Today was the final day of catechesis and my group and several others traveled the metro to a large arena where the Knights of Columbus held their Life and Love Center. We were treated to the Curtis Steven Band playing exceptional praise and worship music that had the kids rocking and praying! Our speaker was New York's own Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who is the president of the USCCB. He was a remarkable speaker and we commented on our ride home how joyful a man he is. An inspiring speech on four ways to follow Jesus was landscaped with wonderful stories that drove his point home.
Archbishop Dolan celebrated Mass for this massive crowd and had no difficulty rousing the youth when he identified each nation present. You would have been so proud of our kids!!! Their enthusiastic call was heard in the rafters.
There were hundreds of priests, including our own, and many bishops who concelebrated this truly moving Mass. I was impressed with the efficiency of the organizers who had priests giving Communion in all the right places for smooth transition.
The funniest thing though ... Our own Deacon Jacob Meyers was assistant to the Archbishop, who in his speech made a joke about his own weight. When Deacon Jacob laughed, the archbishop, who is a truly comical and down to earth man, asked him what he was laughing at, much to the crowd's delight. At the closing of Mass the Archbishop put his arm on Deacon Jacob's shoulder and said he will make a good priest and bishop. We all got a belly laugh out of that.
Our Church has some very holy, intelligent and personable men who can inspire one to draw closer to the Lord. This man is one of them. We all agreed it was the best session yet!
We met after lunch as a large group to go over the itinerary for the weekend and share some inspiring stories of miracle moments we have experienced along the path of this journey. We have all been touched in some way and are looking forward to sharing that with you all when we return.
So tomorrow, Saturday, we have morning Mass back at the K of C center with all Americans who are in attendance at WYD. Grab lunch on the way home and start our trek to the vigil site at 2 p.m. It is approximately 8 miles. (Not complaining, but wow do my feet hurt already!)
We'll spend the night there (it's an airfield I'm told) with opportunities for Reconciliation, Adoration, prayer groups and more. We even get to peruse the venders who will be available. The excitment is growing daily, as you can imagine, and we are ready to be with Pope Benedict in a prayerful liturgy on Sunday.
Tonight after the meeting we all journeyed down to the Plaza de Cibeles where we lined the streets with the thousands of other believers who awaited the pope's arrival for the impressive and powerful Stations of the Cross. I'm not kidding when I say you can not imagine the enthusiasm of these people for their pope. Masses of humanity were cheering and swaying as he drove by in the pope mobile. And yes, I did have a personal glimpse of the great sheperd of our Church this time. It was indescribable! He has a very gentle face. And I saw joy— the joy of the Lord that I have been hearing about in the catechesis sessions this week. I was deeply moved by this event! My group was so excited that they were jumping, singing and dancing. Amazing!
As the solemn Stations began our group read each Station in English, using our WYD booklets, as they were presented in Spanish. I found it truly inspiring that the crowds were respectful and quiet as each reflection was read. Each one had it's own intention, such as for the handicapped, those suffering or marginalized, unemployment, and my group was moved once again by the mercy of our God. We watched on big screen as the WYD cross traveled to each Station site and in awe of the beauty of each construction.
We made our way through the massive crowds with a stop at the VIP store where we can purchase food with WYD vouchers and headed home.
Well, I'm off to pack for tomorrow's pilgrimage to our vigil site. May our heavenly Father light your way as He lights ours on this journey of faith. I hope to be able to download some memorable photos on Sunday night. Please pray for our group and all the young pilgrims from around the world that they might experience a deepening of faith in our Savior. We need these young people to change the world for the better. And their faith will show them the way!
So until Paris, know that you all are in our prayers. (Oh, and pray for good internet!)
P.S. Your kids miss you. Just thought you'd like to know that!