Let me begin by saying that I recently had the privilege of traveling to Krakow, Poland this summer to join what amounted to be over 1.5 million young people from around the world celebrating their Catholic faith in the presence of our Holy Father Pope Francis, hundreds of bishops, thousands of priests & religious, and even thousands more adult chaperones, who walked with them on this great pilgrimage! What was started some 30 years before by the late Pope John Paul II to gather the Catholic youth of the world, this 31st World Youth Day was a joy to walk with a dozen youth from a local Boston parish and to see them touched by the joy of the Holy Spirit blowing ‘where He will’, strengthened in their Catholic faith, and (soon) departing for their homes yearning for more true experiences of faith and opportunities to both grow in and share their Catholic faith in the world!
It all began with the official Tuesday evening Opening Mass of World Youth Day by the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. During each of the three following days of World Youth Day leading up to the great weekend encounter with the Holy Father, there are three-hour morning catechetical events taking place in hundreds of locations and in different languages. Thousands of (in our case, eighteen thousand) youth gathered for a teaching by a Bishop, several witness talks by peers, and a period of praise & worship, followed by the Holy Mass presided over by that Bishop. These three-hour mornings gave our youth a great infusion of Catholic life where they learned more about being Catholic, seeing the importance of the faith in their lives, and encountering Christ Jesus in the Sacraments, both Eucharist and Confession, which was held often and at every turn!
|Stained glass windows of Pauline Saints in chapel of PDDM in Warsaw.|
Their afternoons and evenings were filled with events hosted by larger movements or communities within the Universal Church, visits to numerous Catholic churches where they could see elements of the vibrant 1,000-year history of Catholicism in Poland, and encounters with the lives of two great contemporary Polish saints of our day: Pope John Paul II and Sr. Faustina Kowalska! After a long history of great Polish saints, these two great figures offered our youth vibrant witnesses to the mercy of God through Apostolic and Contemplative lives and a call to be witnesses themselves to the most necessary gift of our day for young and old alike: God’s Divine Mercy!
After the Thursday evening official welcome of Pope Francis and the Friday evening contemporary celebration of the Stations of Cross with the Pope, the high point of the week-long Catholic celebration is the long-awaited overnight when 1.5 million youth walked some 8 miles to Campus Misericordae (The Campus of the Mercy, near the world renown underground Wieliczka Salt Mine). Here their day-long convergence brought them together from (almost) every nation and language on the cusp of the great Saturday evening Vigil: a prayer service of music, witness talks, a talk by Pope Francis, and silent Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, under a starry night of absolute silence and prayer - and when you could have heard a pin drop! This powerful evening is followed up after a long night of sleeping out under the stars (without any cover and ‘side-by-side’) with the celebration of the Holy Mass on Sunday morning presided over by Pope Francis, hundreds of bishops, and a thousand priests!
With the Mass ending with Pope Francis’ announcement that the next international World Youth Day in 2019 will be in Panama City, our 1.5 million youth began the shortest part of the ‘rest of their lives’ with the 8 mile walk back to their temporary homes in Krakow, and the first leg of their becoming witnesses to the world of God’s great Mercy!
|PDDM in Shrine of Częstochowa, Poland|
|PDDM sister in Warsaw, Poland|
|Sr Mary Louise O'Rourke from Dublin, Ireland|
‘Providentially’ meeting Sr. Mary Louise O'Rourke from Dublin, Ireland in the middle of a field of 1.5 million youth; and while out for an evening stroll on the streets of Warsaw, meeting Sisters of the Warsaw PDDM. Paulines can indeed feel at home wherever we go!
So now, how about making World Youth Day in 2019 in Panama City a real Pauline Pilgrimage? It’s never too early to begin planning! (See you there!)
Fr. Ed was ordained to the priesthood in May 2000 for the Archdiocese of Boston. He was assigned to three different parishes in the Archdiocese from 2000-2010, when he was appointed to the Faculty of Saint John's Seminary, Boston, where he is Dean of Men and Director of Pastoral Formation. He is also the Spiritual Director & Liaison in the Archdiocese to Homeschooling Families as well as the Spiritual Director for the World Apostolate of Fatima (Boston Division). He recently made his First Profession in the Pauline Family Institute of Jesus the Priest.