Montserrat, Virgins, and Faith. Oh my!

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On Saturday, the same day as the trip to Cava, CIEE took me and 50 other students in my program to Montserrat, Spain. Montserrat is a mountain one hour from Barcelona and it gets its name from the direct translation: serrated mountains, mostly because the mountain tops look like saws.

Montserrat is popular for its hiking trails that lead to beautiful views overlooking the greenery and rural towns below, but most importantly it is known for its monastery, which houses the Black Virgin.

The Black Virgin (Black Madonna) is a statue portraying the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, and her son Jesus. Legend has it that the Black Virgin was actually originally white but a great fire in the monastery turned it black. More interesting though is that in the fire, the whole monastery burned down and the only visible and intact thing remaining was this statue. As a result, the Black Virgin became a significant symbol for not only Catholics in Spain but also for Catholics around the world. To this day, people visit the Montserrat mountains as a pilgrimage. In fact, a lot of people bring sick relatives because it is said that the Black Virgin can cure diseases.

When I reached the top of Montserrat with others from my program, I was given the option of either hiking up to the top of the mountains or going to the monastery to see the Black Virgin. Originally I wanted to go hiking, but I was compelled by the underlying history of the Black Virgin and since I am Catholic, I felt like I needed to see the Madonna. After waiting in line for an hour, I saw and got to touch the Madonna!

It was well worth it. I was surprised at how much this moment affected me. I actively participated in my religion when I was younger since I attended Catholic school for nine years, but since then my faith has wavered in and out. When I touched the hand of the baby Jesus though, I felt this warm, nervous feeling in my chest. It was especially overcoming and I felt as though every thing was alright. I will never forget that feeling.

After I saw the Black Virgin, there was this nice room to sit and pray. In this room I could actually see the posterior view of the Black Virgin while I prayed.  Needless to say, I took advantage of this opportunity and felt calm and holy when I left. One important thing I learned from this experience was that even if I am not consistently participating in my religion, a short moment set aside for meditation and faith can make a great impact.

Prior to my visit to Montserrat, I had a chest and head cold and was feeling down in the dumps. After I left though, I noticed how I was feeling better already. Maybe it was the fresh air in the mountains that did it…or maybe it was the Black Virgin. I’ll go with the latter…

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