In two 9-seat vans, a cohesive group left Xénon, an Opus Dei center in Lisbon, Portugal, ready to spend 10 days in a foreign land.
The objective was to participate in the trip that St. Josemaría made in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, when he left the country to continue Opus Dei in an area where he could freely exercise his priestly work. We wanted to follow in the footsteps of a saint, at a key moment in the history of the Work, and learn from these stories to live our Christian life with greater strength.
The journey began on July 23rd, with 18 participants: 16 from Portugal and 2 that were added in Barcelona.
Pallerols is a surprising place: 4 houses on the top of an isolated hill, in a mountainous area of Catalonia. In addition to the beauty, it hides a small part of the history of Opus Dei, which we wanted to discover. St. Josemaría came to this place in the fall of 1937, with some of the first members of the Work. Through the stories of the adventure that we are reading these days, collected in the book "Camino de Liberación," we realized that the group that accompanied St. Josemaría in this adventure was very united, helping the founder of the Work to stay safe in an area of the country where priests were persecuted, certain that they were fulfilling God's will.
Pallerols was our base camp, where we stayed for 5 days and from where we went to other places on the way to Andorra.
After settling in, we went to have dinner at the Fonda La Masia, in Peramola. A real gastronomic surprise in quality and quantity! Afterwards, to sleep in Pallerols.
The next day, we had our first contact with St. Josemaría's experiences in Pallerols. In the morning we had the opportunity to hear a detailed explanation, given to us by Ramon, of the first steps in this story: the arrival of the fugitives, the night of St. Josemaría's anguish, the gift of heaven confirming his way to Andorra. We were able to be in all these places, now recovered by the Association of Friends of the Way from Pallerols to Andorra.
This first day we walked about 4 hours, always to the sound of some songs.
The next day we went to the Ribalera, where St. Josemaría celebrated the last Mass of the crossing. It is an inhospitable place where the fugitives could rest waiting for the main guide of the expedition, who in 4 nights would take them to Andorra.
This day ended up being a bit long, especially because of the rescue we did halfway! We all had a lot of fun listening to the echo of our own voice bouncing off the valleys, when suddenly another, finer and more delicate voice was heard. It seemed that some girls were asking for help. We all wore the costume of the Prince Charming and, as heroes, we imagined several possibilities: they are lost, they are wounded, they have had to spend the night here... Let's save them!
We found them soon, but since they were in perfect condition - after greeting them - we continued on our way to Andorra. There we visited the church of Sant Julià de Lòria, where on December 2, 1937 St. Josemaría visited the Blessed Sacrament when he arrived in this country of freedom, now free from all danger.
Another day we went for a swim in the Rialb reservoir and sailed with some boats there. When we returned to Peramola at night we were presented with a magnificent dinner: lamb. José, from the farmhouse, explained in detail how it had been prepared since last night.
On the way home, we could contemplate one of the most beautiful starry skies in Europe.
The last day of our stay in Pallerols we made a very hard stage: the ascent to Ares. Almost 1,000 metres of unevenness. They informed us extensively about the difficulty of the ascent, the rhythm that we should take, the heat that it would make, etc. We got a lot of water, but we still lacked it.
The descent was long and complicated. We were counting the falls one by one, like in a contest. The day ended with ice cream. It was the last night in Pallerols. Some slept outdoors.
Goodbye Pallerols, hello Barcelona. We went back through the villages of Catalonia and went to Club Daumar, a centre similar to ours in Lisbon. A shower and a quick meal because we had to get to the Sagrada Familia on time. The visit to Gaudí's church was impressive. It's worth it.
In the morning we left Barcelona for Torreciudad, a Marian shrine near Barbastro, the village where St. Josemaría was born. There we had meditation and mass in the oratory of the Holy Family.
The expedition was a success. We all arrived happily at the Xénon. A trip with many things to tell and, without a doubt, to repeat.