Thursday, September 17, 2015

Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen)

I have a piece of loose leaf paper from high school with a paragraph of text written in pencil. I jotted down some thoughts one day in 1999 while reminiscing on a trip to Valle de los Caidos in Spain. My friend Emily and I had gone on a summer study abroad in Madrid during which we made weekend trips to various monuments. We saw so many amazing Catholic sites and yet I was largely unmoved. St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila held no interest for me. However, God works in mysterious ways and it was the much more modern and controversial Spanish Civil War memorial housing Francisco Franco's tomb that finally had me praising God, if only on paper. My sense of awe lasted only a short while and I completely forgot about this experience until going through stacks of papers many years later. Looking back, it seems I was having troubling finding appropriate adjectives and I'm appalled by my evident lack of knowledge of world history. Franco died in 1975 which may have seemed like long ago to a 17 year old; however, the Spaniards of his time were certainly dealing with modern world problems. These were not simple times in Spain. But one thing is clear, that the Lord has been calling me for a very long time. And boy, do I remember those Archangels! The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard delay, but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

"While we were in Spain we went to Valle de los Caidos. It was pouring rain when we arrived but the huge white cross on top of the rocky mountain was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. It was amazing and breathtaking to see such a wonder in person. A great presence is felt when looking up upon the brilliant cross that glows even in the darkness. The atmosphere gives a sense of stepping back in time where none of the modern world problems even exist. Everything is blanketed with a gentle but almost disturbing feeling of closeness. It is like being in the presence of the Almighty. Around the side of the rock slope is a sort of chapel whose walls are hung with beautiful, story-telling tapestries depicting certain aspects of the Bible. Inside rooms are tombs of important figures long since deceased and huge dark statues of archangels. The angels stare down with horrifying looks of warning for the souls which may be led astray. But the most magnificent thing of all happened upon leaving the building. When approaching the gigantic doors at the perfect moment when the sun is setting, the middle of the dark building is filled with a tunnel of light. The light is so beautiful and pure that it creates an enormously moving experience."

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you found that piece of paper that triggered such memories!