This is WORLD YOUTH DAY: INSPIRING GENERATIONS Book Feature
A sample of the book can be found on Amazon
I’m Maria Bracken and I have the incredibly exciting task of coordinating the Pilgrimage to WYD RIO July 2013 for the Birmingham Diocese.
Together with our Diocesan WYD Chaplain Fr. Jan Nowotnik we ventured out to RIO for the site visit in September 2012.
We visited all the main WYD sites and had drinks on Copacabana beach with the Liverpool coordinators and the Director of Tour Design, the company who most diocese are travelling with. The beach was beautiful and there was not a moment when we did not feel safe. The hotel had everything we could have hoped for and we we saw that the pilgrims were to be based in a safe location. It is very clear where to go and where not to go at night in RIO.
We spent a morning with the WYD Director at the main offices in RIO and found the set up there to be larger than previous WYD’s and they made it clear they had learnt from the mistakes made in Madrid, Sydney and Cologne and answered all our questions with a great working knowledge of WYD and answers to nearly all the issues raised in the meeting.
The statue of Christ the Redeemer with the outstretched arms is a constant reminder of the risen Christ in RIO. This was reflected in the warmth of the people we met and the mission we encountered in Petropolis.
As a diocese we decided that if we were taking pilgrims to WYD in Brazil, we wanted young people to encounter a mission experience. We are therefore going to work for 5 days on a mission in Petropolis with the brothers of the Christian Life Movement. We will be staying with them and families known to them in the town and head out to the mission each day.
We meet pilgrims every month at St. Chads Cathedral for preparation for WYD. The theme has been broken down into 8 sessions and are led by different members of the planning team.
We are also running a residential at Soli House in February where the 50 pilgrims will meet Ada Collazus from the Christian Life Movement and learn all about working on a mission. We will then spend the afternoon on workshops to be led by our group during our time there. As a pilgrim group we will also be helping out practically in painting and gardening at the local church which overlooks the Christ the redeemer statue on the distant mountains.
To meet the Pope with 2 million young Catholics from 5 continents around the world after experiencing a mission working with the poor in the mountains of Brazil, will be a pilgrimage like no other! An encounter with Christ that will touch the hearts and minds of every young person brave enough to take this step in faith to WYD RIO 2013.
Morning! Been awake an hour and a half now – was woken up by a phone call from Maggie, who wanted to come see our group! Then, as previously arranged, I had a phone call from Rob Dunger, which was broadcast on Radio Suffolk. Just need to put sun cream on now…
All sun creamed up. We’re now waiting for the Holy Father to arrive (again), who will celebrate the Closing Mass of WYD Madrid 2011. “Firmes en La Fe” is playing again – gotta love that hymn now! Everyone’s finally awake and there’s a buzz in the air – no, not the helicopters… I think the storm last night did everyone a favour – it cooled us down, allowed everyone to get much closer in their groups and we all had fun! It din’t rain after I went to sleep, or at least, I wasn’t wet when I woke up! Had a really good night’s sleep last night, which was amazing, considering I was literally in a sleeping bag, no roll mat, no air bed, no nothing, and I still slept well! It’s now getting really warm and it’s gonna get even hotter!
Our priests were up and about really early, as they needed to go and get ready to celebrate Mass with the Pope. They’re showing the thousands of priests on the big screen now and it’s a huge mass of white! Looks amazing! We have no sound again, but we’ll see what happens. Flags are flying and it looks like the King and Queen of Spain are here, walking along with a bishop. Not too sure who he is, but I’m sure it’s someone important.
Sounds like he’s here – just going to have a look. Yep, Mass has started! I would go to the Press Centre, but feel it’s more important to be with my group during the Concluding Mass. A Spanish Cardinal is speaking, apparently welcoming us to the final Mass of WYD. The Holy Father invites us to pray. He’s sprinkled holy water over himself and the rest of the ministers, clergy and other people that are close enough. The Glory to God is being sung – lovely version. The weather’s gorgeous now and it’s only 10am! The speaker allowed the Amen of the Glory to God to roll around for ages – it sounded really good!
