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Saturday, September 03, 2005

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

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