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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: www.familytheater.org.

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, Paulharrigan.com.

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 Hollywoodprays.com. 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 HCFM.org, For Family Theater it is Familytheater.org.} 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.

Peace,

FR. Willy