Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Melillo's Tour: Our Lady of Torreciudad


Buenos Dias!
  I wanted to break the alarm clock again this morning when it went off but I decided to cooperate and got up.  Susan didn’t even stir when it went off, so I let her sleep another minute or two as I began to focus on the new day.
First things first … Shower, Pack, Pre-Load the car, pay the hotel bill and EAT BREAD-FAST!!!  Somewhere in between all of that, I managed to get Susan up and running.
We had a lovely table in the window and we sat right next to a sweet older woman.  She was trying to communicate with us … and we were trying to communicate back without much luck but some laughs with her.  I took a photo of her eating her “bread-fast” because she possessed an excellent technique of “dunking the bread into her coffee” … just like my Grandpa.  She was a real pro at it (LOL).  At the end of our meal, we bid her farewell and as we were leaving the dining room, the woman got up and followed Susan to the elevator.  She stopped Susan, grabbed her hand and said “God Bless You”, smiled and went back to her table.  So there we had it … our Angel of the Day (or Morning depending upon how our day goes).
We went back to our room for the last of our luggage and we couldn’t get the elevator … we were in Room 715 on the 8th floor!  After waiting patiently (well, maybe impatiently), we said “no problem” … let’s walk down.  So I grabbed the two big bags that were left and Susan and I walked down the 8 flights of stairs (still no back or leg pains … just some aches from muscles that I haven’t used since our last “pilgrimage”!
We headed out right on schedule.  Hoping to arrive in Torriciudad for the 1:15 P.M. Mass.  The ride over the Pyrenees’ Mountains was spectacular!  I asked Susan how the car breaks on her side of the car were working because she was pumping away on the incredibly curvy curves I was negotiating through the mountain range.  She didn’t think I was too funny … but managed a very quite laugh.  She tried to relax and enjoy the ride and still shoot photos of the majestic mountain views.  This trip, only 6 of her photo shots were of the dashboard … not bad … she’s improving.
Just as things seemed to calm down, we had to drive through/under a two mile tunnel cut in under the mountain that headed straight down.  Susan’s least favorite thing is when we drive through tunnels (albeit, see the photos and you should understand).  I think we only have about 15 or 20 tunnels this trip.  On our last “personal pilgrimage”, we went through a total of 479 tunnels … I counted them all, especially for Susan!
We arrived at our destination (Our Lady of Torriciudad, Spain) at 12:30 P.M. … time to spare before Mass was expected to begin.  It is just beautiful at this Shrine which is set atop a small mountain overlooking the world.  We explored the grounds and different areas of the Shrine as we made our way to the Basilica entrance.  There were hundreds of young adults & children who, we learned, were all there from Madrid as part of a continuing devotion to Our Lord, Jesus Christ and to Our Blessed Mother.  They had walked/run from Madrid on a baton-passing journey and had just reached the Shrine of Our Lady of Torriciudad this morning.
On our way into the Basilica, Susan was going to snap a photo of me when one of the “Ushers” came up and wanted to take a photo of both of us.  He did not speak English but Susan understood his kindness and called me back to stand with her for the photo op.  After he took it, and we had entered the Shrine, he brought over a nice young man named Roberto who spoke English very well.  He took over with the two of us and was anxious to give us a personal tour and explanation of the Shrine.  We were very grateful (and surprised) as he walked us through the Basilica.

