San Sebastián: Facing our Fears, Weddings, and Finding Hope Again

It’s hard to describe that feeling after making it onto the train. As we stumbled into our seats and the train pulled away from the Barcelona Sants Station, John and I both looked at each other and breathed a sigh of relief.

It felt like we had dodged a bullet — and in some way, maybe we had.  Within a few hours of our departure, Barcelona experienced a terrible terrorist attack. Thank goodness we had run our tails off to make that train!

As we looked at our baby laughing with our oldest son — with Barcelona fading into the distance — we could only feel grateful. Grateful for everything we didn’t eve know we had been spared.

We all felt a sigh of relief after leaving Barcelona behind.

Within a few hours of our time in San Sebastián, as the texts came in, John and I had to process the terror we felt on hearing the news about Barcelona.

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised — but being a mother, knowing you narrowly escaped something that could have changed your lives forever — somehow it leaves you with a sense of dread.  In some small way, terror and fear began to take root in my heart.

There we were on the busy streets of San Sebastian, looking at our kids laughing together — and I felt the terror:  “What if they decide to attack here, too?”  What if they drive down this street right now?”  These were all thoughts that came to my mind.

I suggested we pick up food from the local market and go to our apartment.  Truthfully, I was terrified.  I couldn’t enjoy all the laughter, the music, the street performers — I just needed to get to our apartment and work through everything I was feeling at the time.

I was looking on this beautiful scene as the news came in…what a contrast to what Barcelona was experiencing.

To be honest, I had almost determined right then and there that we should find a flight home and scratch the rest of this trip.  Being that close to something, having walked the same path of the attack only hours before, it left me afraid for the future.

I needed to pray.

We said our family Rosary.  Sometimes saying the Rosary can seem like a chore — but this was not one of those moments. No, this was one of those moments where I held on tight to that Rosary.

It brought me peace, as it had so many other nights when I was feeling the same way.  It’s not as if the fears were all gone, but it was a very good start.

We put the kids to bed, took out some Spanish wine and cheese — hey, a girl’s got to eat — and talked about our plan for the rest of this pilgrimage.

We decided we would practice caution, but keep moving forward as planned.  Besides, going home would have been acting out of fear, and this was a pilgrimage — maybe walking through our fears was meant to be a part of the pilgrimage.

One thing was clear.  We didn’t deserve to live any more than those people in Barcelona had deserved to die — but we did live, and we felt very strongly that instead of asking “why, why did this awful thing happen?” we needed to ask ourselves, “now what?”.

What does God want us to do with the time that He has given to us?  How does He want us to live our lives from this point forward?

These were thoughts I would continue to process — and honestly, am still asking myself today.  These are good questions to ask ourselves on a regular basis.

By the way, the Spanish love their fireworks in the summer, so that first night when the fireworks began only a few blocks from our apartment, I kind of thought it might be a terrorist attack.  So, yeah, I still had some things to work through.

The Spanish love their fireworks.

Prayer doesn’t just erase the past.  It doesn’t just solve all of our problems, but it does help us to face the past head-on and move beyond it.

It let’s us know we’re not alone — even in the darkest of times — because we aren’t alone.  God is there with us, loving us, and suffering with us.

In the upcoming days, prayer became my way of holding onto Jesus and Mary and asking them to walk me through these fears in my heart. And they did just that.

Honestly, going outside and walking through those streets for the next few days took a lot of trust on my part.  My first inclination was to stay inside, to keep my family away from the world, because I was afraid of what might happen to us.

But how many times do you find yourself in San Sebastián?  Not many.  Instead of staying indoors, paralyzed with fear, we chose to pull out the big guns of our faith:  the Mass and the Rosary.

Hide away in our apartment all day? Heck no. Time to pull out the big guns!

Why be Catholic if you’re not going to pull out the big guns when you’re battling your own weakness and the darkness in the world?  Right?  I mean, why do it alone?

