This is WORLD YOUTH DAY: INSPIRING GENERATIONS Book Feature
A sample of the book can be found on Amazon
When I first heard about the resignation of Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI I was half awake after having a lie in on my day off university. My flatmate had been ringing me all morning, which I presumed was just to wake me up. Next thing I get a text message saying ‘The Pope has quit his job’ and as you can imagine I was immediately awake but suspicious that it was a ploy to get me out of bed; I soon found that this wasn’t the case. Of course my initial reaction was along the lines of ‘Can he do that?’ and moreover questioning why he had done it and what it meant. But then I thought about it some more. I soon came to the conclusion that the last two Popes had taught us two very good and important lessons. The first had taught us that it is fine to be seen to struggle in the face of adversity, it’s fine to carry on in the face of trouble. The other taught us that it is also okay to let go and let somebody else carry on with what you feel you are no longer capable of doing. Two great men who have taught us all lessons which we can all interpret in our own ways depending on our lives.
Once I had heard the news I was immediately looking at flying over to Rome and being in Rome for when the next Pope would be elected and as soon as the dates for conclave were announced I booked my flights to Rome. I had booked the earliest available flights which were Thursday and as I now know this was a day too late to be there for the announcement however I still am ready now, 4 hours before I am set to travel to the airport to go and experience the now electric atmosphere I will be greeted by in Rome.
Looking however at the man who has been elected to be our new Holy Father I can safely say I am full of every bit of confidence that he will lead the church in the direction of God’s will. His entrance onto the balcony said to me something about himself, clearly still in some state of shock about what had happened over the past 24 hours he gracefully walked onto the balcony ready to greet the world. A few waves and several moments of taking in the spectacle in front of him; his words perfectly saying what the church had been longing to hear since Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI had stepped down. The thing that struck me the most was his beautiful understanding of humility; hearing the words “first I ask a favour of you: before [I bless you], I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me” A man who has been chosen by God, given a powerful role, still asking for help, WOW!. These words really struck me deep in my heart and I am filled with so much admiration for him even though I have only really known of him for a few short hours.
After debating with myself for a few moments I concluded that he had named himself after St Francis of Assisi, he couldn’t not have chosen St Francis of Assisi given the lifestyle he has chosen to live in the past and also through the message that he has given us. I am elated that he chose the name ‘Francis’ for a number of reasons, firstly because I come from the parish of Sacred Heart and St Francis. Secondly knowing who St Francis was it gives me a true reflection of the message I anticipate him to spread throughout his papacy. St Francis was a man who had everything and lived what we would call nowadays the ‘playboy’ lifestyle and yet everything that he had, didn’t give him the satisfaction that he needed. There was a God shaped hole in his life and none of the money, fine clothes, partying and promiscuity could fill that. When St Francis turned to God he gave every part of himself to God and lived from then on a life of humility and complete devotion. I notice that a lot of the youth culture nowadays is centred around the same ideology that St Francis used to have and it is there for the same reason. Perhaps Pope Francis wants us to realise this and that the only way we can fill that God shaped hole is by turning ourselves towards God. We don’t have to give up every part of our previous life and replace everything with God but rather include him in what we say, do and think. If this is the message that Pope Francis is going to bring about then I think it is the perfect message and I couldn’t think of anything better.
OUR OWN BRITISH BAND, OOBERFUSE SINGING THE OFFICIAL WORLD YOUTH DAY SONG IN ENGLISH. GREAT FOOTAGE FROM LONDON AND RIO DE JANEIRO.
The Mass celebrated by the Holy Father was a beautiful and holy event. We watched the Mass on big screens from the Piazza and followed the celebration along in our booklet, as it was in Latin. This kept us focused, as having the service said in Latin was quite different to what some of us experience every week at our parishes. Near the end, the clergy came outside and distributed Holy Communion to the young people. Then, it was time for the Pope to come out. A young man from East London was the spokesperson for the youth and told the Pope how grateful we were for his presence. Subsequently, the Pope blessed us all and spoke about the importance role of young people in the Church. It was incredible to see him in person after planning for the visit and hearing about him for so long!
At about 3pm we lined up to enter the sectioned off part of Hyde Park that was being used for the Pope’s Vigil. It was a long wait and we entertained ourselves by singing and doing the Mexican wave in the queue. After watching the Pope’s progress in the Popemobile on the big screens, he finally arrived at Hyde Park to rapturous applause, driving around the VIP area where we young people were assembled. The Pope is a charismatic speaker, so his exhortation was very well received. The Vigil was a moving occasion, with a solemn feel during the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament. By the end of the evening, the atmosphere was both sacred and joyful, with singing and chanting. I felt a strong sense of faith and I feel honoured that I was involved in the day. It was a once in a lifetime chance to take part and see the Pope.
