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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.