Well, it was hot for the pilgrimage. Very very hot. And since the culmination of the event involves climbing up a fairly steep slope in order to take part in the mass in the saddle of a hill, it was quite brutal. Pilgrims are not necessarily athletes, and there were some people who really looked like they were suffering (a couple of very overweight blokes I saw looked like they were about to keel over even before the climb started). At the top, the bloke who was speaking over the PA system pre-mass kept telling people to respect the sanctity of the event and to please not take all their clothes off. But not that many people were paying attention, or at least, they felt the statue of the virgin would understand their need to cool off a tad.
The mass was a bit of a laugh because the priest giving the sermon was such a grumpy old sod. Here he has 400,000 people all there ready for him to fill them with passionate love of the catholic faith and joy at being in the presence of such a huge communcal gathering. But no. Instead he goes off on one about how people (ie his audience) were coming for the wrong reasons and young people were just there to do drugs and party wildly for the weekend and that all those listening were in fact a bunch of miserable sinners who all ought to be seriously penitent and then some.
I guess I really just don't get this strand of guilt and abuse in the Roman Catholic church (and in many others it has to be said). What does it say about human nature that so many people in the world are Catholics? Are we really all just a bunch of masochistic vagrants who are desperate to be taken in hand by a strict father figure who'll give us a metepahorical seeing to with his belt? I suspect I'll never understand humans.
To some extent he wasn't wrong though (though he might need a sense of humour transplant) - this supposedly sacred experience does have all sorts of other extraneous bits attached. Many of these pilgrims, it is true, did not actually come for the opportunity to be especially holy in any way. Yes, there are a bunch of young people who show up and camp out on the hill and have a weekend party (though I suspect most of them who do are fairly religious and partying is done in a low key and catholic way), and yes there are many for whom the weekend is less about religion and more about Hungarian identity and nationalism (witness the presence at this year's event of László Tőkés, who is pretty much the accetable public face of Hungarian nationalism in Romania, but who is a bishop in the Reformed Church - why was he at an RC mass?).
If the priest had been that fussed about people not according the pilgrimage its proper respect, he should have made a point about how it wasn't supposed to be used for nationalistic purposes. But he didn't. Funny that. Not that the church (any church/mosque/temple/synagogue) is ever guilty of siding with nationalists, obviously, no sirree.
The town is still full of cars registered in Hungary - I think today (Monday) is a holiday in Hungary, so people are taking their time going home. Overheard in a cafe yesterday:
Group of young Szekely blokes: Welcome! Where are you from?
Older couple: Debrecen, in Hungary.
Szekely blokes: And you speak Hungarian? Wonderful. You speak it so well.
(This references the possibly apocryphal but often told story about Hungarians from here going to Hungary and having people surprised that they speak Hungarian "so well". The conversation above was all light hearted, though, and ended up with the groups joing for a beer together)