Were you in Madrid this summer for World Youth Day? Were you, like so many others, in the middle of an immense sea of people unable to get the view you wanted? WYD Madrid just uploaded this video to their still-active YouTube page, a one hour look back at whole week of WYD. Titled “The Story of an Unforgettable Week”, the video includes footage from TeleMadrid and 13TV, the official broadcasters of World Youth Day Madrid. You’ll enjoy the excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s homilies.
Thousands of pilgrims celebrate despite being denied access to Papal vigil & mass
By Mari Alvarez
1.5 million people attended the 2011 World Youth Day (WYD) Papal vigil and mass in Madrid, Spain, but I was not one of them. Despite travelling from Canada and holding valid passes purchased a year in advance, our group of 67 pilgrims from Sacred Heart Parish in Uxbridge, Ontario was denied entrance into the grounds due to an error that left nearly 20,000 pilgrims with valid entry passes stranded outside the grounds.
“The grounds are full. The gates are closed” we were informed by the guards without further explanation. We looked around and realized that we had been diverted with the rest of the multitude into an overflow holding ground originally planned to hold the thousands of pilgrims who would arrive without passes to the grounds. Another stranded group from Mexico explained to us, “We have passes too. We have been waiting for two hours. It’s a disaster. The system failed and the grounds are at capacity. They can’t let anyone else in for safety reasons -people would get crushed.” We looked around at the desert-like wasteland around us and realized that this was it. We could either spend the vigil here and watch it on the giant screen or fight our way through the multitude to go in search of a hostel to spend the night. We decided to stay, but our troubles were not over yet. We soon realized that we had also lost access to our meals and would be spending the night hungry. A few hours later, some of the volunteers, sympathetic to the plight of the pilgrims outside, began to pass food over the fence. The situation resembled a refugee camp and for the first time in my life, I had a taste of what it feels like to be on the other side of the fence. On the one side of the fence was the promise land (an organized space with grass and tarmac and all the provisions we required) and on the other side was the desert (a field of dirt where we would go hungry). A double barbed wire fence patrolled by police separated the one from the other and we were on the wrong side. The situation was tense, with some pilgrims trying to force their way in, but the vast majority accepted their lot and sat in groups, praying, singing and continuing to celebrate with un-dampened spirits. Not even the lighting storm that followed drove them away.
In the midst of all these difficulties, I was challenged to turn to my faith for meaning. It has always been in the times of my life that I have suffered the most that I have felt closest to God. Perhaps it’s because at these times, by heart is most open to Him. Through secular eyes, the evening was a complete failure, but through the eyes of faith, there is good to be found even in the midst of affliction. My grandmother used to say, “No hay mal que por bien no venga.” It is Spanish for, “There is nothing bad that does not come for a greater good.” Although our experience of the Papal Vigil and Mass was not what we had expected, it was exactly what we needed. As Canadians, we have grown up on the “right” side of the fence; in a first world country where justice, comfort and security are the norm. Most of the world has not been so blessed. This experience opened my eyes and left a deep and lasting impression on me of what life is like on the other side of the fence.
In the introduction to YOUCAT, the special youth catechism book that all the WYD pilgrims received as a gift from the Holy Father, Pope Benedict says: “You need God’s help if your faith is not going to dry up like a dewdrop in the sun, if you want to resist the blandishments of consumerism, if your love is not to drown in pornography, if you are not going to betray the weak and leave the vulnerable helpless.” This experience helped me to grow in a deeper understanding of those words; in particular in understanding that as privileged citizens of the promise land of the first world, we cannot ignore the plight of those who are on the other side of the fence in the developing world. They are fellow members of the body of Christ to which we all belong.
The theme of WYD was, “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.” A garden needs to be weeded before flowers can be planted. Likewise, vice (weeds) need to be uprooted from the soul before virtues (flowers) can be planted. I believe that this experience served as a kind of “weeding” for our souls to uproot the vices of greed, gluttony, consumerism and individualism that plague us in the first world so that the virtues of charity and true love of neighbour could be planted. It was not what we expected, but we accepted it joyfully and managed to even sing in the rain. May God be praised forever and ever. Amen.
Mari Alvarez is a teacher at Sacred Heart CSS in Newmarket. She travelled as a leader to WYD11 with the pilgrim group from Sacred Heart Parish in Uxbridge, Ontario.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
Dear Friends of Salt and Light,
It would take me a good week to respond to all of the mail, e-mails, calls and messages we received over the past two weeks as Salt and Light Television tried our best to bring you World Youth Day 2011. Thank you for your very kind messages of affirmation and encouragement. The line that keeps showing up in the messages is: “We felt like we were there with you!”
Our signal was carried not only across Canada, but also in the USA and Australia, and to many people who joined our audio broadcasts on the Catholic Channel of Sirius Radio in the USA as well as on Radio Maria Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world watched World Youth Day through the lenses of Salt and Light Television in Canada.
