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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Going Deeper

Dear Friends,

We are already well into Advent and the month of December. If you have followed the World Youth Day Interviews from Cologne and Dusseldorf you might be glad to know that the final group of interviews with young pilgrims from around the world will be arriving in the next few days.

Also, we have recorded and edited a series of engaging talks given at Family Theater this fall by Leo Severino, a young Catholic lawyer, movie producer and thoughtful and engaging speaker. These presentations are collectiely referred to as GOING DEEPER.

Leo begins with pure reason and moves logically to knowledge of God through reason. Having established that creation and humanity originate in the creative love of a First Cause, he argues for the dignity and true identity of the human person rooted in a divinely endowed design that is fully realized only in self-sacrificing love. Self-donation leads then to the deepest realization of who one is.

Later Leo uses revelation to move to a greater knowledge and understanding and love of God.

These presentations continue into the comming year and will lead ultimately to a deeper appreciation of God's plan for all of creation and especially for human beings. Leo's presentations are so well crafted and thoughtful and consistent with Catholic belief that I wish to make sure they are available to all who seek the truth about themselves, about God, about life's purpose, and about the best road to realize that purpose as fully as possible on this earth and even in the next.

He engages the participants in lively discussion always moving forward to the truth. Often, he leaves his audience wanting more, a great compliment to him since they usually respond to his talks with genuine apppreciation and loud applause.

Please be on the watch for GOING DEEPER with Leo Severino.

In the meantime, I hope the peace and joy of this Advent might be found in the quiet of your heart and in the richness of your prayer.

God bless,

Fr. Willy Raymond, CSC.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

new audio podcasts now available

The audio journal from the 2005 World Youth Day pilgrimage is going online this week. Already, there are seven short podcasts, with more to come over the course of the next week.

Click here to see a list of all of the audio podcasts currently available.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

World Youth Day Interviews with Pilgrims

Dear Friend,

While sitting here on a Saturday morning preparing a homily for Sunday's Gospel on the Parable of the Generous Employer and praying for inspiration, I have decided to take a brief break to let you know that next week we will be podcasting some interviews with young men and women who were present at World Youth Day in Cologne. There are interviews as varied as the nations on the earth: an American Mormon missionary, a young religious sister and brother from France who take drug addicts into their homes , several Germans whose voices sound like the Governor of California, youngsters from Uganda and Cameroon in Africa, Latin Americans from Mexico and Chile, and a poor seminarian from the Philippines who has organized businessmen to support at least 20 poor seminarians, etc.

We will not podcast the comments of Jim Caviezel and his wife Kerri because we had signed an agreement not to record the images or voices of these two good people during World Youth Day. However, we have received many comments from those who were there to hear them. One man, from Pennsylvania, who is the diocesan director of Youth Ministry, said: "Of all the experiences at World Youth Day, the speeches by Jim and his wife were the highlight, the most moving experience of the whole week."

This note comes to alert everyone who visits this site that the podcasts of the interviews will be available by Sunday, September 25, for sure.

Okay, back to the homily. God's blessings on you.

Please tell a friend about this site.

Fr. Willy

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Final Salutation

Dear Friend,

This final note comes to thank the hundreds and hundreds who have visited this site over the past weeks and to thank Clayton Emmer. He has tried to teach and old dog new tricks on the IPod. Without his competence and patience this site and my reflections could not have come to you.

The last entry indicated that the closing Mass for World Youth Day was on August 2. That is clearly a mistake on my part. The date for the closing Mass was August 21.

In closing I would like to let you know a bit about Family Theater Productions in Hollywood. It is where I work Monday through Friday and some weekends. You can get the skinny on Family Theater by visiting our website:

The most interesting current news at Family Theater is the phenomenal growth of the Angelus Awards, our international student film festival. When I returned from World Youth Day I leaned that we had received 720 entries from around the world for this year's competition. We plan to podcast from the Finalists' luncheon on September 23 when we will announce the winning films in the presence of all the finalists who are able to come to Hollywood. We will also podcast from the Angelus Awards ceremony itself at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood. This is a big event with a packed theater for the screening of the winning films and presentation of awards. Always an exciting evening.

I plan to keep blogging in the coming weeks so I invite to stay tuned for Catholic Hollywood news from Family Theater Productions in Hollywood. Remember, "The family that prays together stays together."

