Tuesday, August 23, 2011

WYD 2011: Six days of Truth and Love

"Father, glorify thy name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine."
I was thinking about World Youth Day and especially about the Vigil. That evening, shortly after sunset, a violent storm hit the event. The wind was howling and great sheets of rain fell upon the gathered pilgrims. There was lightning and thunder. And then -- just as suddenly as it arrived -- the rain stopped.

The storm came just as Our Holy Father was beginning to address the young people to answer their questions. Pope Benedict XVI remained seated during the whole endeavor. He could be seen beneath the umbrellas that his assistants held up to shelter him smiling; seeming to enjoy the moment. After the rain stopped and the winds grew calmer, the Pope greeted the crowd in various languages. He decided not to continue with the address he had planned for that evening.

Then El Papa was escorted off the stage. We did not know if he would return. But in a short while he came back onstage to lead the young people in Eucharistic Adoration.

Watching the crowd of a million and a half young pilgrims fall to their knees before the Real Presence of Our Lord was a moving sight. The same young boisterous crowd that just moments before had been dancing and chanting in the rain, now fell into silent adoration led by an eighty four year old white-haired Catholic priest.

Who would have dreamed that it would even be possible to organize such an event? Yes, it was Blessed Pope John Paul II, whose presence was mightily felt throughout the events of World Youth Day in 2011.

Seeing the rain coming down on the open field where the nearly two million young people were camped out for the night, people of my generation could not help but think of the half-million flower children that gathered at Woodstock in 1969, which was billed as "3 days of Peace and Music". There too the rain came and drenched the crowd.

But then I remembered a different gathering in Europe on the Iberian Peninsula that took place in 1917 which was overtaken by a sudden and unexpected rain storm. This was on October 13 when a crowd of 70,000 gathered to watch three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady kept her promise and they were greeted with the Miracle of the Sun.

Afterwards, the crowd at Fatima said that their clothes were miraculously dried. It seemed to me that something similar happened outside Madrid, Spain at Cuatro Vientos airfield. The Lord seemed to use the rain to baptize the young pilgrims and to cleanse them of all impurities before the moment of adoration.

It could have been a total disaster like we saw occur recently at a concert where several people died from their injuries when sudden winds toppled a stage in Indiana. But instead somehow the event at Cuatro Vientos was able to continue. How is it possible that the huge elaborate sound system and the giant video screens continued functioning after such a furious deluge?

The next morning the weather was perfect and Our Holy Father returned to celebrate Mass with the pilgrims who had gathered from all parts of the world. And across the planet they were joined by the faithful who watched via cable television and the internet.

In her song "Woodstock", Joni Mitchell says:
We are stardust
We are golden
Caught in the devil's bargain
And we've go to get ourselves
back to the garden.
World Youth Day is in one sense a Catholic response to Woodstock. It is the answer to the young people of the world who want to know: How do I get out of this "devil's bargain" and find my way "back to the garden"? The answer is the timeless message of the Gospel as pronounced by Pope Benedict XVI.
Jesus gives us an answer to this urgent question: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).

Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God. To abide in his love, then, means living a life rooted in faith, since faith is more than the mere acceptance of certain abstract truths: it is an intimate relationship with Christ, who enables us to open our hearts to this mystery of love and to live as men and women conscious of being loved by God.

If you abide in the love of Christ, rooted in the faith, you will encounter, even amid setbacks and suffering, the source of true happiness and joy. Faith does not run counter to your highest ideals; on the contrary, it elevates and perfects those ideals. Dear young people, do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ.

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