As stated in a previous post, I apologize for not having more blog posts written during World Youth Day. During our travels, we came back to our hotel no earlier than 11pm most days and were out the door by 7am, plus lack of WiFi made blogging very difficult. However, we will have some post WYD blog reflections coming your way now that we have a plethora of WiFi capabilities in the good US of A!
If you are unfamiliar with World Youth Day and the schedule of events, the culmination of events with the Holy Father is the Saturday Evening Vigil and Sunday Mass. Our group hiked about 4.5 miles to our Vigil site where we would be led to our section of open field to camp out under the stars with millions of other pilgrims for the night. We were glad to get an early start to the hike because the day got incredibly hot. We spent the day at our "camp site" (which is basically just a sleeping bag for each person on a 6X4 plot) beating the heat, taking must-needed naps, and and playing lot's of cards. We were also able to mill about the rest of our area meeting new pilgrims from all over the world.
Pope Francis arrived at around 7pm with chants of "Papa Francisco" echoing throughout the vigil site. Before the Pope addressed the pilgrims, 3 young adults gave powerful testimonies of conversion and mercy that really drove home the theme of World Youth Day of "Blessed are the Merciful."
The Pope's address to youth was one of the best talks I have ever heard him give. I won't share with you the whole thing, but just a snippet of what struck me most. The rest of his talk can be found at http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/07/30/full-text-pope-franciss-address-at-world-youth-day-prayer-vigil/.
What struck me most from the Pope's talk was how there is a paralysis even deeper than fear: thinking that happiness is a comfortable sofa. In other words, it is indifference and desiring comfort over greatness that prevents us from living life to the fullest. He then challenged the 1.6 million young people listening to not be afraid to make a mark on the world. We should never think happiness is the same as comfort and convenience. I know that was a message I constantly need to remind myself of, as I am sure many of us Americans need to do with all our modern day conveniences.
The vigil concluded as volunteers passed out candles which lit up the dark sky like prayers ascending into Heaven along with our voices in praise and worship. Jenny, one of the pilgrims, noticed during praise and worship that one of our fellow pilgrims was not singing, which was odd for this young woman because she was constantly singing on our pilgrimage. Jenny noticed she was crying, and soon after a small group of us pilgrims were gathered around her praying for her. She had just lost a very good friend who died in a tragic accident trying to save another's life, and as Fr. Will Thompson led us in a prayer, the song playing spoke of the resurrection and how death does not have the final answer. He is alive! We all felt chills knowing that was God's way of telling us that this young woman's friend was truly alive in Heaven, that death has no power over him. Praise the Lord!
As I now reflect on this experience, it brings reassurance to the beauty of the resurrection and the power of Jesus Christ. No one, no thing, has that much power: power over death. The 1.6 million pilgrims that were present that day hopefully realized that, and I pray that all believers can come to know this reality in such a way that we desire everyone to know about the saving power of Jesus Christ!