Be Holy, Be Happy!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fly with the Spirit!

Thankamma (first left) in California next to Fr. Matthew, Palmira, Fr. Antonio, Agnes and Renee.
Thankamma, departs this week: May she fly with the Spirit!
We thank God for the gift and presence of Thankamma, who has given unconditionally her time, talent and oblation in the USA since 2005. While here she spent time in all three Centers and had an opportunity to see a little of the USA. We hope she will take back a bag of joyful memories - memories are light, and they can travel free of cost on the plane!

Thankamma, thank you for your missionary spirit and for sharing yourself with us! We will miss you but most of all pray for you and for all your needs as you return to India to continue your life of love and service. Our Founder and Giuliana will intercede for you from heaven. Our Lady of Trust is always with you, so we will not worry about you at all!

With great affection, Teresa and the USA Pro Sanctity Family


World Youth Day Journal - WYD Mass w/ B-XVI

Sunday, July 20th: Today certainly was a short day. I woke up a couple of times throughout the night and noticed only the moon had shifted. Everything else was pleasant and the wispy clouds still had a presence. Once the four of us were up, we had breakfast. The morning prayer service was well sung (by Benedictine monks if I remember right) but very few seemed to be paying much attention around where we were. Soon after, the Pope flew over in a helicopter, which seemed to wake the crowed up. He landed elsewhere and travelled back to the racetrack in the popemobile. When he arrived he did a lap around the track, which I thought was neat of him to do - although he didn't get close to us. I briefly thought about rushing near the outer track he was circling. As fun as that would be, I'm usually not one to add to "hysteria" - besides, many pilgrims who didn't spend the night were still filing into the raceway and I didn't want to loose our relatively decent spot.

As Mass got underway, we were joined by several others from our large group - young and old. Once again the presentation of the Gospel was done with a tribal twist. Although overly drawn-out, it was still very cool. My favorite part of Mass was watching the Pope confirm 20+ young adults from around the world. How cool would it be to have him put the chrism oil on me? Here's my notes from the Pope's homily:

"You will receive power" has been fulfilled in the Upper Room. Now, for the youth, there will be a new upper room.
The Holy Spirit is the Power and Love of the Church.
Let us pass down our faith like a treasure that's been passed down through the ages.
Are you building your faith/life on a firm foundation?
The Holy Spirit is asking you to prophesy to the world.
The Church needs the power of the youth, all young people.
Those being called to the priesthood/consecrated life, don't be afraid to say yes to Jesus.
With the help of Mary and the Saints, let us go out into the new upper room and receive the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News.

After Mass my small group shared our food with the older folks in our group that joined us for Mass. Then we picked everything up and, while different bands entertained on the stage, everyone started filing out of the raceway. I wanted to stay for Fr. Stan Fortuna's performance and was able to get right up close to the stage. It was my first time of getting to see this rapping priest from the Bronx perform live and I enjoyed it. He was only there for a few free-styling songs (way too brief overall). In one of his free-styling moments, he sung to all those trying to leave, reminding us all that we are still carrying Jesus inside of us. Not only are we called to be witnesses to the world, but to each other as well. Fr. Stan implored us with a lyrical beat to stay calm, be patient, and show appreciation for all the volunteers keeping us safe by halting us until it was in our best interest to continue out into the streets and directing us where to go.

After Fr. Stan was off the stage, I only stayed around a little while longer. It took a lot of walking and a little waiting to find a bus that was going back to Central Station. A bunch of pilgrims from Madrid, Spain also got on, so I asked if they were expecting the announcement that WYD 2011 would be in Madrid and they said they expected it - they've known it for a while. I was embarrassed at how little conversational Spanish I could recall when I needed it. Central Station was so filled with pilgrims that they stopped letting people in until the train platforms cleared off. I decided to walk down to Darling Harbor and see if I could run into anyone from my group. I didn't, but I finally purchased some postcards and a souvenir for my sister.

On my way back it started to sprinkle and, while I was on the train, it finally rained. The timing of this absolutely blows my mind. Not only has the weather been pretty much perfect for the entire week of WYD, but Cardinal Pell opened today's Mass praying for rain to end Australia's drought. After all the WYD events were done - and hopefully with some time to clean up - a sign from heaven is given. A light rain. Nothing to end the drought, but we didn't ask for flash-flooding either, did we?

WYD '08 had wrapped up and the next evening I parted ways from the large group (as we had different travel itineraries) and stayed at Mary's place for the next couple of nights. I got to go to the zoo (which is better than Omaha's zoo, but only because of the view and they have the "Australian Wildlife" exhibit), take a two hour train ride northwest to the Blue Mountains, and also see one of the beaches before nearly missing my flight back to America!

Friday, September 12, 2008

World Youlth Day Journal: Pilgrimage and Vigil

Saturday, July 19th: Since there was no catechesis today, the morning was a bit more lazy. Too lazy really. Not everyone in my small group was ready on time so we missed the bus we were planning on taking into the train station. Some thought another bus would be coming in 30 minutes but the next one wasn't for an hour, and that one would be the last scheduled bus for the morning. So I took the extra time, went to the school's library and tried to get caught up on my e-mail. 45 minutes later, several other pilgrims were now ready to go into Sydney as well. We needed two coach busses to take everyone to the train station. Because this was the day of the pilgrimage walk and sleep-over at Randwick Raceway, everyone was carrying food, pillows, sleeping bags, etc. for the journey. It was interesting piling everyone and everything into the busses, but we made it work. The best part was that my small group was on the bus with the group from Somoa. They sang almost the entire way to the train station. Times like those have been some of my favorite experiences when travelling; hearing other cultures sing their praise to God in their native languages.