First reading is from Isaiah. Of course it’s in Spanish,, but we have the English translation in our Magnificat. The Psalm is Psalm 138. Sounds much more complicated in Spanish! The cantor has a lovely voice – I’d be so scared if I was singing the Psalm during Mass with the Pope. It’s great how many people in our group can sing – just listening to people and I’d say that easily at least 50%, if not more, can really sing! Second reading’s from St Paul second letter to the Corinthians.
And now, the Gospel. The Acclamation is one we know very well! Everyone’s joining in. Found the English translation. “You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church” from Matthew’s Gospel. The Holy Father’s about to give his homily. I love listening to the Holy Father - there’s no mistaking his voice and he always talks directly to us, as opposed to at us, which is just lovely! Ooh, wow, an English bit! Asking us to remain silent and reflect on the Holy Father’s teaching and people are obliging again. It’s absolutely silent here, you could hear a pin drop. Really powerful silence. Awesome. Broken by the Holy Father, praying. I don’t know what we’re supposed to be singing, but it sounds great! I apparently missed the renewal of our baptismal promises, and we are now praying the Prayer of the Faithful. The Litany of the Eucharist now. We’re unable to receive Communion here, by have been encouraged by the Pope to go back to Madrid and find a local church to receive from in place of here. This was all due to the amazing weather last night, causing problems like destroying the adoration places around the airfield at Cuatro Vientos!
I’ve just thought how to describe it here – it’s like a real community of people. Although we don’t all know each other and there are language barriers, that doesn’t matter at all, because we are all celebrating something that is close to everyone’s heart here, and that is Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made for us. Silence again. The Pope is now singing the Preface. I love this, because if Mass is in a foreign language, everyone knows this bit because the tune is absolutely universal.
Sign of peace was amazing – yes, we made the sign of peace with our own group, but other people near us came and were saying “Pax Christi”! Loads of people and it was brilliant! There are no hostile feelings here.
“I, the Lord of sea and sky” is playing and being sung very enthusiastically by our group, as it’s in English! That was fantastic! Loved it!
I believe the cross on the altar is the one that was used for Via Crucis, although I could be completely wrong! I’ve got no idea how long Communion will last for, but I’m really grateful that everyone around is quiet. Oh, nope, that was it! Prayer time after Communion now, and again, we’re asked to stay quiet. Really amazing two million people being quiet can be! (If you know what I mean!)
We’ll shortly be finding out where the next WYD is going to be held. Are the rumours correct? Is it going to be Rio? We’ll have to wait and see. The Pope is being thanked for the YouCat book which each and every pilgrim received in the Pilgrim Packs. It was a personal gift from the Holy Father. Young people from around the world are being gifted with a cross, which they are about to receive. 5 people are lucky enough to receive their crosses directly from the Holy Father. How incredible must they be feeling right now?
It’s in Rio! In 2013! Wow, 2 years to get all that money together! We’ll do it though – it always come together! He was speaking in English, sending blessings on us until we meet again in just 2 years’ time. He’s just given the Angelus. Hail Mary in Latin – gorgeous! Blessings are extended through us to our loved ones back home. “Firmes en La Fe” yet again – great! There’s a real concept of oneness here.
That’s it! All done! Until 2 years’ time, that is. Rio will be amazing! Might even be better organised than Spain! Everyone’s packing up now, starting to head back to their accommodation, or wherever they’re staying. It has been such an inspiration time here in Spain, with some lows, many highs and oh so many laughs! It’s been great and I think I speak for lots of people when I say that my faith has been deepened and I’m even prouder to say that I am a practising Catholic that I was before! Now to return to our parishes across the world and explain and inspire people about WYD and encourage them to come to the next one! It’s been simply amazing!
I’ll keep on blogging for a while, just to wrap things up, but that’s it from me for now! Many thanks to everyone that’s read my posts! I really hope these two aren’t too lengthy for you!
I should probably explain before I start blogging properly – I started writing this down in my notepad just before the Pope arrived for the Vigil last night and I’ve written exactly what I am seeing and thinking to try and give you an idea of the excitement and feelings of the general group, so please forgive sentences not making sense, or things being missed out, or things jumping around a bit. Enjoy!