God bless,

Fr. Willy

Let us go forward with Christ

Dear Friends,

The 'hour' has come for us to celebrate the Eucharist with the Holy Father presiding over this great gathering of 1.2 million young people from 193 countries, the whole earth. It is Sunday August 2, 2005

At 7 AM we set out for Marienfeld again. We plan to travel as a group. No sooner are we outside the hotel than someone realizes that Ronald is not with us. Some remain behind with Father John Phalen, CSC, who tries to revive Ronald who has fallen into a deep sleep.

Elena, Rachel, Maimilian and Father Bartley join me in leaving immediately so that we will not all be late for the Mass which begins at 10 AM. The tram, the crowded train, the small, overtaxed train station near Marienfeld all mean that it takes longer than expected to reach Marienfeld. This time we take a bus and then have to step down and walk the rest of the way, at least 2 kilometers. Elena valiantly trudges on with Max in a stroller. The volume of pilgrims is almost overwhelming. Wherever one looks there are groups of young people and not so young joining in streams like rivulets moving towards larger streams and eventually becoming a sea of pilgrims intent on making it to the Eucharist at Marienfeld. From his stroller Max hands out free rosaries to hundreds of people who pass us by since we move more deliberately than the mass of pilgrims. Who could resist a two and one half-year-old proffering a free gift?

Elena and Rachel and I join in this distribution of free rosaires which means that the more we give away the lighter our loads. There is a message in that.

Among the moving delegations of Brazilians, Mexicans, French and Canadians we finally make our way to the K-1 section for Mass. This still leaves us some distance from the sanctuary perched upon a mound underneath the great white canopy. I wonder if Moses and Aaron has such a large tent in the desert of Sinai for the Ark of the Covenant.

Fortunately, we are near the special section for the handicapped who are on stretchers and in wheelchairs. They seem especially joyful and good to be with for this Eucharist.

Father Bartley and I can not make it through the press of the crowd to concelebrate in vestments so we give up that venture and remain with the Gilyards for the Eucharist. There are thousands of priests present anyway so communion, even for such a mass of humanity, will not be a problem.

The skies are overcast and look as though they might produce a little sprinkling. To our pleasant surprise, once the Mass because with the long procession, the skies seem to open and the sun makes a welcome appearance and remains with us until the end of Mass.

The large screen monitors and the excellent sound system allow us to share in the Eucharist with over a million people. This is the experience of a lifetime. Never, have I experienced the catholicity, the universality, of the Church so deeply as on this day. It is an awesome thing to join with so many others in celebrating the Mass. I do not have words to explain it all.

The music is wonderful, the singing is good and the participation is amazing to behold. Best of all, I believe, Pope Benedict delivers a homily that fills us all with joy. I have read it now several times and it is remarkable in its reflection on the Eucharist, which he calls "The 'hour' of Jesus." He delivers it in German, English, French, Spanish, Italian and ends in German again. But he does not translate or repeat. One has to read all of the translations to get the full homily.

In his homily, Which is entitled, "Let us go Forward with Christ," the Holy Father begins by asserting that the Eucharist is the 'hour' of Jesus. It becomes our 'hour' too every time we celebrate it. In his 'hour', Jesus thanks God not only for the great works of the past as the Israelites do in the Passover, "he thanks Him for His own exaltation, soon to be accomplsihed in his Cross and Resurrection. He speaks to the disciples in words that summ up the whole of the Law and the Prophets: 'This is my body, given in sacrifice for you. This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood.'" In this central moment of human history, death is conquered by love; brutal violence gives way to total self-giving love. This leads to the transformation of the persons and ultimately begins the great transformation of the whole world.

He compares this process of tranformation set in motion by the Eucharist to nuclear fission which leads to a gradual gathering of momentum. The Body and Blood are not only given to us but we become the Body of Christ. We all eat one bread and become one in Christ. So our adoration in the Eucharist leads to union. "God no longer simply stands before us, as the one who is totally Other. He is within us, as we are in Him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outwards to others unitl it fills the world."

To illustrate this movement he uses a Greek and Latin word or adoration. "The Greek word, 'proskynesis' refers to submission, the recognition of God as our true measure, supplying the norm that we choose to follow. It means that freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy, but rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness, so that we ourselves can become true and good....We can only fully accept it when we take the second step that the Last Supper proposes to us. The Latin word for adoration is "ad-oratio"--mouth-to-mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence, ultimately love. Submission becomes union because He to whom we submit is Love. In this way submission acquires a meaning, because it does not impose anything on us from the outside, but liberates us deep within."