Sometimes being Catholic might seem like a burden — with all the “rules” and “regulations” — but these next few days, it was my path to living life again.  It was my way to step out in trust again.  It was my way to see the good in humanity again.

In those few days, we walked the path of facing our fears and replacing them with hope and trust. It’s not an easy path, but I’m convinced that Jesus and Mary are the ones capable of making it possible.

Interestingly, many of our happiest moments happened in and around the Catholic churches in the old town of San Sebastián.  Our favorite was St. Mary of the Chorus, with it’s statue of St. Sebastian over the entry.

St. Sebastián welcoming the weary pilgrim.

This place holds a special place in my heart.  If you read my post from Barcelona, you know I asked St. Sebastián to help us make the train we were most likely going to miss.  He delivered.

This statue greeting us as we came to Mass that first day, it felt like a wink and a nod from St Sebastián himself.  So good to know we have friends in heaven who are rooting for us and want to help us along the way.  Not sure what I’d do without them.

This was also the place where a kind priest offered the Mass for our family on our second day in San Sebastián.  How cool is that?  We approached him the first day, and asked if we could have a Mass said for our family.  Not only did he say “yes” but he promised to say it the very next morning.

Hearing our family’s intentions mentioned at Mass: it gave me the courage to keep moving forward, knowing God was at our side.  It was powerful.

In so many ways, this little church helped restore hope to my heart.

Each morning, after Mass, there was always a wedding about to begin.  What is it about weddings that bring so much joy to everybody?

Watching the way everybody responded to these weddings, standing around to smile and clap for the bride and groom as they came in — it was good for the soul.

Who wouldn’t want to get married in this lovely place?
Preparing these cuties to walk down the aisle…
Encouraging the groom.
Here comes the bride…
Clapping as she got out of the car…
Smiles all around…

It reminded me of my own wedding, eighteen years ago.

It reminded me of the life that I never expected, the children that I never knew I so desperately would want in my life, the way that living out this crazy catholic life would fulfill me in ways I never imagined.

I mean, I had never been one of those women who sat around dreaming of keeping house and raising a bunch of kids — that is why I am always amazed at how beautiful this life has been.

I never knew, when I said “I do”, exactly what I was saying “I do” to.  Honestly, if you didn’t have hope, I don’t know how anybody would dare to get married.

If you didn’t know that God’s love would be there to sustain you, even through the darkest moments, I don’t know how anybody would be that crazy to say “I do”.

Imagine, for a moment, the insanity of promising your heart to one man for your entire life.  Imagine wondering if you’d ever be bored and then realizing, “nope” not a boring life — not at all.

Imagine looking into the 6 most beautiful faces that you’ve ever seen and realizing that you were done for — eternally smitten.

Imagine realizing that you’d go to hell and back for them, if it meant you could all make it to heaven one day, to complete and utter happiness — for all of eternity.

Imagine finally reaching heaven and looking at the faces of all the people you loved and knowing it was absolutely worth every bit of sacrifice, every sleepless night, every heartache, all the blood, sweat and tears.

Imagine that.

Because this life we are living, one day it will be over.  These people we love, they’re all that will matter to us then.

And even the really bad stuff that might happen to us or our loved ones — even those things that don’t make sense to us now and we can’t possibly see any good that could come of it — it will all make sense in the end.

Married or not, there is a Groom waiting for us.  He’s waiting for all of us.  He has chosen His bride.  He has given His life for her.  He only needs us to say “I do”.

His love for us:  nothing can erase it.  Nothing can dissolve it.  Seeing those weddings in those few days in San Sebastian, it seemed to whisper all of that and more.

It reminded me that even when faced with the greatest evil, the greatest darkness in this world, that Love will have the final Word — and that Word will never, ever end.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

~Revelations 21:4~


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2 thoughts on “San Sebastián: Facing our Fears, Weddings, and Finding Hope Again

    1. Yes mom. You were worrying, then praying and then worrying and praying some more. Sorry we added to the worry, but hey, sure your prayers were part of what kept us safe 🙂

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