Roberto pointed out that the windows, the statue and the carving in the Shrine are made of alabaster.  When light shines through, it provides a wonderful and diffused aura to everything.
He took us to the Chapel where we were able to venerate a Religious Medal that is attached to the Miraculous Statue of Our Blessed Mother (Our Lady of Torriciudad) that is placed above the Main Altar.  It was a quiet and reverent moment for both of us.  He then took us into the next area of the Shrine that was a Museum that gave a history lesson on the Shrine and St. JoseMaria Escriva and his Canonization.  (St. JoseMarie’s Statue also graces the Main Altar area of the Shrine).
Above the Statue of Our Lady on the Altar is a crevice with the Main Tabernacle set inside.  Three Angels are praising the Lord while the other is inviting all to come and surround the depiction of the Life of Mary, Our Blessed Mother.  All of the faces and eyes of the statues are turned towards the Tabernacle no matter where they are situated.  I must say that the Main Altar took our breaths away.
The Shrine of Torriciudad is an incredible dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Family, as well as St. José Marie.  It is also part of the “RutaMariana” Route (http://www.rutamariana.org ) if you would like more information.  Torriciudad, Lourdes, Zaragoza & Our Lady of the Pillar (we were there on our last journey) and Montserrat (tomorrow’s destination) … are all part of this Marian Route.
Oh, by the way, Matthew, the Organ has 4,273 Chimes in it as Roberto pointed out … you’d go nuts!
We thanked Roberto profusely as we heard Mass was about to begin.  We took our place in the Shrine and sat in awe and Prayed during the very beautiful and spiritual Mass.  We were again surrounded by 100’s of youths which was wonderful. 
Our Special Prayer Intentions for today are especially for those in need of “Conversion”, those who are Praying (through their Intentions given to us) for the Conversion of other people, for our RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) at Our Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and, for that matter, for all RCIA Candidates throughout the world.  As Roberto had explained to us, Our Lady of Torriciuidad’s focus is on the “conversation” of sinners and repantants.  Susan and I felt … what better place to implore Our Lady’s Intercession for conversion of others than at the Shrine of Our Lady of Torriciudad.
As we walked out of the Shrine, we encountered a Priest and wished him a good day.  Tried to do it in the best of our Spanish but it didn’t necessarily turn out that way (LOL).  He smiled, walked over to us and began talking with us in wonderful English.  Obviously, he asked where we were from.  Padre Javier told us that he had been to Palm Beach and was indicating “rich people” with a laugh.  I explained to him in words and hand signals that “Palm Beach” is “here” … and “we” are “here” … we all had a laugh.

We spoke with Father for quite a while, enjoying our time together.  He was interested in all of the places we have “pilgrim-ed” to and we attentively listened as he told us about the “Marian Route” he is involved with.  He surprised us by asking if he could give us his e-mail address so that he could join our “Trip Report Pilgrimage” that you all receive each day.  There were some Shrines we have been to that Father was interested in learning more about. 
He wrote down his e-mail address and we learned that he is Father Javier, the Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Torriciudad … a delightful man and Priest.  Angel of the day – number 3 – we made Roberto number 2.
After bidding Father farewell (as usual, hugs & European kisses from Susan), we departed and headed to the Candle Grotto of Our Lady to light a candle for today’s Special Intentions.
Wanting to explore the grounds even more, we once again had to depart … because it was 2:00 P.M. and they were shutting everything down until 4:00 P.M.  We quickly ran to the Book Store on the grounds to grab our usual memento but they explained (kindly) that they were closing.  They didn’t have the types of mementos we usually get, but the Caretaker … the original “Usher” who had taken our photo and had introduced us to Roberto, gave us a brochure of a hotel that had a Religious Shop and pointed us in the right direction.  We hopped in the car and stopped at the shop to pick up a memento … they didn’t have medals so Susan was out of luck for a medal of Our Lady of Torreciudad  for her bracelet.  That’s okay, she said.  The memories are there.
With the Shrine now “closed”, we sat in our car in the parking lot and shared a small sandwich from “bread-fast” this morning that I had made (1 of 2 sandwiches).  We couldn’t eat it this morning, so we took it with us not knowing if we would have dinner tonight … you know by now that “dinner makes a difference” … more food!
On to our hotel for the evening … as Susan named this hotel from the pictures I showed her … “The Bates Motel” out of the movie “Psycho” (are we dating ourselves or what?).  We drove on a long and desolate road across the mountain and down an extremely quiet street … through a small sleepy town.  A couple of miles later, we drove up a hill to this ½ purple/blue building that was stuck out “in the middle of nowhere”!  Susan was prepared to sleep in the car but I promised her that I would stand guard for her when she takes her shower).  We headed into the hotel/inn and we were greeted by none other than a “Norman Bates” look-alike … (see photos).  Seriously, he was a delightful innkeeper who spoke almost perfect English.  He explained that he was originally from Bavaria.  He checked us in and we went up to our room.  (I think he is the significant other of the Chef … and one of two owners).
Our room was just beautiful … artfully and tastefully decorated … Susan wants to copy the ideas from the bath … it was quite nice.  The room had excellent Wi-Fi, so we spent the remainder of the afternoon sharing a bottle of wine, checking and responding to emails, handling some business and, of course, preparing Trip Reports.  We had both balconies (yes, two of them), wide open and the breezes were flowing through.
It was almost 8:30 P.M. and you know what that means … “Dinner-Time” …..
We walked down the stairs and into a very quaint Dining Salon.  Every detail in this hotel is impeccable from the engraved crests on the bathroom floor to the personalized sugar packets with the hotel crest and name, to the personalized silverware … you name it.  You could feel and see the pride the owners have taken when, as we learned, they bought the hotel 12 years ago and took 2 years of hard work (and money) to renovate it before opening.
Before being seated, the Chef/Owner came out with a HUGE TOMATO … the size of a small pumpkin!  Via translation from his partner, he explained the history and story of the “huge tomatoes”.  If you want to know more … just ask us.
They had a “pre-fix” and an a la carte menu … we opted for the “pre-fix” with 1st & 2nd Plata’s.    Our first courses:  a fresh tomato dish which came out with bits of crisp chunks of bacon and freshly sautéed calamari, carefully and artfully decorated on the platter.  The other was shopped octopus on a slice of lightly sautéed zucchini mixed with red pepper and adorned with a puree of fungi (mushrooms).  Both were unbelievably good and both with great presentations (see photos).
Susan then had a stroganoff for dinner and I opted for Monkfish … both were excellent.
Dessert came (we told the owner who was waiting on us to “surprise us”).  I received a slice of bread pudding that was more like a “flan” … delicious.  Susan received a chocolate cup filled with delectable homemade and creamy chocolate mousse.  (The disc in the camera was full so no photos of dessert).
By this time, and during dessert, the day’s activities and our energy completely ran out.  Susan looked at her chocolate mousse cup, picked it up by hand and said … “in America we can eat with our hands” … as she chewed it down … that was it … we laughed together (giggled, actually) and headed upstairs to our room.  It was a great, great evening and we were ready for bed … but the evening, as you will see, was not over yet!  We bid Buenos Niches to both owners, thanked and complimented the Chef/Owner and retired to our room hoping to jump into bed even though we had just completed a full and delicious dinner … that didn’t happen!
Unfortunately, I had forgotten to close the two balcony doors before we went down to dinner and a plethora of flies had invaded our room and taken control.  For the next hour or so, it was “Mission Impossible” as I tried to lure the flies into the bathroom by leaving on the light, getting them in there and closing the bathroom door so I could remain inside and swat/kill them. 
The two of us were now silly with laughter and Susan began snapping her photos … we just couldn’t stop laughing to the point of doubling over.  Susan thought I was actually “nuts” because she didn’t see all of the flies until I showed her the dead bodies in the toilet and on the bathroom floor (see photos).
“Mission Accomplished”, and 12-15 dead flies on our floors, I felt confident that we could go to sleep and not hear “BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ” all night long.  Lights out and a glorious sleep ahead of us.
Tonight we kissed good-night to each other rather than last night’s “handshake instead of a kiss” routine.
Buenos Nochos … oh … the “Chef” is our “Angel of the Night”.

