Like many other groups, they too have passed through Pallerols

We transcribe below the impressions of one of the Mexican girls who has travelled the route from Pallerols to Andorra for 4 days

In 1937 Saint Josemaría passed through the forests of Rialb in the direction of Andorra, due to the religious persecution that existed in one of the areas of Spain during the Civil War of 1936-39, in order to be able to freely exercise his priestly ministry.

Almost 90 years later, in 2023, a group of 33 young Mexican girls decided to follow the same path. While Saint Josemaría found a rose made of stewed wood as a sign that he had to move on, we also find a caress from the Virgin at each Mass, at each meal, at each ascent and each fall.

On July 19 we left Mexico City, in order to participate in World Youth Day with Pope Francis in Lisbon, Portugal. Before the week that we would spend in Lisbon, we decided to take a Marian tour of different sanctuaries of the Virgin: Guadalupe, Montserrat, Torreciudad, Lourdes, El Pilar, Fátima… And, as a link in our pilgrimage, the passage through the Pyrenees. For our group, as for Saint Josemaría, there was a before and after passing through Rialb.

After a few days in the north of Spain, we arrived on July 24 at the Rectory of Pallerols, an old building located at the Rialb forest. That was where Saint Josemaría spent the night before beginning his journey to Andorra, and it was in the church where he found the rose made of stewed wood that today is in the prelatic church of Santa María de la Paz, in Rome.

That first day, we walked a little over half an hour from the rectory to the Saint Raphael Cabin, another site that is especially endearing to the history of the Work. There, in the middle of the forest, the priest of our Club, Fr Jorge Larracilla, celebrated Mass. We had never had a Mass like this. We sat down where we could, among stones and fallen leaves, and in the end we stayed for a few minutes in thanksgiving.

Being girls from Saint Raphael, that Mass was very special. We were aware that years ago, in that same place, other young people accompanied Saint Josemaría, with the same ideal of service and love for God and for souls that we struggle to have. Everything had a real home atmosphere.

In the afternoon, we return to the rectory to spend the night. Two of my friends and I decided to sleep in the “oven”, the space where Saint Josemaría spent the night before finding the Rialb rose.

The next day, we hiked about 7 hours up the mountain. I don’t know what happened more often: the laughs or the falls. I think that some were necessarily accompanied by others. Finally we reached the Ribalera, where we had Meditation and Mass. The priest read part of the diary of one of those who accompanied Saint Josemaría when he fled in 1937: «Here the most moving act of the trip takes place: Holy Mass. On a rock and kneeling, almost stretched out on the ground, a priest who comes with us says Mass. He does not pray it like the other priests of the churches […]. His clear and heartfelt words penetrate the soul. I have never heard a Mass like today, I don’t know if because of the circumstances or because the celebrant is a saint”. Listening to the narration, it was as if the words came to life. All around us, each stone and tree gave rise to the setting of the story that we heard and lived.

The next day, we did the last part of our route (adapted to be able to do it in three days), which took us to Fenollet, almost the border with Andorra. In Fenollet, Mrs. Rosa received us at her house to feed us. And it was precisely in that same house where Saint Josemaría rested and where Mrs. Rosa’s father (who was a 14-year-old boy at the time) fed him and those who accompanied him. I don’t know what I will remember more intensely: the veal dish or the warm smile of the simple and cheerful woman.

We did the last stretch by bus; We cross the border and reach Sant Julià de Lòria, a small town in the south of Andorra. There we visited the church where Saint Josemaría was able to pray before a tabernacle for the first time since the start of the Civil War. Looking at the altarpiece he saw with our own eyes, we couldn’t help but be moved and join in his thanksgiving. It was as if the place had joined two moments in time.

At night we returned to the rectory one last time to have Mass in the church where Saint Josemaría found the rose. Passing through the Pyrenees was one of the most significant parts of the trip and one of the greatest achievements of my life. Tiredness, heat and several small discomforts were intertwined with an adventure that meant a real boost for my faith and my struggle to be more joyful and helpful. In addition, it gave me the opportunity to get to know Opus Dei and its history much better, and it also gave me the opportunity to feel more part of the Work as a true girl from Saint Raphael.