Later he says, "The Eucharist releases in us a joy that we need so much, and we must learn to grasp it ever more deepy, and we must learn to love it- Let us pledge ourselves to this!Let us discover the intimate riches of the Church's liturgy and its true greatness: it is not we who are celebrating for ourselves, but it is the Living God Himself who is preparing a banquet for us. Through your love for the Eucharist you will also rediscover the sacrament of Reconciliation, in which the merciful goodness of God always allows us to make a fresh start in our lives."

World Youth Day invited us to come like the Magi seeking Christ and adore him in the Eucharist and like the Magi return home by another route and changed. Return home having encountered Christ in the Eucharist and return home changed and ready to participate more fully in the transformation of the world through our union in Christ.

He concludes his homily: "Let us go forward with Christ and let us live our lives as true worshipers of God! Amen."

This Eucharist was a privileged experience, a time of grace and blessing. It reminds me of a favorite quote from G.K. Chesterton:

"Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there's laughter and music and good red wine; At least I've always found it so, Benedicamus Domino!"

At the end of Mass they announced that World Youth Day 2008 will be in Sydney, Australia.

After Mass bedlam reigned. it took us hours to get to a bus and more hours to finally board a train and get back to Dusseldorf around 9 PM. Bartley confided to me that Elena is a saint since she put up with all the pushing and shoving and muddy fields and ditches and gullies to be traversed all the while pushing Max in his stroller. I agree, we could not have had beeter companions for this day than Elena, Rachel, Max and of course Bartley. We only met our friends when we got back to the hotel. We were all tired in body but very much inspired in spirit at the end of this day and of World Youth Day 2005.

Tomorrow we will fly back to our various homes around the world. I will make it to Saint Monica's in Santa Monica and to Family Theater in Hollywood. I consider myself a very lucky man to have spent this last week with all our friends in Holy Cross Family Ministries: Father John, Beth and Laura; with our colleagues from the Philippines, Ayra and Ronald; with Jim and Kerri Caviezel from California; with Wolfgang Raach from Malta; with Clarence and Elena Gilyard and thier children Paul, Rachel, and Max; with Father Bartley and so amny others too numerous to mention. May God bless them all and may He also fill each one who visits this site with His transformaing grace.

Good night and God's peace upon you,

FR. Willy

Friday, September 02, 2005

We have come to adore Him

Dear Fiends,

It is finally Saturday of World Youth Day 2005. We say goodbye to Paul Harrigan, who loves Mary and, with his great voice, music and instrumentation, is one of her troubadours.

We also have a very late night before saying goodbye to Jim and Kerri Caviezel, who are leaving very early Saturday morning. We have a lot to be grateful for in their regard. They spent the last four days with us and were wonderful to be with. We all had many conversations and have excellent memories to cherish in the years to come. Thanks also to Wolfgang Raach, our director of security who ends up being a great friend to Jim and Kerri and all of us. He returns to Malta right after seeing that Jim and Kerri are safely aboard their return flight.

On Saturday morning we manage to have Mass at Saint Mary's Church and after some walking around and visits in Dusseldorf I decide to take a nap and store up energy for the next event which is the vigil in Marienfeld with the Holy Father tonight.

{A word about Marienfeld: a farmer loaned his land for two years to the Church in Cologne in preparation for World Youth Day. Consequently, he forfeited two years of planting and harvesting so that the necessary preparations could be made for World Youth Day 2005. This good man had a large carved Statue of the Belssed Mother in his field. Hence the name. This field is very large, wide and flat and looks like rich alluvial soil. At one end is a raised section of earth atop of which is built a sanctuary that resembles and great white spaceship resting on four long legs.}

In the evening of Saturday, in the dark, a Seminarian from the Philippines, Ronald Manabat, and I set out for the Vigil of Prayer and Music in Marienfeld. We take the tram from the Hotel to the railroad station. At the station, while looking for the right train, we are dragooned into service for a Mexican woman who is lost, alone and speaks nothing but Spanish. When she spies our World Youth Day ID's around our necks and knows that we offer some hope. The ID's allow the bearer to travel free on all public transportation. She, Erika, explains that she was with a group from Mexico and had to remain behind with a sick teenager to make sure she was alright. By the time she had settled the teenager in her room and was able to leave, Erika's group is gone. We decide to bring her with us from Dusseldorf to Cologne and then on to Marienfeld. When we arrive in Marienfeld we have to get a taxi to bring us close to the entrance. We still have over a mile to walk to get into the area. We are hoping to get to the event in time to participate in the Evening prayer. However, by the time we get Erika to her section of the encampment, after much walking in very crowded conditions, we realize that the prayer for the evening is over. Finally we have to abandon her to a group of young Canadians and Mexicans who assure us they will keep looking with her for her group.