Father all Merciful,
let those who hear and hear again
yet never understand,
hear Your Voice this time and
understand that it is You,
the Holy of Holies;
open the eyes of those who see and see,
yet never perceive,
to see with their eyes this time
Your Holy Face and Your Glory,
place Your Finger on their heart
so that their heart may open
and understand Your Faithfulness,
I pray and ask you all these
things Righteous Father,
so that all the nations be converted and be
healed through the Wounds of Your Beloved Son,
Jesus Christ; Amen

Buenos noches
God Bless
Love Tom And Susan

Barbastro is a city in the province of Huesca in Spain. Josemaria Escriva was born there at 10 o’clock at night on January 9, 1902 in a house on the corner of the main street and the market-place. Four days later, little Josemaria was baptized in Barbastro Cathedral.
Josemaria was a happy, naughty and funny child, but when he was just two he developed a very high fever. The doctor tried many different kinds of treatment, but in the end said to Josemaria’s parents: “He won’t survive the night.”
The next morning the doctor came back. “What time did the baby die?” he asked.
Don José Escriva, Josemaria’s father, answered: “Not only has he not died, he’s completely well!”
Don José and his wife Doña Dolores had promised God that if their baby got better they would go and pray to Our Lady of Torreciudad, at a shrine high up in the mountains near Barbastro. After Josemaria recovered they travelled there to thank our Lady. Torreciudad could only be reached by narrow paths beside steep, dangerous cliffs, but they kept their promise. Don José went on foot, while Doña Dolores rode a horse, holding the baby in her arms.
Josemaria had a sister called Carmen, who was two years older than him. Their mother Doña Dolores was a housewife, and Don José worked in a shop which sold cloth and chocolate.