At the moment, the Holy Father is on his way to Cuatro Vientos to celebrate a night Vigil. There is literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people here. It was really sunny earlier, so much so that we nearly had one person go to hospital with sunstroke! Plus, all of us have been burnt somewhere or other, although the water fight between myself, Fr Martin, Julia and Hannah was really refreshing! However, now, it looks as though we’re in for a proper thunderstorm! Oh, make that thunder and lightening as well!
Everyone is very excited – the hosts are encouraging people to shout and sing and dance and, my goodness, are they obliging! If I stand up, I can actually see the stage where the Vigil will take place. From where I’m sat, I can see hundreds of people, a random kite, loads of flags from around the world and the potential firework display, of which there will be a picture put up in the gallery that I’m going to make on here.
We’re all waiting in anticipation for the arrival of the rain, I mean, *ahem*, the Holy Father, who should be here in a very few minutes! The group next to us have just started singing and dancing, and appear to have used one of our songs that we taught people in Zaragoza! That’s what WYD is all about though.
He’s here now! “Benedicto!” is being chanted all over the place – everyone’s standing up, watching the big screens to see exactly what the Pope is doing. The atmosphere’s electric (literally, with the lightening!) The music’s started, so out come the Magnificats, given to us in our Pilgrim Packs. There’s cheering and a general hubbub of excitement has come over the airfield. Three of our group, Leah, Pete and Ciaran, were lucky enough to get seats from three rows from the very front. The WYD hymn is being sung now – “Firmes in La Fe” (Firm in the Faith) and I’m singing along as is everyone else! It’s brilliant!
“Esta es la juventud en Papa!” is another chant that’s everyone knows and is being said at the moment.
With the cloud cover has come darkness, although it looks set to end with the sun coming back over the horizon, so we might not get wet after all! There’s a lovely echo going on, as we’re within earshot of around 4 different speakers. Scrap that – I just saw a bolt of lightening! And another one! Over the back, I can see another Union Jack and I’m thinking just how lucky we are to be as close (ha!) to the front as we are. The WYD hymn’s ended and the Pope has sat in his chair. Everyone’s going crazy! Such an atmosphere here, we’re trying to find the English translation on the radio. Think we just have. People are sitting down, the Pope is meeting a few young people.
It’s started. The Pope blesses us. I’ve just got my copy of the Magnificat out so that I can know what’s going on. The procession from the Cross to the Light is happening and “Firmes en La Fe” is playing prayerfully in the background. And it’s finally started raining! Out come the waterproofs and umbrellas and any other means of staying dry. Wow, just like England! Oh, I’ve just read the words to “Firmes en La Fe” on a page of the Magnificat and apparently, they’re not the same as we learnt! Oh well, I’ll keep singing it the way I know it! And the thunder starts… It’s going to be an interesting night! At least it’s cooler now! I’m now hiding underneath Fr Martin’s roll mat! Sound system appears to have gone down – oh wait, it’s back! Ignore that bit…
Here comes the Gospel reading now. And the storm starts – it’s a mad rush to get under cover and keep important things dry, including my notepad! The Holy Father is now delivering his homily, though we can’t hear a thing – it’s really windy and the sound’s down again. Can’t seem to see him either, as he’s being covered up by an umbrella! It’s nearly stopped raining, so Fr Martin and I are no longer hiding under his rollmat – the temperature has cooled right down now and everyone’s happy again, singing, chanting and cheering. We can almost hear the Holy Father now! Just hushing everyone up – or trying to.
Can’t quite believe that everywhere I look, there’s more and more people! It’s the largest gathering I’ve ever been to – it’s simply incredible! We’re all here for one reason as well, which makes it all the more special – we are, as young Catholics from around the world, celebrating the fact that we are Catholic and we are having a huge party to allow the world to realise that. Not all teenagers are the yobs that make it on to the news. Most of the ‘good’ ones, as it were, are never seen on the news, because the press simply aren’t interested, as it’s not a ‘stereotypical teenager’, which is so unfair on the majority of teens.
Anyway, back to the Vigil and singing “Firmes en La Fe” again! 4th time tonight, maybe? We still have no idea what’s going on, we don’t know if benediction’s happened or not, because we really cannot hear!
