YOUTH DAY - 2008
July our community, CFC-FFL, sent a delegation to the World
Youth Day at Sydney, Australia. There was Aldrin, Keeshia,
Giella, Joey, Telle, Rica and me. Looking back I now believe
that our WYD experience was a pilgrimage of grace from the
moment we filled up our application forms until the time our
plane landed back in Manila. It is truly a journey with God
all the way!
You see, at the initial phase of our WYD application, all
of us had our own worries such visa approval, work leave approval
and financial constraints. Everyday these three major concerns
continued to taunt us in the way Goliath taunted David! Each
day they became bigger
giants that block our way to the WYD. But just like David,
we believe that our God is bigger that any Goliaths in our
lives and so we continued to put our hope in God and started
to work hard at finishing all documents. Truly God is a faithful
God! A week before the deadline we received our visas, work
leaves and financial blessings! We were really going to Australia!
Our first stop in this pilgrimage was Melbourne, to attend
a pre-WYD event called Days in the Dioceses (DID). In this
event, we were to immerse ourselves in the life and mission
of a particular parish in Australia. This meant that we needed
to interact with the parishioners of that parish (especially
their youth), meet their parish leaders, talk with the clergy
and be involved in all the activities of that parish for one
whole week. At first I was nervous because it was my first
time to be in a foreign land and tolive with a total stranger.
Before when I'm abroad I used to stay with a community member,
and because we are in the community it was much easier to
adjust since we had certain things in common. But to my surprise
DID turned out to be a blessing for me in many ways!
was my first time to be welcomed and loved by a stranger not
because I am part of CFC but because I am a Catholic. It surprised
me that the parishioners of the parish that adopted us really
went out of their way just to make us feel that we are brothers
and sisters in Christ! They offered everything for us, their
cars, their homes, food, schools, everything! My host family
told me that Catholics should be like this with each other!
They believe that we are bits and pieces of each other, different
body parts but one body under Christ. Hence we need to take
care of each other! Amazing! It made me realize that our faith
is not just buildings and teachings but truly it is a community
built by relationships!
It was also my first time to see how being involved in a parish
can bring growth and nourishment to its parishioners. Attending
Mass as a community, praying for parish members, serving the
different needs of parishioners, and receiving the Sacraments
can truly lead you closer to God. Maybe it is because I spent
most of my spiritual life away from my own parish that I failed
to see it. But being in the DID broke most of my preconceptions
about parish life. I now believe that you can really find
a home in the Catholic Church.
one week in Melbourne we moved on to Sydney for the start
of the real WYD event. Again, we were adopted by a parish
and were welcomed into a home of one of its parishioners,
and we received the same treatment that we had in Melbourne.
Our first activity for the WYD was the opening Mass by Cardinal
Pell of Sydney. It was quite moving how the Archdiocese of
Sydney, together with the government of Australia, welcomed
us! But what was really amazing was in that opening Mass I
really understood what it means when we proclaim that we are
a Universal Church! Being in that opening Mass you were drowned
within a sea of people who have different colors of skin.
You were deafened by the noise of different languages being
spoken. You were stunned by the presence of the clergy from
different countries. THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE UNIVERSAL!!!
We started our second day by going to our Catechetical Sessions
(I guess these were the official talks for the WYD). We had
these sessions every morning for the next three days. Our
speakers were all lively, energetic and wise bishops! We had
Bishop Tirona of Gumaca, Bishop Smith from Canada, and Bishop
Buzon of Kabankalan. Our topic was about the Holy Spirit and
how it molded and continues to shape Christians and the Catholic
Church. They also explained how everything we have, and all
that we do, is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
the highlight of this day was the arrival of Pope Benedict
at the WYD. He had already been in Sydney for the last few
days but this is the first time he visited and welcomed the
young pilgrims of WYD. It was an unforgettable event! The
Pope went around Sydney in a yacht filled with young people
and clergy on the way to the venue. When he arrived he then
rode the Pope Mobile and went through the crowd. Finally he
went on stage, welcomed all of us and led us all into prayer.
Truly the Pope is one of our sources of unity as Catholics.
You could see everyone in a frenzy when they saw the boat
and the Pope Mobile. The crowd cheered when he spoke. The
clergy flocked around Him, I think in much the same way that
the disciples flocked to Jesus! It was truly amazing!
On the third day I had two WYD events that I consider as my
the Way of the Cross. I think it was very special for me because
it was a re-enactment of the passion and death of Jesus done
in the frm of a play. I used to do Stations of the Cross during
the Holy Week. I went to one station after the other as I
said the prayers. But in WYD since it was played by real actors
I really felt what it meant to be saved by Jesus! It was just
like watching the movie "The Passion" - only better!
Second, the Receive the Power Praise Concert. This praise
concert was lead by top worship bands like Hillsong United
and Matt Maher. It was a treat for me because I love these
two worship bands. But what struck me the most about this
praise concert was that the last worship leader was a Bishop!
And after the worship, he led all of us in the adoration of
the Holy Eucharist!
On our fourth day at the WYD we joined the pilgrims walk.
It was a trek from Sydney Harbor all the way to the Randwich
Horse Track where the final vigil with the Pope happened.
It was a 4km walk with certain stop points to reflect on the
gifts of the Holy Spirit.
nighttime we started preparing for the evening vigil. At this
vigil, Pope Benedict led us in reflection about the gifts
of the Holy Spirit. He instructed us to ask God for the gift
that we need as we continue to journey on in our spiritual
life. He then asked us to pray for the world and to pray for
young people so that God may use us to be His new disciples
in this fast changing world, and that we should ask God for
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and make the WYD to be
a new Pentecost experience for the world.
unforgettable experience for me in this vigil was that there
were hundreds of priests all over the venue waiting for young
people to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. It was
amazing to see thousands of young people fall in line to the
priest with the language sign above them to hear their confession.
Also, after the vigil there were hundreds of adoration chapels
constructed where young people could pray before the Holy
Eucharist. It was a life changing experience for me on seeing
how many young people were attracted to the Eucharist, and
changed by it!
The next day the Pope led us for the final Mass. He emphasized
that the Church is alive and the Church is young. He left
us with the message to get to know the Holy Spirit more! He
encouraged us to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And
he challenged us to bring the Pentecost experience of WYD
to our local churches and local organizations and asked us
to set again the world on fire for Christ.
I am convinced that we, the young people, are the Church of
today and not of the future. I am convinced that we, the young
people, are the new evangelizers of this fast changing world.
I am convinced that the spirit that moved the disciples thousand
of years ago is the same spirit that moves the Church and
me today. I am convicted that it is my mission to re-tell
this message of WYD to as many young people as possible and
to encourage them to live by the mission that the Holy Father,
and God himself, has called to do!
you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart
from me you can do nothing." Jn 15:5