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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

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