I can’t believe I’ve just done that – I’ve had to put my WYD hoodie on! It’s Madrid, in the middle of August! This shouldn’t be happening! Ooh, the sound’s working again! Think I’ve found where we are, but I’m not too sure! Ah – at the benediction point now. People seem to be getting the idea that if they can, they should really been kneeling down. The music that’s being played and sung is lovely – such an awesome choir tonight, who are doing us Catholic singers and musicians proud! Really reflective – it’s very moving. I wonder how our three at the front are finding it? The quietness of 98% of the people here shows just how important Catholicism is to the world, even though there’s only around 2% of the world’s Catholics here at this moment in time. The Holy Father says a prayer, allowing for a period of adoration before benediction. A round of applause ripples through the pilgrims here at Cuatro Vientos after the Holy Father finishes a prayer. Wow, we’re now singing “Tantem Ergo” – I always love this part and it’s absolutely stunning, maybe even more so than the Papal visit to the UK last year, when the same thing was happening. Benediction.
It’s raining again now, but the fireworks were absolutely breathtaking! It’s been such a fantastic evening. Now all we can do is hope and pray that the rain will go away. Typically, the sound is working again, but that’s OK! These things happen! That seems like it for tonight, so I will start writing again tomorrow morning! Now to attempt to get some sleep in the mass of thousands of people in our section!
This is going to be the last post from our groups – I’m taking the blog back over for the Vigil and Closing Mass!
For lunch today, we were fortunate enough to meet up with the WYD group from Battambang, Cambodia. The Diocese of East Anglia are twinned with the Diocese of Battambang, and Cambodia was always very close to Bishop Michael’s heart, so he was very much in the centre of all our minds today. We shared our WYD experiences so far, and previous WYDs if we had been before. We also shared dances, songs and prayers. Bishop Michael was loved by both dioceses, and Fr Luke emphasised this by saying that even though we are from completely different parts of the world and have very different walks of life, we are not alone in our faith, and this struck home for many of us, especially with seeing so many other young Catholics around the world just on the streets of Madrid!
A brisk walk later and the group were ready in position for Via Crucis, The Way of the Cross, or simply, the Stations of the Cross. We were very lucky to get a position between Stations 8 and 9 in preparation for the Stations, led by the Pope later that evening. Many thanks to Paul, Pete, Ciaran and the others for finding the space and holding the fort until the rest of us got there!
Via Crucis itself was absolutely amazing! The huge bonus was that the Pope was driven right past us in the Popemobile and we have a few videos and pictures of him waving at the crowds of people. We were all shouting, screaming, waving, and singing as he went past, but as soon as the Stations started, then silence fell over the pilgrims. The whole things was just incredible, so after an hour and a half of the Stations (there was singing between each Station and a cross travelling between them held by young Catholics in different situations), we had another surprise as the Pope came back exactly the way he had come! Seeing the Pope twice in one day was amazing! Completely made up for the disappointment of yesterday, which was really good. We felt as though WYD had really started then!
We’re off to Cuatro Vientos tomorrow for the Vigil with the Pope! Looking forward to it!
The Green Team – The Dream Team
Sorry for the late update – been stuck on a field all night without internet! Anyway, enjoy:
After lunch in various local restaurants, with some unlucky East Anglians waiting two hours for food and Fr Luke losing his Metro travel pass, we all went back to our accommodation to gather things and in some cases, picnics. We then set off for the Papal arrival.
We made our way into the Masses swarming around the Plaza de Cibeles.
Having secured space next to the barriers to the road we thought the Pope would be travelling down in the Popemobile. We then experienced the world’s largest party (until the Vigil on Saturday night) where we danced with people around the world until the coverage started on the big screen.
We watched the Pope walk through the city gates and officially enter Madrid.
The Holy Father then presided over a welcome service, which we all greatly enjoyed.
Unfortunately, in comparison to previous WYDs, the Pope did not travel throughout the city to greet all the pilgrims, so we didn’t actually manage to see him in person.
On the morning of the 19th, we went to Catechesis at the Jesuit church, St Francisco de Borja, to listen to Cardinal George of Chicago, Illinois, USA, talk about being a witness to Christ. We then celebrated Mass together, which was brilliant, because it was in English!
The Blue Group – The Smurfs