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Visit to El Paular Monastery

12/08/2011: Spain

The day started around a table, a table that was becoming larger as new guests came in. The small tables of the different groups joined other tables to make a big one. Our sharing opened to new dimensions. Such was the activity that marked the beginning of the day. The participants moved from the little corners where they were seated towards wider spaces suited to a big community. Our little tables became the table of La Valla, powerful symbol of the richness of the Marist charism.

After breakfast, all the participants were provided with water and some food. The schedule foresaw to spend the day in contact with nature and, at the same time, to deepen our personal relationship. We moved with three buses from Buitrago to Oteruelo del Valle. From that village there is a rural shady path leading to El Paular Monastery. Rascafría was the first stage. The sun of midday was heavy; some refreshment was found walking under the trees.

As we walked along the path, a couple of activities were proposed aiming at deepen our mutual sharing. Firstly, by twos, we shared about some meaningful moments of our personal lives. During the second stage, the final stretch towards El Paular became our road to Emaus. The dialogue was lively, animated and intense. The participants formed groups of three in order to share how the dream of Champagnat dwells in young people’s heart. Along this path, we were still enlarging the table of LaValla around which we had started our morning prayer.

From Rascafría we took an even road, parallel to a river and protected by the shadow of black poplars and old ash trees, which led us to the historical monument of El Paular Monastery. During our trip we enjoyed the wonderful landscapes of El Paular valley and the Lozoya river. We went across the Pardón bridge: a strategic spot to catch a glimpse of El Paular monastery. We continued our road towards a recreational area called Las Presillas, a series of swimming pools naturally carved on the rocks of the Lozoya river. It was a good moment to take a refreshing swimming and to have lunch together reinforcing our links of friendship

It was early afternoon when we visited El Paular monastery. Several crests, in different parts of the building, show seven stars meaning the seven Carthusian founders: St Bruno and his six companions who decided to withdraw to a lonely place called Chartreuse, near Grenoble, France in 1084. Monks of that Order were the first inhabitants of the holy place we were visiting.

Since 1954 the religious presence in the monastery is ensured by a community of eight Benedictin monks. ‘Small community but fully alive, -stated Fr Miguel Muñoz, the Prior since 2003. ‘Monks care for the maintenance of the monastery and accompany people interested in visiting it’.

A moving Marian prayer was held in a small chapel of the monastery, presided over by the Prior. Later on the same Prior accompanied the group during the visit to the monastery; he gave clear explanations on the baroque chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, the monks refectory, the wooden carved chairs of the choir and the altar piece of the main church made of alabaster of Flemish gothic inspiration, enhancing the image of our Lady of The Paular. Finally we visited the cloister with a set of beautiful paintings of Carducho. It was a day full of spirituality, culture and Church history.

A eucharist celebration gathered us together to conclude the day. The gospel passage of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples was an invitation to all the participants to repeat a similar gesture.

This day of rest in contact with nature gave us new strength to carry on the activities of our encounter.

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