Fr James d. Fanning mhm
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.
It Is warm and sunny and humid…ominous?..Youth are streaming through the streets in their shorts,colourful t shirts, trainers and flags. A youth group from Haiti is entertaining the waiting crowd with songs and dances.
I am a priest in the middle a group of youth of Light Life. Coming into Kraków by train this morning was full of joy with choruses, hand clapping and jokes. All in Polish but I don't mind. I can quietly pray as they liven up the whole place. They are full of life. Walking through the shopping centre I just cleared the handrail of the escalator in time as one of our group hurtled past as if he was on a slide.
Pope John Paul did a good thing inaugurating these World Youth Days so many years ago.
The opening Mass is tonight at the big stadium I saw last night.
Eventually it rained and we had to assemble in wet grass for the Mass. Endless crowds of young people converged on the converted fields and were directed to their assigned areas. Security was strict. I was not allowed to join the priests as I did not have a priest badge. The one I had was for simple pilgrims. And then the drizzle began. Fortunately we had all been issued with poncho rain macs in our kits, and bin bags were given out freely in the field as we came in. Those yellow bags served to keep our feet and clothes dry.
As the Mass started the sun began to shine again. Most beautiful singing came from the faraway stand. The Mass was a votive Mass in honour of Pope John Paul 2 and was mainly in Latin.
The Cardinal of Poland presided with very many bishops and priests. He preached gently but long and I did not understand a word of it- nor evidently did the youth group from Lyon who surrounded me. It was hard to make out the readings until the girl next to me showed me her French book. Polish is an impenetrable language if you speak no Slavonic language yourself. A special moment was the sign of peace when suddenly the sun shone benignly in the sky. It felt like God looking down on his children in whom he was well pleased. This opening Mass took in all an hour and a half with a grand finale of singing and the waving of national flags. And then the youth started departing. There was no end of pilgrims streaming out for a least three quarters of an hour. I have no idea how many they were but they were many,many,many!
And we went with the flow and at last arrived at the train station after forty minutes to go back to our places of residence outside the city, but the trains were unable to cope with the large numbers of travellers. We missed two trains because of overcrowding. Eventually we got this one at 11.14 pm but just past two thirds of the way home it has broken down. So we have been waiting a full hour for rescue. This is all reminding me that the mission to the youth has the usual challenges of missionary life. The youth remain cheerful notwithstanding. Will we spend the night in this train? (It reminds me of the bother the Cure d' Ars used to be subjected to before 'big fish' were to arrive the next day.) Tomorrow, or rather today, Pope Francis is due to arrive from Rome. Oh, we do have fun! Two hours later another train comes to rescue us. The good spirit prevails. 35 people are treated from the train by paramedics. We get to bed at 4am. End of first day.Alleluia.
Fr. James D. Fanning mhm
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