Training, rest, prayer, sing, laugh

From Pamplona, some of the participants send us the chronicle of a few days spent in Pallerols and Andorra

Ten seminarians from the Bidasoa International Seminary (Pamplona), accompanied by three priests, followed in the footsteps of Saint Josemaría on his way to Andorra from July 22 to 27. Prayer, singing, lots of laughter and also a very good appetite characterized the six days that this group was in the Pass of the Pyrenees.

July 22 – Day 1

We arrived in Pallerols in the late afternoon, after visiting the haystack in Peramola where Saint Josemaría and his companions slept the first night on their way to Andorra. We are ten seminarians from different countries: Colombia, the Philippines (2), Guatemala (2), Nicaragua, Sri Lanka (2), Venezuela and Vietnam. We are accompanied by three Spanish priests – the three Valencians, to be more precise.

After praying in the church, dedicated to Saint Stephen, where Saint Josemaría found the rose that gave him peace, we toured the house where we are going to live these days. Awesome! The “oven” where the Founder of Opus Dei spent that night of anguish, the old priest’s room in the rectory, the old kitchen… And also the new kitchen of the refuge where we are going to stay. We warm up the spaghetti and omelette that we have brought (courtesy of Fr. Miguel, one of the priests) and, after eating, we pray.

July 23 – Day 2

We were able to rest, despite the occasional snoring. We left Pallerols towards the San Rafael cabin around 11 in the morning. Before we have had a meditation, preached by Fr. Juan Francisco, and a talk, after an “emperor” breakfast (several justify themselves by saying that it is necessary to gather energy for excursions to the mountain).

We found the San Rafael cabin after half an hour walking. We rested a bit – we have not walked much, we must admit it – and read texts referring to the passage of Saint Josemaría through that cabin, where he and his companions jokingly proclaimed a “democratic-dictatorial republic”. We are preparing to celebrate Mass on the altar made of logs that is right in front of the cabin. It is a unique experience to celebrate the Eucharist, with all possible dignity, in the midst of nature.

We eat and then we pray the Rosary. We return by another way, contemplating the Pyrenean landscapes. After cleaning, already in the refuge, Fr. Tino tells us the story of the priestly vocation of Saint Josemaría. We have lunch and pray in church. The prayer ends with vespers and then we have a free time, which we take advantage of to explore the surroundings and climb a small hill in front of the church where some of us enjoy a colorful sunset with an impressive landscape.

The day culminates with a dinner also “of the emperor”: macaroni, Catalan sausage and, the light touch, the salad.

July 24 – Day 3

Fr. Miguel, in meditation, speaks to us of the Word of God – of the Gospel – of the Holy Mass and of how to give ourselves completely to others. Breakfast, in which we propose to finish the macaroni left over from the previous day (Colligite quae superaverunt fragmenta, ne pereant!). After the talk, we set out on the road to La Ribalera: there, Saint Josemaría celebrated his last Mass, on a rock, before arriving in Andorra.

Along the way, some take the shortcut, which at the end has a steep slope; the others – advised by the “prudence” that gives the years – follow the normal path. Everyone, some before, others after, arrived at the Ribalera and celebrate the Mass.

We eat some delicious sandwiches. We read the diary of the expedition of Saint Josemaría and also what Antonio Dalmases tells in his. Reading the newspaper in the places where everything happened is really powerful, a little trip, in the imagination, that transports us to be companions of Saint Josemaría on his expedition. And, to commemorate what they lived, Fr. Tino also takes out – as they did in the Ribalera – a bottle of cognac (although, unlike them, we don’t break the bottle). A glass for each, although some do not drink it. We already have energy to get back on the two-hour trail.

Upon reaching the cars, one of us realizes that he has lost his glasses on the way. Five of us stayed to retrace our steps, to see if they are in the final stretch. Our custodians facilitate the search tasks: it had only been a few minutes when Fr. Miguel yelled: Here are the glasses! Roven, who was the one who had lost them, breathes relief and smiles, as a good Filipino knows how to do.

We had dinner and, after washing the dishes and praying fully, some of us went out to contemplate the starry sky. How good the stars look without the light of the city! It was a spectacle and a sample of the greatness of God.

July 25 – Day 4

Today we celebrate Mass in the church of Pallerols. Solemnity of the Apostle Santiago. During the morning we have a short spiritual retreat. Mary give us a rose, as you gave it to Saint Josemaría! We end with a blessing with the Blessed Sacrament.

We drive to Fenollet to eat. There, St. Josemaría and his companions had the last strong meal before leaving Spain. Rosa, who is the daughter of the boy who took the food to the St. Josemaría expedition, offers us salad, paella, chicken, plums, Catalan cream, honey and curd, flan and even candied figs. We cannot disappoint Rosa! We ate … we ate a lot. Let Pedro say it.

On the way back, we see a spectacular documentary on the pass of the Pyrenees. At night, we see the stars again. This time, Julio has an application where we identify each constellation … And then to sleep!

July 26 – Day 5

Tomorrow we are leaving, so today is our last day in Pallerols. Fr. Miguel preaches a meditation on friendship with Jesus Christ and we celebrate Sunday Mass. Renato plays an altar boy, since today is his birthday. We sing to him at breakfast.

We are going to Andorra. Some of us decided to climb Mas d’Alins, the last mountain that acts as a border; others prefer to go by car. In the end, two of those on the mountain expedition must call the cars to pick them up: the steep climb prevents them from continuing. Cause? In one case, hip surgery; in another, a knee strike. For both: a blow to pride.

We meet again on the other side of the mountain, already in Andorran territory. Alfred Llahí joins our group, who guides us. We eat and visit the places related to Saint Josemaría: the first parish where he and his companions went to pray, the places where he celebrated Mass, the hotel where they stayed… We take a photo in Andorra la Vella, in the same place where those first Opus Dei did. José makes a montage and compares the two photos. They are almost the same!

Upon returning (some of us slept on the trip, of course, inadvertently wanting), we celebrated Renato’s birthday and the end of our stay with a good barbecue: lamb chops, sausage, blood sausage … We have a nightly gathering where we do a round of questions to Renato: book that he liked the most, his first memory of Bidasoa, the most embarrassing situation he has gone through … then, to each one, we ask some questions too. It was a gathering with lots of laughter, fun and perfect to end the last night.

Epilogue: July 27 – Day 6

Last meditation, Fr. Tino preaches us about our Mother, the Virgin Mary, and we celebrate Mass. At breakfast, they give Hernando the “gold fork” award: democratically, he is the one who has eaten the most.

We say goodbye to the Virgin of Pallerols, Our Lady of the Roser (Rosebush), and we take a photo with her.

On the way back to Pamplona, ​​we passed through Torreciudad: the Virgin did not let us go. We pray and then a bit of swimming in El Poblado. After lunch, we return to the Sanctuary and see a recently released video-mapping, which is seen on the altarpiece. Amazing!

We arrived in Pamplona safe and sound. Deo gratias. It has been a wonderful coexistence. Unrepeatable … No, better not. Better that we can repeat and come back.