Lost…and found

Tuesday August 23

10:30 am Lost.

I don’t think I have ever run so fast in my life! At the convent this morning, I was uploading pictures on the computer for the blog.  We would be leaving soon and I had some pending pictures to send from yesterday. A concerned friend, passing by my room reminded me not to be late for the bus.  “9:45. Don’t worry. 10 more minutes of uploading pictures. “I’ll leave the computer at 9:40” I told myself. 9:42. I ran down the spiraling stairs of the convent with my back pack, my lunch bag, and my books. I scurried out of the doors into the cobblestone courtyard. Just then it occurred to me. No wonder everyone is gone. The bus isn’t here. It’s at the place where it usually drops us off. Butterflies flew in my stomach at the thought of not only being late, but also of having no idea where to go. I stuffed everything into my backpack knowing that I was in for a brisk run. I had never paid attention to the streets knowing that we would only be staying there for three days and that it was hopeless for me to try to memorize it all.

Luckily, on our way back the night before, I had payed attention to the last few turns and streets. I ran down one little street, recognized the turn I needed to make, kept running and then stopped. The narrow street split into two. “I don’t remember. I don’t remember.” I kept telling myself. I took the right street because it went to the direction of the main road. Against all my hopes, there was no bus in sight. I sprinted in one direction and ran up to a lady who looked like she was native to the area.

“Señora. Señora. Señora.” She wasn’t responding and I was afraid that she was trying to ignore me. However, on the fourth “Señora” she turned around and I immediately rattled off my predicament.

“Si, Si, Si,” she replied as she pulled out her blackberry. “zero, zero, uno, cuatro, zero, uno…” I slowly and clearly told her the number as she slowly pushed the numbers on her phone. She handed me the phone and, as I listened to the rings, I prayed to Mary that someone would answer it. As a faithful mother, someone did. Caroline Wilders, the director of my school answered, “Hello?”

“It’s Margaret I’m on my way but I’m a little lost,” I told her while still trying to catch my breath from running.

After trying to explain where I was and who I was with, I handed the phone to the kind lady and she explained to Caroline where this “joven” (youth) as she called me, was. After everything seemed to be cleared up, the lady pointed out which direction I was to take. Down the hill, veer to the left, and follow the road about 200 meters. As I ran off in that direction I turned back several times to wave at her, making sure that I was going the right way. She waved back, urging me to keep running. I felt like a prisoner from a concentration camp, running to freedom and safety (either my imagination is enormous or I just watch too many war movies with my dad and foreign films with my mom). I ran right into the bus. As I entered I was greeted with sympathy and understanding. No need to be embarrassed or to go on a guilt trip. Anyway, they were still waiting for two more “lost” pilgrims.

1:30 pm Valle de Los Caidos

Historical Background: Valley of the Fallen. During his communist reign following the Spanish Civil War, Francisco Franco enlisted prisoners of war to build this basilica in a mountain outside of Madrid. Although, Franco wanted to unite the Catholics and Communists by creating this memorial for the dead, the basilica is a controversial topic as the government is currently passing a law to tear down all monuments connected to Franco. Inside, an inscription over the door explains the Spanish dictator’s motives for building it, “Fallen for God and Spain 1937-1939 RIP.”

My experience: The basilica of Valle de los Caidos is absolutely amazing. It is the longest basilica in the world, even longer than St. Peter’s in Rome! Since it is completely under a mountain, it is very dark and a little cold inside. As we entered (once we cleared the security check point) we all felt like we were in the Mines of Moriath from the Lord of the Rings. The stone walls were adorned by torches about as tall as me every 15 meters of wall. There were also giant bronze (turned turquoise) statues of angels. Although I did not see them, there are also martyrs buried in a crypt somewhere in the basilica. We had mass with our chaplain, Fr. Jose Felix L.C., in a side chapel. Like our meeting with the Carmelite nuns, having mass at the basilica was a very special privilege. Because of the controversy going on with the Spanish government right now, only the monks at the adjoining monastery say mass in the basilica. Yes, we are very special. We only stayed around for a few minutes after mass. I was a little relieved to be back in the warm sunshine after staying in the dark and cold basilica for an hour or so. A 10 minute bus ride, lunch, and off to the royal palace and the monastery of San Lorenzo de Escorial!

(Tori Backstrom posing)

P.S. There are no pictures from inside the basilica because we weren’t allowed to take any. However, I did take a video outside of it.  Here is the video:

Valle One

Valle Two

5:00 pm The monastery and royal palace of San Lorenzo del Escorial

As it is getting late and I am behind my blogging, I’m going to make this last entry very synthesized; short and sweet for your sake and mine.

Library of San Lorenzo del Escorial

  • One of monastery’s greatest assets
  • Survived two fires and wars
  • 40, 000 texts of incalculable value
  • Meant to be a place of human reflection
  • Includes medals, coins, maps, globes, and books
  • Original works of St. Augustine 6th and 7th century
  • Ceiling represents “Seven Liberal Arts” by Pellegrino 1588-1592
  • Books are turned around  (so the pages are visible instead of the binding) for preservation, to air out the pages

Palace of the  Royal Family

  • Juan de Guerra, architect
  • 33,000 sq. Meters
  • Could fit a 30 story building inside of monastery


  • Room of all the dead kings and queens of Spain. Remains of bodies (skeletons) are still present.
  • Bodies must be completely decomposed in a room before being buried in the marble tombs. Currently, there are 3 bodies waiting for decomposition to be buried in the Pantheon.
  • Built in the 1500s; took 400 years to fill it with 23 bodies; 3 tombs empty

The architecture and paintings were absolutely amazing. I wish I could post more pictures, but we weren’t allowed to take any inside the palace museum. To wrap up our day, we visited the new lay consecrated formation center, Cerro del Coto. The consecrated women had been volunteering at World Youth Day for the past week and they had just moved into the new center, but they were very welcoming and excited to see us. We took a tour of the grounds, had a long merienda with them, and we sang songs for each other. Like the Regnum Christi mass at the Bernabeu stadium, it was a wonderful moment of family spirit. This concludes day 9 of our pilgrimage!


About Margaret Antonio

Margaret Antonio is valedictorian of the 2012 graduating class of Immaculate Conception Academy. She is a student at Boston College.
This entry was posted in RC Live. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Lost…and found

  1. What a beautiful Pilgrimage and writings.
    I was looking for a young Nun to be, Johanna Junker, with whom I travelled
    among 100 Pilgers from Germany in 2000 to the Vatican and see
    Pople John Paul and Pray the Rosary in his private Garden.
    I lost track of my friend except that she studied philosophy and theology
    around 2003 at Cerro del Coto.
    I was at San Lorenzo del Escorial with esteemed friends. Dr. Jesus Ochayta
    and his wife, Angela, and family after Pilgrimage on Villa de La Plata in 2004.
    …Never realizing I was So Close to Cerro del Coto.
    Johanna Junker went on with her studies to become a Nun.
    We were roommates in Rome…Vatican…in 2000.
    …along with Maike. There was only one place left and I had to write a letter
    to be accepted in this Pilgrimage…in German. Estatic when the news came
    that I had been selected as the Special One to travel with the 100 Pilgers
    and room with Johanna and Maike. What an honor!
    I am looking for her…So close in 2004 I did not think to ask my dear friends
    the location of Cerro del Coto…School.
    I enjoyed reading your Journal. A Pilgrim too on Camino Frances to Compostela.
    Maria Louisa Garcia Byrd
    11102 Bobcat Blvd. NE
    Albuquerque, New Mexico 87122

  2. May I hear from you and your experiences as a Pilgrim…Peregina

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *