrations took place in most of the larger cities.  (Thank goodness we were smart enough yesterday to re-load some food & supplies ... we've been through this before and knew that we weren't going to find anything open today.)

We departed Caravaca de la Cruz with great spiritual memories and had left many of your intentions there.(you don't get any closer to Heaven than that ... unless you are there already ... and if you are, you are not reading this e-mai!).
  The three +++ hour drive to Cuenca, Spain ... which was once again an absolutely beautiful drive.  We got close to Cuenca  the storm clouds were moving in. We took so many photo's it was majestic. You felt like you could reach up and touch the clouds.  The beauty of God's creation.
 Traffic was very heavy (national holiday and a Friday).  We thought that Cuenca (the mountain and old city) would be packed with tourists so we took the mountain road to our hotel.  (I must say, though, that it was not close to being as packed as our "trying to get in" at Montserrat earlier in the week).
We checked into our hotel and we were "shown the way" to our "dungeon room" ... way down at the end of the bowels of the hotel ... down a flight of stairs and tucked away in a corner ... eeeeks!  I decided that this was "not going to happen" and went back to the hotel clerk who didn't understand and couldn't speak a word of English.  I communicated with him, however, and I guess he understood my frustration.  He gave me keys to another room which was much closer to the lobby and we can access Wi-Fi Internet (no way was that going to happen in the "dungeon room" down below and far away.)  We were grateful for that little treat and thanked him profusely in our best Spanish.
Happily, I retrieved our luggage from the car.  Susan's foot has been bothering her so I had her stay in the room to get our "sang-wich" lunch ready (lots of work, Susan ... just "open the bag and unwrap the sang-wiches" ... LOL).  We both realized that we were starving ... it was about 3:30 P.M. and as soon as we finished, the rain storm was gone and the sun came out.  I said ... "let's go into town" ... not chancing missing the opportunity to walk the streets of Cuenca in the morning.  Trooper that Susan is (and saying she didn't care about the foot or what could be another walk/climb), we headed off and up a very steep and scary mountain.  Needless to say, I hadn't told Susan about this one (either ... why ruin the surprise) and she felt confident that the scary mountain roads (with no guard rails) were behind us ... she wasn't a very happy camper but later admitted that she was thrilled to be back on there winding mountainous roads.
We came into Cuenca through the "back way" and I parked above the village so that getting down to the main part of town would be easy ... getting back to the car turned out to be a different story.
There were still a lot of people, tourists, buses walking around this quaint town.  The Churches were closed and locked ... the Convent was closed and locked ... the Cathedral was open and we tried to enter between the swarms of tourists ... $10 bucks to get in but we didn't care about that ... it was the crowds that we didn't feel like dealing with). Tired we decided to leave and try to return in the A.M. before we depart for Madrid.
Cuenca has a little trolly train and I kept looking for it as we began to make our way back to our car ... walking up and up and up the hill ... but no luck!  We began our climb and I was worried about Susan's injured foot.  However, after taking several different paths, we arrived in the parking lot and neared our car ... just as I spotted the trolly train I had been searching for pulling in to our parking lot... too late!
Back to our hotel after 3+ hours in Cuenca.  We got a Cafe Leche' down at the hotel bar/restaurant (we had missed our Cafe Leche' the past two mornings while having American Coffee from home).  Returned to our room to catch up on the computer, our emails and, of course, Trip Reports.  (It was nice for two days with no Internet and only 10 miles total that I drove in the car over that period of time (did I tell you that "I love that car"?)
It's 10:00 P.M. and we are finished with an awesome day.  We already sent you one report (a recap of our two day R&R respite) ... this one will be sent to you early in the A.M.
Tomorrow, very reluctantly, we head to our hotel for 2 nights in Madrid before our return home ... sad, but true.
Tonight's Closing Thought:
The Lord manifests Himself to those who pause while in peace and humility of heart.  If you look into the murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see your own countenance.  If you want the face of Christ to appear in your countenance, pause, collect your thoughts in silence, and shut the door of the soul to the noise of exterior things.
The greetings of the angels and the blessings of the Good are not for those who live in public squares, that is, outside of themselves, agitated and distracted.  The sweet "Ave" was addressed to the Virgin Mary when she was absorbed in Prayer, in the privacy of her house ... God, in order to be able to speak to the soul and fill it with the knowledge of his love, leads it to the solitude, detaching it from preoccupations of earthly things.  He speaks to the ears of those who are silent and makes them hear His secrets.  (From the Sermons of St. Anthony).
God Bless
Tom & Susan

Caravaca de la Cruz, Espania - Background Story
Caravaca de la Cruz is a town in Southeastern Spain near the left bank of the River Argos. It is the capital of the Northwest Region of Murcia, Spain.
Caravaca de la Cruz is the FIFTH HOLY CITY OF CATHOLIC CHRISTIANITY, having been granted the privilege to celebrate the Jubilee Year in Perpetuity in 1998 by the then Pope John Paul II ... along with Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Camalena a/ka/ Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana (which you have visited on your journey with us). It celebrates its Jubilee every seven years; the first was inb 2003 when it was visited by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. In 2010, the Second Jubilee was celebrated and it surpassed the one million mark of visits received in 2003.
The Eucharistic miracle of Caravaca de la Cruz regards the celebration of a miraculous Mass during which Jesus appeared inside a Host together with a Crucifix. Thanks to this apparition, the Muslim king of Murcia and his family were converted to Catholicism. The most authoritative document describing the miracle is the contemporary testimony of the Franciscan Father Gilles of Zamora, the historian of King St. Ferdinand.
Amongst the many documents that report this miracle, the most authoritative is that supplied by King Saint Ferdinand’s historian of the time, Father Gilles de Zamora. We know with certainty that a Christian priest, Don Gínes Pérez Chirinos de Cuenca, traveled amongst the Moors of the Kingdom of Murcia with the purpose of preaching the Gospel. He was captured, however, and brought to the presence of the Moorish King Zeyt-Abu-Zeyt who asked him some questions about certain aspects of the Christian faith. The
king particularly wanted to deepen his understanding of the Mass.
The priest went into detail explaining the importance of the Mass and the king, fascinated by the preaching of the priest, ordered him immediately to celebrate a Mass. Since the priest did not have the necessary equipment for the celebration, the king ordered some of his men to get them from the nearby country of Cuenca, in Christian territory. But still, the Cross, which needed to be present on the altar during a Mass, had been forgotten. The priest began to celebrate the Mass but, at a certain point, realized the absence of the Cross. He became troubled and stopped.
The king asked him why he was so disturbed and the priest told him that he needed a Cross. The king however immediately responded, “Wouldn’t that be it?” In fact, at that moment two angels were placing a Cross upon the altar. The priest was deeply moved and gave thanks to the Lord. He then continued with the glorious celebration. The miracle continued. At the moment of the consecration, the Muslim king saw a beautiful Baby in the place of the Host Who gazed on him endearingly. After having witnessed the Miraculous event, the king and his family converted to Christianity and were baptized. Zeyt-Abu-Zeyt took the name of Vincent and his wife took the name Elena.
From that day, the 3rd of March 1231, the country is called Caravaca de la Cruz. Recently, in the jubilee year, the Holy See allowed Caravaca de la Cruz to be the fifth city in the world, after Santiago de Compostela, Santo Toribio de Liebana, Rome and Jerusalem, to celebrate the Perpetual Jubilee (one holy year every seven in perpetuum) in the Sanctuary where the Holy Cross is kept.