Next we go to the D-1 Section looking for Clarence Gilyard and his son. After about an hour of exploring this section and checking hundreds of faces and many tents, we concede that we are not going to find Clarence. Next we go to the Press sector to look for another Philippino who works as a cameraman and producer for Family Rosary in the Manila. Seminarian Ronald also wants to bring him some food since he would not have eaten since lunch time. By now it is well after midnight. I am able to interview a number of young people from all around the globe with my trusty IPod digital recorder. These interviews are available as podcasts on this site. Finally, around 2 AM we begin to think about moving towards a return to Dusseldorf. Even at this hour there are tens of thousands of young people milling about. Goups of Italians are singing what do not sound like liturgical music.The sanctuary at one end of the great field is stunningly beautiful with thousands of flickering candles on the hillside that make the hill look like a well ordered firmament.

One person I recall meeting is a young Boston priest from Saint Mary's in Dedham. I remember him because we share an alma mater, Stonehill College, in Massachusetts.

The walk back to the entrance is in complete blackness. In the night Ronald and I discuss the theme of World Youth Day which for us Pilgrims echoes the words of the Magi: "We have come to worship Him." Ronald is on fire with his love for the faith and for the Church. He himself is a poor seminarian who has to raise funds to pay his tuition. He has begun an organization of businessmen to support poor seminarians in the Philippines. With the planning group who oversee the funds, he is able to support 20 poor seminarians who otherwise could not make it to the priesthood. He also has a deep devotion to Father Patrick Peyton's work and spends many weekends promoting the cause for beatification. I am amazed at the zeal and energy this 24-year-old has for the Church.

Finally we make it back to the main road. We consider hitchhiking but there really are no cars, except for one, which turns out to be a taxi, thank God. This man brings us to the train. There we wait for one hour before we finally get a train to Cologne and Dusseldorf. After many adventures, we arrive at the hotel at 6 AM just in time to pray morning prayer, take a shower, have a bit of breakfast and leave for the great climax of the week, the Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

More about that next time.

I do not dare to take even a brief nap since I believe I will miss the whole Mass if I try to take a nap.

God bless,

FR. Willy

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Mary's Troubadour

Dear Friend,

A major omission on my part. Paul Harrigan and his group provided incredibly beautiful and moving music and song before this event {Jim Caviezel and the Passion of the Christ} and after it for about one half hour each time. Paul is a young songster, song writer and guitarist from Los Angeles. You can 'Google' him and you will find a brief bio and his latest CD. You can also go to his website,

One song in particular, "Fill Me Up" is an invocation to the Holy Spirit and means a lot to me and many others who have heard it. Paul wrote it, plays the music for it and sings it with subtle passion and obvious faith.

Paul sometimes sings at the monthly Prayer and Pasta for young Catholics that takes place at Family Theater in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd. We are inviting him to be there on September 21, the third Wednesday of the month.

If you know of Catholics in Hollywood who want to come together for Prayer and to share a meal with others in the entertainment industry please refer them to Family Theater's address is 7201 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90046. The Prayer and Pasta evening begins at 7 PM, really 7:30.

Also, I heard someone calling me from the bleachers at World Youth Day on Friday afternoon. What a joy to discover it was Caitlinn Scanlon all the way from Saint Christine's Parish in Marshfield, MA.

Her parents and family are good friends from Stonehill College days. God bless them all. I hope you got home safely, Caitlinn.

God bless,

FR. Willy

It is as it was

Well, it is finally Friday of World Youth Day and the big event sponsored by Holy Cross Family Ministries and Family Theater Productions of Hollywood is slated for this day. The day began for us with a Mass in English at Saint Mary's in Dusseldorf for Korean Americans from New York and New Jersey.

We also attended a catechesis in German which received enthusiastic applause from the young people in the church. God and the Germans only know what was said. We in our party did not understand a word the bishop said.

We have brought Jim Caviezel to World Youth Day with us. He played Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ." His lovely wife Kerri was with us too. We also invited and brought along Clarence Gilyard , the co-star of "walker Texas Ranger" and his wife Elena and three children Paul, Rachel and Max. They were a blessing to all of us throughout the trip.

This event has been a year in the planning. Father John Phalen, CSC, president of Holy Coss Family Ministries of Massachusetts, Beth Mahoney, director of mission and I have been meeting with others for months to bring this event to life.

