Saturday, June 24, 2006

Memories: Still More Barcelona!

To continue from where I left off... On Sunday, we had planned to attend the 9:30 Mass at the Cathedral. But when we got there (Barbara and I, at any rate; Karen was really feeling under the weather), it was already the Consecration! At least, so it seemed. The Mass was in Catalan, but judging from the bells.... There went my chance to really experience that marvelous Cathedral: we had to find a Mass within walking distance so as to have our bags packed and ready to go by noon! One of the ushers indicated that there was a Church just on the other side of the Cathedral, so we headed that way. This being a Gothic neighborhood, the streets were not laid out in a grid, but in an interesting set of narrow allies forming loops, curves and islands. We headed down one alley, noticed a pair of police officers and repeated our inquiry about a Church (St. Philip Neri, as it turned out). We were on the right path! Sure enough, the alley opened into a tiny plaza with a fountain in the middle. After a bit of confusion about which of the ecclesiastical-looking doors would lead to the Holy Sacrifice, we went inside.
This Church seemed to have escaped some of the destruction of the Civil War. Maybe it was too nondescript to attract much wrath. Maybe the other glorious Churches in the area were just more attractive targets. Or maybe it was completely restored right away, so that much of it is now crumbling again. At any rate, St. Philip still had altars in the side chapels, and memorial plaques, and old tomb markers in the floor. It also had (ahem, Karen!) a magnificent side chapel of St. Ignatius. (The two saints, both founders, were contemporaries and knew each other. They lived, in fact, about a quarter of a mile down the street from one another, where their bodies repose to this day.) Mass was attended by a couple of dozen people, mostly old-timers, though there were two families with teenagers and "tweens." And the Church was locked within five minutes of the final blessing. But we were grateful to have found the little place.
As we made our exit through the plaza, avoiding the gaze of some rather unwholesome types that were loitering there, Barbara noticed a monument on the "main alley" facing the Cathedral wall. It commemorated a group of local priests who had been put to death on that spot. During the Civil War.
It was time to leave Barcelona. Given our time constraints, we recognized the utter impossibility of traveling by train, so Karen made other arrangements. Since we were nowhere near the famous Gaudi "Santa Familia" Church, we asked the driver to at least take a spin by on the way to the highway. The Church has been under construction for 100 years, and is not really expected to be finished any time soon. I took some video footage as we circled, but we only saw the "infancy narratives" and the Passion scenes on the Church's exterior walls. In that, it reminded me of the Cathedral in Milan--covered in statues. Of course, Gaudi died early on in the project, before he had even completed his own plans, so other artists have been working on it. You can see the different styles. And as you drive out of Barcelona, its odd towers dominate the skyline.
We had not even spent 24 hours in Barcelona, but our next destinations were part of the reason we had come to Spain: Manresa (the scene of the original "Spiritual Exercises") and Montserrat (where IƱigo de Loyola, barely converted to the Lord, spent time in vigil before Our Lady, leaving his sword at the foot of the altar in a knightly gesture of consecration).

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