Thursday, August 25, 2011

WYD part 3

Continuing the impossible task of setting my World Youth Day experience in words.

As I briefly mentioned, I spent Monday evening/night with a group from Edmonton, Alberta (hereafter known as Alberta group 1... or my (adopted) group). We got tapas that evening and then I stayed the night with them.

Tuesday morning I had to go to registration. There were some problems: because I registered so late, I never actually got a "pilgrim registration email" and they didn't want to give me my meal tickets and transportation pass without that. Finally, it got worked out and I left the office with my backpack, meal tickets, transportation pass, and some of the books/maps (not everything was in my backpack). After registration I went to the Love & Life Centre which was a "home" for English speaking pilgrims sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Sisters of Life.

First on the schedule was the opening concert by L'Angelus (a Catholic Cajun band of four siblings from Louisiana). They were awesome! Not only was the group itself great, they also had their little siblings perform with them. Here's a clip with all of them -- not from the concert but still at WYD... the little twin boys are named Maximilian and Kolbe.. how cute is that! I don't typically listen to that type of music but they are enthusiastic performers and it was very enjoyable.

Fr. Robert Barron spoke next, giving a preview of his new tv series "Catholicism." If you are in the States, I highly recommend this series which will start in the fall on both EWTN and PBS to anyone who is Catholic or interested in Catholicism... especially the historical aspects of it. Apparently, Fr. Barron will be the first Catholic priest to have a show on public tv since the 1950's (Archbishop Fulton Sheen).

A lot of people left at that point to head over to the Opening of WYD Mass but I stayed at the Love & Life Centre for Catholic Underground with Eucharistic Adoration. It was amazing but I basically missed Mass because of it.

By the time I got out of Adoration, there was only an hour before Mass and I ended up on the very fringe of the crowd -- well outside of the area with screens and speakers (I'm sure I was at least a mile away from the actual Mass). That was incredibly frustrating and I ended up leaving before Mass was over (I couldn't see, couldn't hear, and I didn't have the English liturgy booklet so I couldn't follow along). At that point, things got a little funky. I had hoped to run into the Alberta group 1 at some point during the day but that didn't happen (something about there being a few hundred thousand - literally - people there made that difficult). Since I didn't, I found myself wandering home... only I didn't know exactly where "home" was. Somehow, I didn't have the address of the church which was my "home base." I wasn't even sure what metro stop I would have to go to -- much less how to get back from the metro. This sent me into quite a panic. I managed to find an information center with some volunteers and thankfully, I at least knew the name of the church. They managed to point me in the right direction and I made my way to the metro. While riding back, I met another group from Edmonton (Alberta group 2) and rode the rest of the way home with them. When we got back to the church, one of the volunteers took me over to my host family's house. That was when I met my "Spanish Grandma" Filo (short for Filomena).

Suffice it to say staying with Filo and her husband was a fascinating experience. I don't speak Spanish although I can understand a little thanks to studying French and Italian. Filo doesn't speak English. I'm used to not understanding everything (in Hungarian) but being completely unable to communicate was something I'm less comfortable with. We made it work though. She and her husband were incredibly sweet and accommodating. Unlike 99% of the pilgrims I actually had a bed (which I didn't really tell anyone during WYD... didn't want to rub it in) and Filo even insisted on doing my laundry later in the week. Staying there, I learned an interesting fact about differences between Spanish and Hungarian culture: both have greeting kisses on both cheeks (or the air next to your cheek) but in Spain it's left then right and in Hungary it's right then left side. That took me a little while to get used to.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings were spent in catechesis at the L&L Centre. A traditional part of WYD, this consists of the pilgrims being split into language groups (there were 250 of these catechesis sites all over the city ... 24 in English and the rest in all sort of languages from Spanish to Hungarian, Arabic to Mandarin). In each of the sites, the pilgrims gather to hear teachings from a bishop/archbishop/cardinal in their language and then celebrate Mass. There are also other speakers or music groups before the main address. On Wednesday, Cardinal Pell from Sydney, Australia spoke on belief in God being rational. He gave some funny statistics on how it is more likely for a chimp to produce a Shakespearean sonnet than for amino acids to randomly arrange themselves in a way to produce life without someone/something prompting it. Thursday, Archbishop Miller from Vancouver, Canada spoke about the parable of the wise man building his house on the rock and the importance of building our lives on the Rock of Christ and His Church. "Lose yourself in Jesus to find out who you really are," he encouraged us. He was preceded by Jason and Crystalina Everett who shared their experiences on the importance of chastity. I hadn't heard them speak before and found them very real and engaging with some humor thrown in for good measure: "Daily Mass is only for those who have nothing better to do ... which is all of us!" Our final catechesis was lead by Archbishop Dolan of NYC. He gave a very practical talk on ways to witness to the faith, listing four main points: charity, joy, hope, and love for the Church. He also repeated a short prayer over and over which was ironic because of something that happened Thursday night (my "infamous" run-in with Cardinal Erdo -- my archbishop -- story here!). The Masses which followed were enormous -

30 bishops at each of the first two days and closer to 50 on Friday

250-350 priests depending on the day
(that white stream.. coming from the right side and filling up the seats on either side of the floor -- that's all priests)

On Wednesday, I went to catechesis with the Alberta group 2. Afterwards, we tried to see Christopher West but the line was too long for us to get in. We did a little shopping and then headed home "early" for a prayer service at 9pm followed by dinner hosted by our church. The evening ended with the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona match. I went back to Filo's house and went to bed before the match ended... she told me she and her husband were praying for Real Madrid to win but I heard the next day that despite a valiant effort Barcelona won.

While I was very grateful that the Alberta group 2 welcomed me on Wednesday, they were quite a bit younger than the first group. Of course there is nothing wrong with that and I was glad to have met them. However, given the choice, I would rather spend time with late college/grad school/working young adults over high school/early college students. Because of this and the fact that timing worked out well, I spent Thursday (and then Friday-Sunday) with Alberta group 1. At that point I was pretty much "adopted" as part of the group -- they even told me I was an "honorary Canadian" for the week!

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