The event was originally scheduled for Bonn with a maximum of 3500 people attending. Several months ago the Planning committee for World Youth Day informed us that the new soccer stadium in Dusseldorf would be available and could accommodate a much larger crowd. Obviously, we leaped on this opportunity. The only problem, when we looked at the one inch thick program listings for all the events of World Youth Day on our arrival we discovered that the event was still listed in the booklet for Bonn. A MAJOR PROBLEM! All week we spent hours each handing out postcards with the right location and time for the event. Then, on the morning of the event, a major newspaper in Cologne had a long story about Jim Caviezel and the Passion and this story said the event would take place in Bonn.

These miscues kept the numbers down for our event and meant that thousands of young peolpe ended up in Bonn very frustrated that the Jim Caviezel and the Passion were not there. As it turned out, some of them were able to make it to Dusseldorf before the program ended.

The actual program went very well. Father John shared some of the history and mission of Holy Cross Family Ministries and Family Theater and then introduced Kerri. {The web site for Holy Cross Family Ministries is, For Family Theater it is} She spoke effectively about her own commitment to protecting and saving the lives of the innocent children in the womb. She then introduced Jim who gave a stirring testimony about his own faith and how it informs his decisions. He also reviewed the making of the Passion of the Christ and all the hurdles he ahd to overcome to get this produced, including: his being cast as Christ and what that might do to his acting career, being struck bey lightning and surviving, dislocating a shoulder, losing some flesh and blood during the scourging, suffering from exposure
and pneumonia.

His friend Steve McEveety, the producer of the Passion, was told by the secretary to Pope John Paul II that after the pope saw the film the only thing he said was, "It is as it was." While there is some controversy over whether JPII actually said this, it seems from credible sources that he did.

After Jim's speech, which was very well received, we watched the entire film "The Passion of the Christ" on two large screens in the stadium. Then we prayed the Rosary with Father John leading a decade, followed by Kerri, myself, Clarence and Jim all praying a decade. Finally, Jim came up once more to speak for the benefit of those intrepid young people who made it all the way from Bonn to Dusseldorf in time for the rosary.

This was a very long day and everyone was ready for a good meal which we shared at an Italian Restuarant nearby. The owner, Franco, and his wife were celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. Their son Dino works with them in this restaurant. It was family style and since we had five priests at the table and two other families we all decided to bless Franco and his wife on their anniversary. No one got to bed before midnight this night.

After brief prayers, it was good night and thanks be to God for a wonderful day.


FR. Willy

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Two Popes at World Youth Day

Dear Friends,

Alright, it is finally Thursday, the day we have been waiting for. Thousands line the banks of the Rhine on a sunny day in August in Cologne. Benedict XVI has been pope for less than 4 months as he arrives. The big question: will he attract and engage the hundreds of thousands of young people his successor and founder of World Youth Day did over the last twenty years? This morning Pope Benedict met with 12 young people for lunch. A special diet had been prepared for him. He told the servers he wanted to eat what the 12 young guests were eating. This was reported around and got him off to a good start with young people and the the press. We will see how he does with the hundreds of thousands gathered to hear him and see him.

As he makes his way up the Rhine on an excursion boat, the pope waves to people on the banks. some spectators get so excited as his boat nears that they leap into the Rhine. One is a young monk in full habit from the Bronx who will remain nameless.

Now I am in the square in front of the cathedral with Mrs. Clarence Gilyard, aka Elena, Rachel, Paul and Clarence and the 2 year-old prince Maximilian. Father Bartley joins us for a bit. We beg the security people to let us though so we can get closer. They look at the child in the stroller, the priests begging, and I think they are moved more by the child than the sight of grown men crying and they allow us through. At first the press of the crowd has been left behind us. We have space to move and breathe and are now much closer to the large screen and the steps where we hope the pope will appear. Jim and Kerri Caviezel and Wolfgang Raach are in another section some distance behind us.

We can see the pope on the large screen as he nears shore and prepares to walk up from the River to the cathedral. The crowd cheers and our section of the plaza, which was very spacious, is now filling with people. They keep coming until we are pressed up against the security barrier. For a while, I am the only thing preventing the crowd from crushing Rachel and Paul as the plaza fills up even more. After about an hour of waiting and cheering and chanting of BE-NE-DET-TO, the Pope suddenly appears in the flesh in front of us, about fifty years away. There are dignitaries and senior clergy accompanying him.

