Updated: Feb 4, 2019
And so WYD officially begins!
Yesterday we finally began to experience the awesomeness that is World Youth Day. In the morning we squeezed onto a bus and headed to our first event for the day, the Australian Gathering. It was truly wonderful to be surrounded by true blue ’Strayin engery and joy as we heard from a series of speakers such as Archbishop Christopher Prowse reminding us why we are here… to say dare to say “yes!”. He inspired us to jump headfirst into the #lit pilgrimage experience so that we don’t experience spiritual FOMO. God bless him! And he’s right. We do need to give all that we have to this experience, happily sacrificing smaller comforts in order to receive far greater blessings. We in fact experienced this first hand during the gathering. Despite the event being held in the parking lot of a church, rocks as the ground and no shade to boot, three of our pilgrims, Liam Beatty (BCE), Jenai Stone (Cairns) and Natashia Stephens (Rockhampton) helped with the Liturgy. We were all so happy for them as they stood on the stage, proudly wearing their Australian flag, each leading us in the rosary. It was a beautiful moment for our group and definately worth the uncomfortable heat and floor. I’d like to take this opportunity to also thank ACBC for organsing such a wonderful event and for including us in it!
By 12pm the event was over and it was time to make our way to the Opening Mass site. Now, WYD has a way of making even the most well thoughtout plans redundant in an instant. Take our travels to the Mass site as an example. We had planned plenty of time to casually make our way from one end city to the other, grab a quick bite to eat and get settled in our spot. Well, our quick bite to eat turned into lines a mile long while our casual walk turned into 33 melted pilgrims held together entirely by bottles of hydrolite. The heat in Panama is truly something else… However, again Archbishop Prowse’s words were made reality when small sacrifices turned into wonderful blessings. Josh O’Keeffe (BCE) for example received a very unexpected ticket to ground “zero” for the Opening Mass which is essentially a seat in front of the stage among the priests. I’ll let Josh tell his story in his own way however the look on his face when he returned to the group at the end of the Mass certainly glowed with joy.
The rest of our group experienced the #litMass while sitting beside the Pacific Ocean, and what an experience! As the sunset behind the altar, we sung, danced, prayed and listened together as one international church. Many of us listened in to the radio to hear the Mass interpreted in real time, however the beauty of the Church is that we all knew where we were in the ritual and what was happening. Noone was excluded, all were welcome. During the Homily, the Archbishop of Panama stated that the church believes and hopes in young people. He reflected that: “Young people search for witnesses… for someone to show you God with their life”. He then empowered us to be saints who transform reality, defending migrants, seeking justice, praying and loving our community, living the mercy of God and sharing with our neighbour. Living as a saint is not an easy challenge to say “yes” to… so the question then remains… do we dare?
As I felt the breeze come in from the water, I couldn’t help but think of you, our pilgrim companions. All that separated us during the Mass was that ocean. I’d like to think then that part of you was in that breeze and celebrating with us and being part of our encounter with the spirit. So, don’t worry everyone no #spiritFOMO for you because you were there too ;)