The sun is shining brightly . It is going to be a scorcher. It was difficult waking up this morning to rush to the parish Church for a small English mass. Bishop Joseph Francis Kwaku Essien, the bishop from Wiaswo Diocese in Ghana was my co-celebrant. We had breakfast together afterwards in the attached presbytery where he was staying. He has been a bishop for seventeen years having been a military chaplain most of his life. He is very concerned about his country in Africa and feels it is going backwards. I congratulated him for bringing 120 Ghanians to the youth days. He said
It is called World Youth Day but in fact it lasts a week! As an old timer, or better still 'foreign missionary' -who is on a constant learning curve about the ways of the people we try to serve, it has taken me a full week to catch up with the way the youth do things! My dear Polish hosts gave me the correct cable for my phone and at last I was able to tune into the FM app. I also started reading the pilgrim book which we got on registration and it threw light on many of the mysterious things I was hearing about. But one thing I didn't achieve was registration as a priest and so I forewent the privilege of concelebration in the big mass once again.
The third and last catechesis in our local church was given by Archbishop Kurt from Louisville Kentucky who is the Chairman of the United States episcopal conference. He was a jovial and sensitive man asking us where we all came from: America, Australia, Ghana, Malaysia, Great Britain and Poland. Hands up those who could understand his accent - and we all could! He said today we are going to deal with handing out mercy as a development on receiving it. He quoted the contribution of St John Paul 2 in Gaudium et Spes which says we do not assert ourselves so much in the world as Christians but we make a gift of ourselves.
Today the Pope was welcomed by the Youth with song and dance from all the continents.
Fr Jim Fanning with Youth Light members Well after four hours of sleep I was up and headed for the local church for a few quiet moments of prayer. The Church of our Lady Queen of Poland was the first consecrated by the young Archbishop Wojtyla who became Pope John Paul. But the place of silence was full with earsplitting singing from the groups from Hartford Connecticut. They were doing a lead-in for the English catechesis given by Archbishop Christopher from Canberra in Australia.
Patrick and companion Imagine meeting Patrick (photo) here. He walked from Uganda to South Africa. I met him when I went to see the Pope in Uganda last November as he began his walk. I flagged him off in Kisumu. He visited Stephen Giles and John Melhuish and Emmanuel Omollo
Patrick, Lukas, Michael and Alexander. You are members of Youth Light. What is this?
Fr Jim Fanning mhm We are queuing outside Wawel Castle. There is a security check before we can enter but all very friendly. The youth want to do a bit of sightseeing before the big event. We all have our back packs with the WYD logo, wristbands,headscarves, name tags which entitle us to free travel on Krakow's transport system (but no body checks or anything) as the town belongs to the youth.
The Ryanair flight from Liverpool to Kraków got in ahead of time. I began to feel the Polish world already in the waiting lounge as I stood in the queue and heard the swishing and shuffling of the polish language around me- and over there in the line was a youngish looking priest dressed in a bluish cassock praying his beads with a happy face. The plane was full but with only a few backpacking girls amongst the mostly middle aged passengers who were accompanied by quite a few small children.
Well, I am on my way to Kraków. I have decided to travel with a rucksack. I don't know what to expect but Patrick from Germany, an 18 year old of Polish descent, whom I met in Kampala last year during the Papal visit, assures me me that his Polish people are going to look after us very well. No I do not need to bring a sleeping bag. No I will not have to pay for my stay. He will meet me at the airport and drive me to his friends. From a religious sister I have heard we will sleep in a field one night and do a twenty mile walk on another day! Well I am in trim for walking having been preparing for the past six months for my trip to Compostela on foot in October. I have a minute groundsheet tucked away in my rucksack in case I have to sleep out one night. I am happy to learn that the weather at the moment is very warm there.