Giant Baby Terrorizes Town, Gets VIP Seats to Beatification: Where Was Lulu Part IV

by | Oct 13, 2014 | Catholic Living, Pilgrimage, Spain, Travel, Travel With Kids | 17 comments

Okay, so where were we? Flew to Barcelona, saw modern masterpiece; went to Lourdes, prayed for intentions; went to Torreciudad, saw mosaic of Virgin Mary on her iPhone . . . which means . . .


It’s a basilica AND a cathedral. And it’s in Zaragoza, which was our next stop.

The Basilica venerates Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title Our Lady of the Pillar, praised as Mother of the Hispanic Peoples by Pope John Paul II. It is reputed to be the first church dedicated to Mary in history. According to ancient local tradition, soon after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Saint James was preaching the Gospel in Spain, but was disheartened because of the failure of his mission. Tradition holds that on 2 January 40 AD, while he was deep in prayer by the banks of the Ebro, the Mother of God appeared to him and gave him a small wooden statue of herself and a column of jasper and instructed him to build a church in her honor: This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build. (from wikipedia)

So THAT’S pretty cool. First church dedicated to Mary in history. If you’re there at the right time of day, they’ve got a guy who will bring your baby up to touch the statue. Which seems odd, but we would have totally done it. Alas, we were not there during the hand-your-baby-to-a-guy window, so we just got to look at her.

And around back, you can actually kiss the actual pillar, if you can squeeze your face in there. It’s a bit of a challenge because it’s a small opening, and the stone has been worn away over the centuries. But we all managed, even Lulu.

Also awesome: During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939 three bombs were dropped on the church but none of them exploded. Two of them are still on show in the Basilica. And if you look in the upper left corner of this fresco by Goya, you can see where one came through!

The architecture of the church (not the original built on this site, of course) is very impressive, and unusually colorful. And it’s enormous.

After Zaragoza, we spent the evening in Barbastro, and the night in an area hotel that was way too cool for me.

Apparently, boutique hotel-types are willing to sacrifice privacy for style.

Yep, ALL bathroom doors were clear glass. And that’s all I’m going to say on the subject.
Lulu was such a little trooper. She wasn’t getting nearly as much sleep as she usually does at home. And every morning we had to wake her up from a deep sleep, which is one of my least favorite things to do. But she was her usual smiley self.
Eventually, we arrived at our final destination: Madrid!
We did some walking around . . . admiring Spanish culture, and snack food choices.
(I still haven’t found my other memory card, so we have maybe 100 total photos from this trip. And that’s THREE of them that are pictures of bathrooms and meat cones. It’s an improbably high percentage.)

In the end, Lulu opted for a different snack, provided to us by our very gracious hostess, Mar. We got to stay with a family in Madrid, who are friends of a friend, and, really, I did not know hospitality before this. She thought of everything. She even read my blog, found out I like Dr. Pepper, and got some for me. In Spain. Where Dr. Pepper isn’t even a thing. And the cutest cookies ever for Lulu.

Okay, Madrid touristy things:

We went to the Royal Monastery of Saint Elizabeth in Madrid and saw this sixteenth-century wooden figure of Baby Jesus, of whom St. Josemaria was a big fan. Lulu agreed.

She was so excited she had to take a quick nap in Plaza Mayor while I did a little souvenir shopping.

We also saw the Madrid Cathedral, which was very colorful inside. Lulu seemed to like it, but, really there’s no accounting for her. She likes EVERYTHING.

The next day we went to el Prado for some art appreciatin.’ See?

Then, finally, came the big day of the beatification of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, successor to St. Josemaria, the founder of Opus Dei, an organization within the Catholic Church that promotes the sanctity of work and encourages the laity to strive for personal holiness. (If you’ve heard all sorts of crazy stuff about Opus Dei, here’s where I cleared some of that up.)
It was amazing. There were over 200,000 people there, from all over the world. Many in big, boisterous, flag-waving, groups. Some in very elaborate traditional costumes.
The ceremony was set up down a very long boulevard in a new area of town that is still under construction. The streets were finished, but no buildings have been built. Sections were labeled A through J and stretched back for ever and ever away from the big altar at the front. We were in section I, so nearly all the way in the back. We really couldn’t even see where the altar WAS, let alone what was happening upon it, but there were screens set up all over, so us folks in the cheap seats could watch the proceedings. (Figure of speech. All the seats were free.)
Here’s where we were, taking a photo in front of the screen, when a priest motioned us over to ask if we were with a group. We told him that, yes, we were with a group from Los Angeles. He said that was too bad, because he had two tickets for the front section. But only two. Oh, GROUP? No, we’re not with a group. (Again. I kid.)
So, after quite a long walk, we found ourselves with quite a bit better view of the proceedings.
The ceremony was lovely. Especially moving was the moment when they revealed the giant official portrait from behind its curtain. then a boy and his parents brought up the relic of Blessed Alvaro. He was the boy who, as a newborn, recovered from a fatal heart attack after his parents prayed for the intercession of Bishop Alvaro, and was the miracle for the beatification. It was great. As was the Mass of Thanksgiving the next day, Sunday.
And that was it. We headed home. The highlight of the return journey was waiting in the customs line at LAX with Brian Shaw, the two-time and reigning World’s Strongest Man. He and Lulu really hit it off.
And THIS is how we all felt when we got home. (Bobby’s welcome home poster was strangely prescient.) Grrr. . . .
We got back at about 9pm on Monday and put Lulu straight to bed. She slept through the night until about 7am. I put her back down for a morning nap at 9am and she slept all day long until I woke her up at 5pm. Then I put her back down a 7pm and she slept all night again! She clearly had some catching up to do. But it was a great trip, and she did so well, and I’m really glad I didn’t wean her quite yet.
And now, for the big winners!
Two people guessed RIGHT off the bat that we were going to Madrid for the beatification, and it’s my blog and I get to pick so they are the winners!
Theresa from Ordinary Lovely, you are the Facebook winner and MPHELPS84, you are the Instagram winner. Congratulations! Please send me your mailing address to and I’ll send you your goodies!
And, jeannemp, we were going to pray for each other, that I’d find my camera’s memory card and that you’d find the St. Peregrine medal that you wanted to send to a girl who has cancer. Well, look what I found in MY house:
It was my husband’s while he was going through cancer, but it’s been lost for who knows how long, and just turned up! Since he’s been cancer-free for many years now, we’d be happy to pass it along. Please send me your address, or the girl’s, and I’ll put it in the mail.
And if my memory card shows up at your house, do please send it to me.