Because of our late start to the day, my small group debated which route to take for the pilgrimage, as several were marked off throughout the city. Several musical artists were performing at the raceway and there were certain ones that I wanted to see, so we tried to take our late start into account when deciding on the length of the walks. I think we ended up doing the right thing and choosing to embark from the North Sydney train station and walk the entire way (instead of getting back on the train for part of the walk, trying to shave some time off the trip to get to see more of the concerts, which I was selfishly contemplating). We began our pilgrimage at about 1pm just down the street from the train station, right after eating the lunch we packed with us. I was very pleased and a bit surprised when someone from the small group requested we open our Liturgy Guides and use the prayers that were put together for this particular event. She calmly, yet with fervor, read aloud the prayers designed for certain parts of the walk, as was laid out in our Liturgy Guide to augment the pilgrimage experience.

The first leg of our walk was crossing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, which was closed for only the third time in history in order to accommodate the event. The trains still crossed it and, as I waved to the passengers, I remembered being on that train crossing the bridge to get to our starting point and seeing so many people and flags on the bridge.

The second leg of the pilgrimage was going through Darling Harbor and Tumbalong Park. I had been through there many times in the past several days for different WYD events, but today it looked and felt different. Besides the stream of pilgrims flowing in one general direction, the rest of the crowds in this scenic area of town were normal residents - boyfriend/girlfriend, spouses, families, friends - hanging out and enjoying a beautiful, sunny day at the harbor and in the park. I felt like I got to get a small glimpse of Sydney on a normal Saturday afternoon.

The third leg of the walk was through residential streets. Up until then my small group was walking at a very good pace and passing lots of pilgrims, so it gave us an opportunity to see several groups and hear different music as some passed the time in musical unity. Once the streets narrowed to two lanes, the crowd condensed, slowed, and even halted once. My group opened our Liturgy Guides to the prayer meant for this portion of the pilgrimage. I was blown away by this part: "Lord, we ask you to bless the families that we pass. Help them to be true Cenacles of Love, defenders of life and builders of a culture of love." I rarely hear the word Cenacle, but from Bishop William Giaquinta's book, The Cenacle, I was recently reminded that several Grace-filled events took place in the Upper Room, the Cenacle. And now, this prayer called for blessings on the citizens of Sydney, that they may become living Upper Rooms, filled with Love. May they (and all of us) experience a washing of feet, Jesus in the breaking of the bread, the fire of the Holy Spirit, and more.

Every once in a while we came across some protesters. In a certain way, I was waiting for this, to see how I would react. Here is where I know I failed to be a witness to God's Mercy and Love. First was a young man striding along past and then back against the flow, holding a sign that said something to the affect of not allowing priest to molest our children. I smiled at the irony that, though it seemed like he was there in defiance, we all were in agreement with him. I thought bout yelling AMEN to him and shaking his hand, but I kept my eyes forward as I passed him by...

Next was a small group crossing an intersection, back and forth, during the gaps in the crowd, with rainbow flags and signs talking about love. I smiled again, but not at any irony. Although they were talking about a misappropriation of love, we could agree that God is Love, and that we are all called to love our neighbor, not judge their souls. I thought about waving and yelling, "We love you", but then I thought I would feel like I was in a parade. So I passed them by...

Next was a large group of Christians trying to tell us the Church is wrong. Obviously they were well-meaning Christians who misunderstood our faith and several pilgrims were already engrossed in conversation with them, explaining the Truth. I thought about engaging in apologetics with someone, but I didn't want to hold my group back and I passed them by...

During the home-stretch to Randwick Raceway, a couple of us were handed a small, purple and black booklet with the words "Last Rites" on it. I didn't notice the hundreds of ripped up papers, thrown on the ground ahead of me until someone mentioned them. My eyes immediately got big. "Was I just handed a Chick Tract!?" Jack Chick, the famous cartoonist who creates these little cartoon tracts that blatantly lies about and misrepresents the facets of the Catholic faith. He's a good cartoonist and a decent writer, but vehemently against the Church. The poor lady who was handing these tracts out to us was caught in a world of misguidance. I vocally thought about turning around, hugging her and praying over her, hoping that nobody had been crass to her earlier and that she could see the Light of Christ in the pilgrims. But I kept walking straight ahead, wishing Catholics didn't litter...

I ask myself, is it better to actively/vocally show love, or to ignore those I disagree with? That's rhetorical, of course. Too often I think too much and act too little.

After 5.5 miles and about 3 hours of walking, we finally made it to our designated area within the Raceway. As we were looking for a spot to lay out our sleeping bags, Matt Maher came to the stage. Since my group went to see Christopher West the night before and didn't get to see Matt in the huge concert where I went, I was extremely happy that they got to see him now. As the evening drew on it came time for the Saturday night prayer vigil. Without any fanfare, the Pope came out of a doorway in the stage and the crowd erupted excitement. I completely forgot that he was going to be here for this and I got more excited than during his "arrival" a couple of days ago. The vigil was beautiful and it ended with Eucharistic adoration. Stop. How did I get here and be able to worship the creator of the universe with hundreds of thousands of others and the Pope? When the vigil finished, I knew I wasn't done with adoration. They had four tents set up throughout the raceway for Reconciliation and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until the wee hours of the morning. I told my group that I wanted to find one of those tents and, to my delight, two of them wanted to come with - one for Reconciliation and the other for adoration. The first tent we found, near the middle of the raceway, was too packed to get in. The second was packed, but still had enough room for us. Each of us returned back to our sleeping bags separately. On my way back I noticed the night was full of energy - people huddled in conversation, song, dance, clapping, trading trinkets, etc.