It is the day after the concluding mass of Spain’s 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid. Hundreds of thousands of “pilgrims” are still roaming the streets of Madrid with their flags and songs. Hundreds of buses are now being loaded with luggage and weary pilgrims as they return to various destinations of Europe. Madrid’s Barajas airport is probably experiencing the busiest day of its history as pilgrims fly off to the four corners of the earth. Those of us who worked on the event, and covered it through media outlets from throughout the world (6000+ journalists formally accredited to the event!) were able to sleep a bit this morning! Many of us picked up summer colds with the extreme heat outdoors and heavily air conditioned hotel rooms! [Read more...]
After thanking WYD volunteers, Benedict XVI left immediately for Madrid’s Barajas airport. In the presence of Spain’s King and Queen, he thanked the Spanish authorities and assured the country of his prayers. He specifically mentioned his concern for those suffering from the high rate of unemployment in Spain.
The Holy Father called Spain “a great nation” that is “capable of moving forward without surrendering its profoundly religious and Catholic soul.”
The Pope also congratulated pilgrims for their “joyful, enthusiastic and intense presence.” He says they will be returning home as “missionaries of the Gospel” who will help their friends “discover that loving Christ means living life to the full”.
The papal plane is expected to land at Rome’s Ciampino Airport at 9:30pm local time.
The English translation of the Pope’s farewell address is posted below.
Dear Young People,
In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15). He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfilment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father. For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received. Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better. They realize that he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is he really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?
The Gospel we have just heard (cf. Mt 16:13-20) suggests two different ways of knowing Christ. The first is an impersonal knowledge, one based on current opinion. When Jesus asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, the disciples answer: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. In other words, Christ is seen as yet another religious figure, like those who came before him. Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds with what is the first confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth.
Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven”. Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.
And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus. Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.
Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.
Jesus’ responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”. What do these words mean? Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God.
The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.
Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.
Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.
Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.
Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affection. I commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word. I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day. May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.
- Photo Credit © M.Mazur/www.thepapalvisit.org.uk
The official World Youth Day website has published a translation of the full address that Benedict XVI intended to give at the WYD Vigil. Due to heavy wind and rain, the Pope limited his spoken remarks to the greetings to the different language groups at the end of his address. The vigil resumed following a brief delay as the weather passed.
Dear Young Friends,
I greet all of you, especially the young people who have asked me their questions, and I thank them for the sincerity with which they set forth their concerns, that express the longing which all of you have to achieve something great in life, something which can bring you fulfillment and happiness.
How can a young person be true to the faith and yet continue to aspire to high ideals in today’s society? In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus gives us an answer to this urgent question: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).
Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God. To abide in his love, then, means living a life rooted in faith, since faith is more than the mere acceptance of certain abstract truths: it is an intimate relationship with Christ, who enables us to open our hearts to this mystery of love and to live as men and women conscious of being loved by God.
Before leading the World Youth Day Vigil, Pope Benedict met with young people with physical and mental disabilities. He visited the San José Institute, which assists in their care and specializes in treating epilepsy. 120 patients and workers from several Spanish centres were present, along with the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela.
On stage, the Pope was joined by ten youth, who gave the Pope gifts that included a painting by a young person with disabilities. A welfare centre was then dedicated to Benedict XVI.
Here is the full text of the Pope’s address:
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Priests and Religious of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God,
Dear Young People, Family Members and Volunteers,
I thank you most sincerely for your kind greeting and heartfelt welcome.
This evening, just before the Prayer Vigil with the young people from throughout the world gathered in Madrid for this World Youth Day, we have this chance to spend time together as a way of showing the Pope’s closeness and esteem for each of you, for your families and for all those who help and care for you in this Foundation of Saint Joseph’s Institute.
A university education is about more than attaining technical ability or satisfying the demand for labor, says Pope Benedict. The Holy Father reflected on the role of the university during a meeting with young professors at the Basilica of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. His address followed his meeting with young women religious.
“This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread,” said the pontiff. He compared this “reductionist and curtailed vision” with what he described as “the authentic idea of the University”.
“Teaching is not just about communicating content,” he explained, “but about forming young people.” For this task, he said that young people need “authentic teachers” who are open to the “fullness of truth”. At the same time, he encouraged a humble approach to truth, reminding professors that “truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp.”
“We can seek it and draw near to it,” he said, “but we cannot completely possess it; or put better, truth possesses us and inspires us.”
Published below is the full text of the Pope’s address.
My Brother Bishops,
Dear Augustinian Fathers,
I have looked forward to this meeting with you, young professors in the universities of Spain. You provide a splendid service in the spread of truth, in circumstances that are not always easy. I greet you warmly and I thank you for your kind words of welcome and for the music which has marvelously resounded in this magnificent monastery, for centuries an eloquent witness to the life of prayer and study. In this highly symbolic place, reason and faith have harmoniously blended in the austere stone to shape one of Spain’s most renowned monuments
I also greet with particular affection those of you who took part in the recent World Congress of Catholic Universities held in Avila on the theme: “The Identity and Mission of the Catholic University”.