  1. Patty

    Lulu looks like she had a blast…I love her expression meeting Brian, too cute!! That's awesome you three were able to be present for a beatification, the pics are great!

  2. Laurel

    I think the glass doors on bathrooms might be a "thing" in Spain because the ones in our hotel room where we stayed in Barcelona were the same way. It is, ummm, slightly awkward.

    What a blessing to attend SAINT! Alvaro del Portillo's beatification! And practically front row seats! 🙂

    • Kendra

      It's just odd. What's wrong with a little, um, mystery?

  3. Nanacamille

    That's the cutest Giant Baby I have ever seen. She can trample my city any time.
    Blessed Alvaro already has his 2nd miracle. Sun while you were still in Spain Anita was in mass crying that her ear hurt so much she couldn't possibly go on. I prayed to Blsd Alvaro to heal her as I didn't know the doctor's phone number and it got better In a short period of time. If that's not a miracle then what is it?.

  4. Amanda

    DR PEPPER ISN'T A THING? That's it for me moving internationally. (I kid. Kinda.)

    Sad you still haven't found your memory card (although cool about the medal) but the pictures you have are amazing. Out of 100, I usually have 5 decent ones. I know they were for instagram, but still – so many with people!

    You and Lulu both look amazing and happy all over Europe 🙂

    • Kendra

      I know! When Jim was looking for a job a few years ago he was considered for a position in Ireland and I looked up whether Dr. Pepper was available there. And it is. So I was like, okay, let's move. But then we ended up staying here after all.

  5. Theresa @ OrdinaryLovely

    Wow! I'm surprised I won because I thought I had bi-passed the contest by PM'ing you 🙂 Though the prize IS lovely… I'll email you at some point today!
    While I am exceedingly impressed by all the architecture and holy sites and the concept of passing your baby through a window to a complete stranger so she can touch an image of our lady owned by St. James (how cool is that?!?!?!) what I'm really wondering is… how did you just happen to run into the World's Strongest Man?? Is there a story behind that that I've missed along the way? 🙂

    • Kendra

      There was a huge "fitness" convention in Madrid the same weekend as the beatification, so our flight home was lousy with super-muscled men testing the tension strength of coach seats. We ended up in the long customs line right behind Brian Shaw and there was a buzz in the line and people were asking him for pictures and stuff. And Lulu reached out to go to him and he was so sweet. It makes a hilarious picture. She's as big as his bicep!

  6. Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany

    I have never heard of Our Lady of the Pillar. What a wonderful story! I'll add that to my list of places I want to travel someday. It looks like you had such a great trip.

    And this might seem weird, but I was thinking of your toilet picture when I was on a getaway with my husband last weekend. The hotel room was very small and the bathroom just seemed a little, um, close, but I remembered your picture and thought to myself, "At least I have a door!" Haha!

  7. Heather K

    your trip sounds amazing; it is truly incredible looking at all that you were able to see & experience! I have to laugh at the photo of your bathroom because I can completely relate – this summer I took a trip with my sister and one of her girlfriends to Vietnam and one of our hotels was exactly the same. Luckily there were curtains that covered one of the main glass walls, but still – yep I can relate 🙂

  8. Kendra

    To thescarlettfamily: I appreciate your kind words, but I think your comment might be confusing or misleading to people, so I deleted it. I'd be happy to discuss any of that via email or in the comments of the Opus Dei post.

  9. Elizabeth@SuperSwellTimes

    You meet the most interesting people when you travel — first the bishop that wasn't and now the world's strongest man! What's your secret? It's the adorable baby, right? Can I borrow her?

  10. Heather Woyak

    wow! how awesome!! great pictures!

    and, yeah…we stayed at a boutique hotel (good thing it was just the hubby and i…becuase…yeaaahhhh…). what is up with the glass doors to EVERYTHING?! sheesh…

  11. jeannemp

    Oh, I'm crying! St. Anthony did hear you, I'll look under my couch for your memory card! Sending you my address now…

  12. Kalynne Pudner

    Love these pictures! I was there (section C1 for the Beatification Mass), Zaragoza-sans-Giant-Baby on the 24th and filling in as the English-speaking tourguide at Torreciudad on the 25th. But I did have bathroom doors (hint: apartamento hotel vs. boutique). Wish I'd gotten to meet you…my baby, now 11, is also Lulu.

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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