Last night, my dear friend Chris Valka (soon to be Fr. Chris Valka) asked me what had been the highlight of my World Youth day so far. I had no answer. I guess not much had really happened yet and in truth, we’d spent most of our time working and not really had time to participate in the event.
One of my Toronto highlights was the Papal Welcome Ceremony, but I expected that the Vigil would be a highlight for me here in Sydney. Or the Mass. The Mass should be the highlight.
But today we received a message inviting us to film at the Eucharistic Procession at the Sister’s of Life-sponsored “Love and Lifesite”. It was scheduled for 8pm.
Of course, as it usually is with these kinds of things, in this TV business and compounded by the World-Youthness of this event, we were running late. Not super late (as in other days) but late. At 8:15pm we were still sending video files to Toronto for our daily ZOOM news broadcast.
At 8:30 we were just leaving the Media Centre. We still had a 20 minute walk. I was now sure we’d miss it. I almost didn’t go.
But we got separated from three of our colleagues. Mary Rose, Richard and Fr. Stefano were nowhere to be found and Wally and I figured it was best to move on to the Love and Life site in case they had gone ahead. At the very least, if we missed the procession, we’d be able to visit with some of the Sisters.
We arrived and the courtyard was empty. Clearly the procession was over. But, guess what? We got there and Sr. Elizabeth greeted us as we arrived and told us the procession was inside the church and had just begun. They were running late! And there began the highlight of my WYD08.
I have never seen or experienced what I did inside that church of St. Benedict, at the Love and Lifesite. The procession was not of the Blessed Sacrament. The procession was of pilgrims who “processed” on their knees up the centre aisle towards the altar, where the priest would bring the Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance to them and bless them.
I remember a story my mother would always tell us about a non-Catholic friend of hers who always told her how she was sceptical about our belief in the Real Presence because if she believed that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist, she would be on her knees from beginning to end.
And while I like that my relationship with Christ is that of a friend and brother, with whom I can be myself: A relaxed, casual relationship with someone with whom I can sit with, chat, laugh, joke around and be me, He is still my Lord and Saviour. He is still God, to whom all glory belongs.
I guess that’s one of the paradoxes of our Faith. And it all comes down to love. How we respond in love to the Lover of all, who loves us beyond reason. A love that moves us to our knees, to give our all, to give of ourselves completely and totally, and a love that demands us to be ourselves, to be genuine and to be free: free to respond in any way we want to – in any way we can.
It may be a bit premature to have had my WYD Vigil tonight, but maybe that’s what I needed.
And a bonus for me: Other than spending some quality time with my Lord, I also spent time with my sisters – thank God for the witness of the Sisters of Life. Thank God for Sr. Maria Kateri, Sr. Antoniana, Sr. Kathrine, Sr. Monica , Sr. Marie-Claire and for their 40 Sisters who came to World Youth Day to witness to the Friend who never lets us down. To witness in love and life, to Love and Life.
Now, I can go and do a bit of the same myself.