Diana Grant-Davie, Sacred Heart Parish in Mill Hill
The secular media was filled with stories that the Pope’s visit did not provoke the riots that they had previously threatened. Pope Benedict XVI came to England and utterly disarmed so many of his opponents by the quiet way in which he went about his business of proclaiming truth.
I have seen this all before. The secular and atheist society promised mass protests at the Sydney World Youth Day in 2008, only to be met by a wave of joyful pilgrims following their loving shepherd. In London, just as in Sydney the response was overwhelming positive.
It was a special privilege for me to represent the Latin Mass Society in the procession at the Hyde Park vigil and to walk under the banner of Our Lady of Walsingham. I pray that we as the Mystical Body of Christ, will respond to the Holy Father’s call to be faithful witnesses to Christ’s Gospel.
I pray that our suffering country will be converted and returned to Christ and Our Lady. Habemus Papam!
On Monday morning I looked at my iPhone and saw a message which read: ‘Have you seen the news? The Pope has resigned!’
In a split second I thought: not another one of those pranks! However I looked again, as the sender was a close friend of mine who simply would not do such a thing. At that very moment my phone rang – another friend confirming the breaking news. Immediately I got back onto my phone and flicked through my twitter account… everything I could read in my timeline was saying Pope Benedict has resigned, Pope Benedict has resigned, Pope Benedict has resigned.
My first reaction was of shock and utter disbelief.
Why is he resigning? Can he do this? These were pressing questions…Where do I begin? Looking back I understand my ignorance of Canon Law did not help but to be honest, this is probably something Catholics are not taught about in great detail at school. Also, I have only experienced two Pontificates and JP2 stayed in office until the end, so naturally my first expectation was that the job of a Pope is until death.
As the day unfolded, I came to understand the resignation of a Pope is not only part of Canon Law but also a norm promulgated by Pope JP2 in 1996 recognising that a vacancy to the office of the Bishop of Rome, i.e. the Pope, can occur as a result of death or a valid resignation. This at least put that matter to rest.
Many other questions were asked but soon my mood changed to thinking about the Pope’s amazing Pontificate of just 8 years. Many have called him a transitional Pope and even he has described himself as a small Pope, but the truth is that for those who remember the Papal visit to the UK in 2010, he is no small or transitional Pope, on the contrary, he is more like THE ROCK. Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK was a very important moment for Catholics in the UK, especially for the young people of the church.
Particularly for me, Hyde Park was a turning point. I remember vividly when the Pope said: ‘The Lord be with you’ and we all exploded: ‘and also with you’. Yes indeed, we were saying the words we say every single Sunday but *to the Pope*. If this was really what being ‘in communion’ felt like, then communion was indeed very good.
Later during the Homily, listening to his words I remember thinking that this was something special: his words resonated as being so immensely profound, relevant and clear. It was like opening a little window in the corner of my life and letting in a flood of light as in his words there was so much teaching. It truly was an experience of enlightenment which awakened my desire to get closer to God and to learn more about my faith and my church.
Towards the end of the Vigil the Pope invited us to attend World Youth Day in Madrid, an invitation accepted by myself and some 3000 other British pilgrims. This was an unprecedented numbers of young British people attending a World Youth Day event.
We left London in the middle of the riots and arrived in Madrid’s scorching summer heat where we joined 2 million others. Pope Benedict was again impeccable with his words, his teaching, wisdom and a gentleness like a loving father. I will never forget the storm and lightning we shared in the Vigil at Cuatro Vientos, which was a near biblical experience. Pope Benedict stayed put with us, like a German Shepherd, and we all got soaking wet.
B16 has undoubtedly been a tremendous gift to young people in the UK. His visit to our country and later WYD Madrid has restored the confidence in our faith. He has taught us to be true to our values amidst the increasing secularisation around us. He has always encouraged us to experience Jesus Christ like a friend through prayer but also through service to others. He has shown us the direction of how to live our faith and now, as he leaves his pontificate and reverts to being Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he shows a great testimony of humility and an example of detachment from earthly titles, teaching us that the role of a Pope is not the role of a king but that of a servant.
Coincidentally, I was thinking recently how different could Rio2013 be to Madrid2011 since it is only one World Youth Day after the other? Well now we know it will be a very different event with nothing less than a new Pope.
We will dearly miss Pope Benedict in Rio de Janeiro but we trust in the decision that he has taken.
Now we eagerly look forward to Rio2013 celebrations with a new Pope. World Youth Day Rio2013 will probably be his first international trip and – with over 2 million attendees – also the biggest.
Yes, all eyes will definitely be on Rio2013.