There was robust cheering before but when he is actually before us in the flesh and not just on the screen there is volume and intensity like nothing we have heard up until now. A small man with a shock of white hair in the blazing sun, his voice in German suddenly breaks through the roar of the crowd and is strong and clear. He sounds impressive in German, whatever he is saying. I can understand the French and Spanish along with Englsih. His message plays on the history of Germany going back to the Apostle of Germany, Boniface, who brought Christianity to this country and was martyred like so many other great Christian missionaries. He mentions Blessed Edith Stein, Benedicta, who converted to Catholicism and entered the Carmel in Cologne. A great philospopher, she was executed like so many other Jews and Catholics at Auschwitz. His message to the young people:

"Be not afraid to commit yourself without reserve to serving Christ, whatever the cost. Share your joys and pains with Christ and let Him enlighten your minds with His light and touch your hearts with His grace."

He spoke in several languages and he addressed different continents. His challenge to Asians was powerful: "Young People of Asia, you are the representatives of so many of your brothers and sisters who are waiting for the star to rise in their lives and lead them to Christ. In Him they will find the fullest response to their hearts deepest desires."

My conclusion, this pope will do fine with the young people of the world and he has a real message to deliver.

He gets into the new popemobile and travels through the narrow streets around the cathedral. Everyone gets a chance to see him up close if they are patient. We amke it back to the vehicles and back to Dusseldorf for a late Mass and supper of sub sandwiches.

This was a great day, filled with visits to several churches in Cologne where various religious orders have set up shop and are listening to confessions, sharing prayer before the blessed sacrament and providing encouragement for young men and women to consider the religious life as a vocation. Most appealing of all I would think is the large number of young women and men in full habit obviously enjoying a life dedicated to God and the Church.

Good night and look forward to our special event tomorrow in Dusseldorf.

Fr. Willy

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

World Youth Day/ Ground Zero

Dear Friends,

We have had hundreds of visits from people like you interested in what happened at World Youth Day in Cologne {and Dusseldorf and Bonn}. Thanks to everyone who has come to this site. Now for the events of the week in Germany. On Wednesday, with everyone safely at the Majestic Hotel in Dusseldorf, we were able to venture forth into Cologne to see the great Cathedral. Wolfgang Raach, our director of security and German-speaking connection with local security and also the press and limousine service, helped to organize us into two vans and a sedan for the trip into Cologne to visit the incredibly beautiful Gothic Cathedral in Cologne that is almost 1000 years old. It survived the saturation bombing of World War II that did not spare many other historic sites in Europe such as Monte Casino. It has been treasured as one of the most exquisite examples of Gothic architecture in the world. By tradition, the devotion to the Magi in the Christian world is centered here at Cologne Cathedral. The theme of World Youth Day, "We have come to worship Him," comes from the words of the three kings in the Gospel. As we approached Cologne the twin spires of the Cathedral could be seen from a great distance and they dominate the skyline along the historic Rhine River that flows through Cologne.

Throngs of thousands of young people are everywhere as we arrive around 10 AM on a sunny Wednesday morning. You can not help but feel your spirit soar to the heavens as you gaze at the elegant spires, the majestic buttresses and the great vaulted interior of this beautiful house of God. The windows are a blaze of glory on this bright morning. One can not but be edified by the purposeful movement of the crowds through the apse and the nave of the great church. Jim and Kerri Caviezel and Wolfgang clearly find themselves as enraptured as I by this bounty of beauty all around us. In some ways the milling young people around the cathedral plaza holding aloft flags of many nations serve to complement the beauty of this experience.

One unexpected group in front of the cathedral is the choir of young men dressed in white shirts and ties singing hymns, one of which is in German but sounds like "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Intrigued by this group, who appear to be Mormon missionaries, I have the chance to interview Elder James from Seattle. He confirms that they are indeed Mormon missionaries from the United States serving in Germany. Elder James is not more than 24 years old. After a brief dialogue, as we part company, I try to assure him that he is welcome there among so many Catholics since we are all children of a good God.

This Cathedral is where the Holy Father Pope Benedict will be welcomed to World Youth Day tomorrow, Thursday.

After lunch in a local restaurant we head back to Dusseldorf. Young Maximilian Gilyard, just over two years old, has taken up the chant one hears everywhere, BE-NE-DET-TO. Especially when there is a lull in conversation, he reminds us of our new pope.