Before Josemaria made his First Holy Communion, his mother took him to make his first Confession to a priest. A Piarist brother prepared him to receive Jesus for the first time in Holy Communion, and taught him a prayer which he remembered all his life. The prayer was: “I wish, Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervour of the saints.” The day of his First Communion was a very happy day for Josemaria.
Josemaria had three little sisters: Chon, born in 1905; Lolita, born in 1907; and Rosario, born in 1909. Tragically, Rosario died when she was only nine months old. Then Lolita died, and soon afterwards Chon also died. Josemaria was 11 years old by this time, and he was so upset that he said to his mother: “Next year it’s my turn.”
His mother answered: “My darling son, our Lady kept you on this earth for something important, because you were already more dead than alive.” She reminded him that our Lady had saved his life when he was only two. “Don’t worry,” she said again. “I offered you to our Lady, and she’ll look after you!”
Soon after that, his father’s business failed, and the family moved to the town of Logroño, where Don José got a job working in a shop.
One winter’s morning, when Josemaria was fifteen, he went out early. The streets were covered in newly-fallen snow, and he saw the prints of bare feet. They were the footprints of a friar, who was walking bare-footed in the snow to offer a sacrifice to our Lord and to imitate Jesus, who carried a Cross for us. Josemaria was struck by this, and thought: “If other people make so many sacrifices for love of God, aren’t I capable of offering Him anything?”

From then on he began going to Mass every day, and going to Confession regularly. He felt that God was asking him for something, but he didn’t yet know what it was. And so he decided to be a priest, so that he could be freer to serve God and other people. He told his father, “I want to be a priest.”
Tears rolled down Don José’s cheeks. He had thought that Josemaria was going to be an architect or a lawyer. It was the only time Josemaria ever saw him cry. They were partly tears of joy, because Don José was a good Christian, but also partly sorrow, because a priest has to live a life of great sacrifice.
To prepare for the priesthood, Josemaria spent two years studying in the seminary at Logroño, and then went on to study in Saragossa. Shortly afterwards his father died in Logroño. Heartbroken, Josemaria went to the funeral, shared in his family’s grief, and promised to look after them.
Josemaria was ordained a priest in the Church of St Charles, Saragossa, on March 28, 1925. He said his first Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pillar, offering it for the repose of his father’s soul.
A little while later he moved to Madrid, and spent a lot of time looking after sick people and teaching catechism to children in the poorest parts of the city.
At the beginning of October 1928, Father Josemaria decided to spend a few days alone with God, with nothing to distract him. To do this he went to the house of the Vincentians, a group of religious brothers who lived in the centre of Madrid near the Basilica of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. There Father Josemaria prayed and asked God to help him to be a good priest and fulfil His will.

Then, on October 2, 1928, while he was alone, reading notes he had written while praying in the past few years, God let him see Opus Dei. In other words, God asked him to found Opus Dei to remind all Christians that we have to be saints, no matter what job we do. It isn’t only priests who have to get to Heaven, but also doctors, footballers, teachers, housewives, students, farmers, fashion designers, astronauts, and everyone else too. Many people have forgotten that God is waiting for them in Heaven and on earth. “Opus Dei” is Latin for “the work of God”.
Father Josemaria started to pray even harder, and offered up many sacrifices. He also started to look for other people who could understand him and receive a vocation from God to Opus Dei – ordinary people who could help him to pass on God’s message to many others.
One of the first people to follow Father Josemaria was called Isidoro Zorzano. They had first met at school in Logroño. Now Isidoro was an engineer, and Josemaria was a priest. They hadn’t seen each other for a long time, but Isidoro came to find Father Josemaria because he thought that God was asking him to do something, and that his old friend might be able to tell him what he should do. The met by chance in the street, and after a long talk, Isidoro joined the Work, as Opus Dei is often called.
Father Josemaria also asked the sick people he visited to offer prayers and sacrifices. One of them was a lady called Maria Ignacia Garcia Escobar. She was suffering from tuberculosis and was very sick indeed, in the King’s Hospital in Madrid. Tuberculosis is an illness that causes a lot of pain, but Maria Ignacia never complained. She also asked to join Opus Dei, and lived out her last days in a very holy way, until her death.

Your homework is to find the rest of this story and send it to us!

God Bless all of you,

Love Tom and Susan