• Steph Unger

Now of God

Well, as I thought would happen, World Youth Day week became all consuming, hence the radio silence on the blog for the last little while.

To be honest, I don't really even know where to start. The last couple of days of World Youth Day were a challenge to say the least, with a nasty cold being shared around, the seemingly endless walking, out of control heat and the lack of sleep. Yet, all the while our smiles, laughter and joy prevailed right through the 15k pilgrim walk to the Final Mass site, through the dusty and rocky sleep-out and right through the struggle of a walk home. Maybe it was the Vigil dinner of tinned sausages with 30% mechanically reconstructed chicken that kept our spirits up (they were actually pretty tasty). Or, perhaps it was the slightly disproportionately excited 6am "Beunas Dias Panama!" wake up call that got us through... yeah... no...! More than likely, it was Papa Francisco, the energy of the 600,000 pilgrims and the sheer delight in having walked the journey together that had us randomly bursting into singing "Bless the Lord oh my soul".

It's hard to put into words why the Vigil and the Final Mass were so special, but somehow you just can't help but encounter the "other" in an atmosphere so thick with solidarity. All 600,000 of us walked together in the blazing sun, all of us waited patiently together for the sun to go down and to finally bask in the cool evening breeze. All the pilgrims from every corner of the world stood silently together during adoration, listened intently to every word the Pope spoke and excitedly dug through our green food bags to discover what we would be rustling up for dinner. We each gave a silent prayer of gratitude to God for the packet of Baby Wipes found in our food bags and relished the wet-wipe shower we took before preparing for bed. Each of us got into our sleeping bags trying not to think about the state of the port-a-loos in the morning and praying for sleep. We all woke up (there was literally no choice in that matter thanks to the morning MC who was far to insistent on getting us all up at the crack of dawn) full of anticipation for the day to come and all 600,000 of us gathered around the altar in communion with one another during the Final Mass.

In experiencing all that was the last two days of World Youth Day, the challenges, the joys and everything in between, we all knew exactly what Pope Francis was talking about in the Final Mass Homily when he spoke about the "now of God". "God is real because love is real: God is concrete because love is concrete" declared Pope Francis. "You, young people are not the future but the now of God". We, the young pilgrim people, in our solidarity and overflowing joy were love to each other, making God concrete through and to each other. We were, and still are, the now of God.

Many of our pilgrims received "ground zero" tickets getting them onto the stage or close to it for each event with the Pope.

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