Back in Dusseldorf, Clarence Gilyard, Paul Gilyard, his son, and I, go to a Church set up as "Domus Vitae" house of life, to listen to a speech by the Baroness Von Galen, the niece of Blessed Cardinal Von Galen, of WestPhalia. She was eager to share his holiness, his strong, heroic and public opposition to National Socialism and the Nazis during World War II. She spoke in German and had a translator who tried to share the Baroness' words in French. This speech was in a garden outside the Church. Following the talk, we entered the Church for Mass in French with some young people from the Diocese of St Etienne in France. I concelebrated the Mass and read the Gospel. The young priest who presided stunned me and others with the announcement, during his homily, that the beloved, 90-year-old founder of Taizé had been assassinated during Evening Prayer at the monastery in France. Those who witnessed the funeral of Pope John Paul will recall that a solitary figure in the sanctuary at Saint Peter's was given communion first by then Cardinal Ratzinger. That figure was the venerable Frère Roger.

Following this sad news, we finally returned to the hotel and joined the others for dinner that first full day in Germany. Tomorrow, the Pope arrives in Cologne.

Peace and God's blessing for a good night.

Father Willy Raymond, CSC.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

podcasts - now available in iTunes directory

iTunes has placed the podcast for Fr. Willy's pilgrimage in the iTunes podcast directory. If you don't have the free iTunes 4.9 music player, which is available for both Mac and Windows, click here. If you've already installed iTunes 4.9, click here for a visual demonstration of how you can easily subscribe to Fr. Willy's WYD podcast.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Leaving for Cologne

Dear Friends,

This is Father Willy Raymond coming back after a hiatus of a week. The hotel I was staying in in Dusseldorf, Germany, did not offer a readily available site for me to plug in messages. However, I can recap the events of the past week while they remain fresh in my mind.

Father David Guffey dropped me at the Los Angeles Airport at 2 PM for the 5:30 flight to Heathrow in London. Getting out of Los Angeles was like being condemned to purgatory for a lengthy spell. I waited in one line for over an hour before getting to the end and being told that I had to go check in at another place before I could bring my bag to be run through security. So after waiting in the check-in line for another hour, I then had to wait in the original line to deposit a bag. After all this then I had to go through security with carry-ons and fly down to the gate. I made it with a few minutes to spare. British Airways has had a caterers' strike so they gave each of us a voucher for $20 to purchase food before getting on board since no meals were being served on this nine hour flight.

The flight was uneventful and I was able to get caught up on some reading on Pope Benedict XVI, a Biography, by John Allen. It seems pretty thorough and almost balanced. His bias is slightly against the new pope, after all he is Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. After a brief stopover in London, we continued on to Cologne.

This was my first time in Germany and I find the streets and surroundings very clean. The farms seem to be very carefully laid out with beautifully symetrical fields of vegetables one can see from the airplane's approach to Cologne.

On the ground I met Wolfgang Raach as soon as I landed and had gone through security. Wolfgang is a German national who specializes in special ops and is among the most highly-decorated German soldiers active today. He lives on Malta with his wife and two daughters and is a consultant for films being made especially in Malta. He served as director of security for us for the five days that Jim and Kerri Caviezel were with us ini Germany. My arrival was a 5:30, Wolfgang and our driver Oliver and I waited over coffee until Jim and Kerri arrived at 8:30 from a stopover in Paris.

WE met them at the Customs gate and brought them straight to the hotel in Dusseldorf. It was a Best Western Majestic Hotel. After a few minutes to change we met Father John Phalen, CSC, President of Holy Cross Family Ministries, and Beth Mahoney, who has organied much of our participation in World Youth Day. Laura Philips from Holy CRoss Family Ministries and Father Mac Phaidin, CSC, President Emeritus of Stonehill College also joined us.

WE all went for a quick and late meal at a venerable old German restaurant, founded in 1838. Met up with Clarence Gilyard, the talented actor from Walker Texas Ranger, and his wife, Elena and their three Children, Paul, Rachel and Arthur.

Clarence is a convert to Catholicism, about 8 years ago, who has a great love for the Catholic Church and has developed many friends among religious orders and clergymen from many dioceses. This past couple of years he has been pursuing a degree from Southern Methodist University, a Masters in Fine Arts if not mistaken. He has a great spirit and is filled with enthusiasm for the spiritual life and its nourishment with a life a prayer.

His series, Walker, Texas Ranger, is in syndication in Italy and Germany so he was recognized often by young people as we were walking around this past week.

There is much more to say about the Pope'a arrival by boat on the Rhine, "The Passion of the Christ" with Jim Caviezel and the Vigil and the Mass. It will have to wait until tomorrow.

