Friday, August 19, 2011

Viva el Papa!

Thanks be to God, we are in Madrid!  It seems that we have been gone for much longer than two weeks, not because we aren´t enjoying our pilgrimage (quite the contrary!), but because we have been to so many places and done so many things.  And, we have been spending this past week in Madrid for World Youth Day.  The graces of our awesome God have been flowing in small and big ways and we are trying to be open to them all.

We got settled in to our challenging but hopefully fruitful accomodations on Monday morning.  We were the first to arrive ("first ones here" - Clark W. Griswold) at the school outside of the city where we are staying this week.  It presents many challenges such as sleeping on a gynasium (women) or classroom (men) floor with people we are just meeting, activity-packed days that start early and finish late, and being in the presence of teenagers who can be all hours of the night.   It is a grace, though, to be there, and I have been able to meet some of the teens and do some ministry with them.

WYD started on Tuesday night with the Opening Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Madrid.  The estimate was that 500,000 people were jam packed into the streets.  It was very tight for several hours but overall a cool experience for our group.  We have attended workshops, talks, concerts, dances, Masses with a huge amount of bishops and priests (sweet!), and other cool things.  We have met people from all over the world and been in the midst of raucous cheering and chanting for the Church and homelands throughout the streets of Madrid for most of the hours of this week.

Last night, the Pope arrived!  It was an extraordinary day for us, one that none of us have ever experienced.  We planted ourselves in a good spot (so we thought) close to where the Holy Father would drive by and be for the welcoming ceremony.  We got there at 10 am, and stayed put in our contained area of asphalt in scorching heat until 9 pm.  People were pressing in on us for much of the last several hours (as was the experience for most of the 500,000 or so that were there).  So, our patience was tested.  But, the amazing thing to me was the day itself before the Pope arrived.  Hundreds of thousands of people under the age of 25 spent a whole day waiting to see a 85 year old man.  And, they were chanting his name and getting excited all day.  They have sacrificed a lot to be here and sacrificed much yesterday to be in the position to even get a glimpse of the Vicar of Christ.  There were some exceptions, but the crowd was overall very well behaved and patient, given the extreme situation that tested comfort and patience. 

When Pope Benedict arrived and greeted us, we all at least got a glimpse of him in person.  He told us that Christ is the meaning of our lives and to hope in Him.  He will speak more to us on this theme which has been repeated much this week.  Our students are getting a healthy diet of that theme and are thinking deeply about the meaning of their lives, their purpose, and their vocation.  This is a grace-filled time for them and their sacrifices are helping with that, whether they know it or not.  They are trying to be open and are being rewarded in small and big ways.  God has called them here and is speaking to them.  This will continue here until the closing Mass on Sunday where we will see and be inspired by "Benedito"!


1 comment:

Tayler said...

Sounds like you guys are having such a great time! I can't wait to hear all about it when you're back!