I had arrived in Madrid, the capital of Spain, situated in the center of the country. The climate there was indecated in the following words: "Nine months of hell; three months of winter." I stayed here only one day and it was very hot, but the winter must be mild in Madrid. I passed the night in a convent: I do not remember where this was, but I made friendship with an ex-torrero, a former steerfighter, but a so mild-tempered and sweet man and it was therefore that I returned a couple of times to madrid when returning from Fatima to meet him and I slept there once in ahotel and thereby I learned how they pass the night in Madrid. I had received a roomwith a big window and this was opened, so that you could hear and see all that passed in the street. I wanted to sleep but the more it became late the more people came to walk in the street to wander after the heat of the day had passed and I heard them chatting and laughing, so that it was impossivle to sleep. I got up from time to time and O saw that always more people came. there was even a lady who stood over the eay, selling newspapers. I suppose they bought them when left the crowd to go home. It had become almost midnight when even the tramway came tinkling over the street. Some people went home but others came still to take their place. The first hours of the morning had passed but the newspaperlady was always there but now the wanderers had become more scarce and I had a few hours to sleep before it wa day again. I heard later that for this reason the inhabitants of Madrid are called the "cats", like this animal that preferes the night to go around, not to walk, but to find a happy prey.
On the contrary by day madrid os very quiet; it seems that they pass a good part of the day in sleeping. It happehed once to me that I needed to talk with a priest and sonded the bell at two o'clock in the afternoon. I had to ring a second time and thereupon the door went open. It eas the pastor; he was furious becarse I had interrupted him in his nap and without asking me what I wanted he slammed the door before my nose and went back-I supposed-to his bed.
Madrid was also the orgine of the oddest Spanish writer. Don Quixote of the XVIst century. I would inow something mire of him and I was told where was the house where he had lived. After a long trip I found the street and then too his house but thos was inhabited by a family and not what I had hoped, a kind of museum. The only distinction from other houses was a memorystone on the front of the builking that Don Quixote had lived there.
From Madrid I want further to the west and some three or four days later I arrived in Barcelona, an other big city, on the Mediterramean, where they talk an other language, the Catalan, much similar to the Spanish. Catalonia is a province that had always a tencency to be independant from Spanish like the country of the Basques on the other side of the country. From here I passed again the border of Ftance and then I passed through the rich cities along the Mediterranean. It eas here the period of the thunderstorms and this forced me several times to flee into a pub and to wait the end of the rain on my trip to Italy, where I hoped to see Rome, thecenter of the Catholic Chirch and a center of attraction for every Catholic.
When passing the birder of Italy, what struck me in particulat was the many little chikdren, you saw in every street, what I had mot seen in France where most children were only two or one by a family. This must have now changed also in Italy, where the devilish propaganda for abortion had foumd audience like in every other country where faith in God is disappearing.
At that moment also Iraly had veen changed. Mussolini who had come to the power togovern Italy in 1922 had changed the country entirely. One of my teachers in the seminary had studied in Italy before him. He told us that there were alwaus strikes and robbers in the countryu who attacked tourists and police that was not of much cinfidence. All this had changed since Mussolini had come to power. Strikes were forbidden and there were no mofe robbers and the police had become mote strict in the tenure oftheir office. But Mussolini believed that the Italians would become like the ancient Romans and herein he was mistaken. He had for ideal the redtoring of the ancient Roman Empire and in his meeting with Hitler thay decided that the North ofEurope would be for Hitler and the South for Mussolini. He believed that the Italian soldiers would become like those of the Romans.Well, in WWII they were almoct always beaten by their enemies.
Mussolini had begun to attack Ethiopia. a poor North African country that had onlu a poor little army not matching with the well-armed Italians. Some of their soldiers had only a stick to defend themselves. I would see in Rome a train with soldiers ready to go to Ethiopia. The soldiers were sad and ir seemed not to ve much prepared for battle. What the Italian likes is to chat and to laugh. Once on my trip to Rome I passed through wine yards and I saw a winegrower who invited me to stop and to eat from his grapes, only for the pleasure to talk with me, but I would not lose my time and continued my trip to Rome.
Like in France there were many small pilgimages in this country, that I vidited on my way, but the first miracle that I saw was the tower of Pisa, built in the 12th century and leaning so deeply that anyone chould believe that it nust fall down. So it had not been built. What stops it in its fall? I believe that the prayer of some saint may be the cause of this miracle. Otherwise it could be an enormous rock under the groume that has stopped it in its fall. This is a mystery. It is 179 feet high and leaning away 16 feet from its center.
A great part of my way was going through wineyards, all properly maintained. It should have been easy to take them without being seen but I would never steal. Once I saw before me a youmg German who was going like many compatriots on bicycle to Rome. We greeted us and went for a time together. He was a nice young man but not a Catholic and therefore not interesting me to go together. Once he stopped and went to the wines and came back, both hands filled with grapes. He would gibe me the half of his booty but I refused to take them, which shamed him. We continued going together but arriving at a hotel he stopped and hoped that I should accompany him. I excused nyself, willing continue to finish the object of that dayand continued alone. I was happy to have left him because talking tired me and he was going slower than I did.
Then I saw the sign: "Rome"! But from Rome was nothing to see. At least ot was no longer far away. Endly loomed from a far distance the St. Peter's dome. Rome was there. What an emotion! It was the fulrillment of a longtime chatished design. I knew here two priests and I had their derection. They were my tow superiors of the seminary in Holland who had gome to Rome, since I had left the seminary. First of all was a visit to the St. Peter. I should stay a whole week in Rome, but every day my first visit should be to the St. Peter. This was always surrounded my many pilgrims that had come from everywhere in the world.
Hearty was the reception from my two former superiors. here I passed my first night but they gave me the direction of a house where poor pilgrims could have a shelter, paying a cheap pension. Most of them were Germans who had come on bicycle, Catholic or not. We lived here together like brothers.
You had in Rome to take much care of your bicycle. There were young Italians who robbed them and knew well where they could sell them. Ir happened once to me that I had stopped to visit a church and put it well in the sight of the people for that nobody dared to tough it. I had taken my padlock in my hands, when a young Italian came to me and told me that he would stay there and take care of it. I saw in him a cunning robber and told him that I would have nothing to do with him and put my padlock on the rearwheel. This time I was not longtime absent and I was happy to find my bicycle on its place untouched. It seems to me to have been a miracle that I had never been robbed.
I saw in Rome two catacombs, two of the former immense cemetaries under the city, that are so wide that one who lost his way there can die from hinger vefore having found his way to get out. I accompanied always the guide of a group os pilgrims who entered them. I visited all the great basilicas of Rome and many other historical monuments to which I game all my attention. I went also over the Via Appia, the oldest street of Rome, made 2000 years ago with stone plaster and resosting always to the modern traffic as if it is indestructable.
But the greatest moment in Rome was the audience with Pope Pius XI thanks to a recommendation, given to me by my ex-superiors. We had to pass in a long row, the un after the other, stopping before thepope to receive his blessing. Sometimes he talked to someone and this happened just before I had my turn. He talked to a young German. It made me a little jealous, but I had to be content with receiving his blessing. So it was God's Holy Will.
How rich is Rome in minuments and other historical richnesses. I talked some say with a Roman hereover and he answered me: "Senior. Si vuele videre tutto que Roma, tene compre una casa e viva qui". ( Sir. If you will know all of Rome, buy here a house and live here".) But I was happy with what I had seen. That was enough!