God bless and thanks to all who have visited this novice's blog.

Fr. Willy Raymond, CSC.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Catholic Insider

Until our on-the-ground reports of the days in Cologne, Germany, are available, we recommend a visit to the Catholic Insider website, which has extensive podcast coverage of World Youth Day, created by the winsome and tech-savvy Dutch priest, Fr. Roderick Vonhögen.

Friday, August 19, 2005

dust to glory

There's no word from Fr. Willy yet. By all accounts, the free internet kiosks are extremely crowded in the Cologne area.

In the meantime, if you've subscribed to our podcast, you can download a song from Jeremy Casella, a young musician from Nashville who has agreed to let us use some of his music in our upcoming World Youth Day podcasts. The song is entitled Dust to Glory. If you like what you hear, visit Jeremy's website at

Keep checking back. After this afternoon's screening of The Passion of the Christ, Fr. Willy may emerge from the silence to share some of his experiences.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

my first audio podcast

My first audio podcast of the pilgrimage is now online.

The URL for my podcast is
Once a podcast has been downloaded to your computer, it can be either played on your computer or saved onto a portable music player (MP3 player - an iPod or other similar device) so that you can listen to it wherever, whenever.

For a visual demonstration of how to subscribe to my podcast and play it using iTunes 4.9, click here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Pilgrim's progress

Dear Friend,

This happy pilgrim was up last night with a group of actors and writers at Family Theater in Hollywood for a staged reading of the screenplay, The Accidental Pope, by Tony Marinozzi, adapted from the novel of the same name by Raymond Flynn, Former Ambassador to the Vatican, and Robin Moore. Following the reading, the actors and writers and Ambassador Flynn and I discussed the screenplay with Tony Marinozzi, who joined us by phone. Very heated and helpful dialogue. Back to the drawing board for the writer.

After getting home by midnight, and having a sandwich with Mayor /Ambassador Flynn, I retired and got up early, excited about preparing for the trip to Cologne. A surprise sore throat will mean a visit to the doctor to see if he can offer some relief. Prayed this morning with the other priests at Saint Monica's for a safe and fruitful pilgrimage. They are a big support and told me to invite Pope Benedict to come and visit Saint Monica's Parish. I will tell him that and remind him that his new Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith was stationed at Saint Monica's for five years in his early days as a priest.

Father Linus, from Tamale, Ghana, who is with us for two years at least, had a great message in his homily: P.U.S.H., Pray until something happens.

For those who do not know of Saint Monica's, it is the parish that inspired the 1944 Oscar-winning film, Going My Way, starring Bing Crosby.

I also have an iPod with iTalk and a digital camera to bring along for recording the daily activities in Germany. The plane leaves LAX at 5:30 PM, Monday, God willing. I arrive in Cologne at 5:50 PM on Tuesday.

You are in my prayers. More later.

God bless,

Fr. Willy Raymond, CSC.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Pre-Departure Message #1

Dear Friends,

This comes to open a dialogue with you and others who wish they were going to World Youth Day 2005 with the new Holy Father but are unable to do so. This writer is blessed enough to be going to Cologne for this great event.

This blog will bring you daily reports on the events and people in Cologne, Bonn and Dusseldorf, the three cities hosting WYD. I will be travelling with a party that includes Jim Caviezel and his wife Kerri; Clarence Gilyard and his wife Elena and their three children; Rachel, Paul and Max. We have several others including Father John Phalen, CSC, President of Holy Cross Family Ministries, which includes Family Rosary and Family Theater. I happen to be charged with serving as the director of Family Theater Productions in Hollywood, CA.

The motto of our organization comes from Father Patrick Peyton, CSC, "The Family that prays together stays together."

We are sponsoring a major English language event at World Youth Day on Friday, August 19, at the UTL Arena in Dusseldorf from 2 PM to 6 PM. We will welcome Jim and Kerri Caviezel to address the assembly, then we will screen the film "The Passion of the Christ." Thanks go to Mel Gibson for donating a copy of the film for this event. Finally, we will pray the five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in five different languages. Clarence Gilyard will also speak, he is best known for his role on "Walker Texas Ranger."

I hope you will spread the word about this great event.

More later. Please pray for us and we will return the favor gladly.


Fr. Willy Raymond, CSC.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

a pilgrim's journal for World Youth Day 2005

This blog will document the pilgrimage of Father Willy Raymond, CSC, and Jim Caviezel from Hollywood to Cologne, Germany for World Youth Day 2005.

Check back soon for the first post from these pilgrims.