Fr James D. Fanning mhm
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.
But I think it was God's plan so that I could experience mass from the pews, ahem fields, with the rest of God's faithful. I am proud to say I am ´smelling of the sheep' tonight.
The day started bright and early as I joined in the local parish Sunday liturgy in Polish at 7am. When the priest gave me parts of the Eucharistic prayer to read I did them in Latin as I felt it was more relevant than English. It is the first time in my life that I have spoken Latin words like that in a parish liturgy. It spurred the people on to sing the our Father also in that language. The congregation was mainly my generation and above. They are the ones who have given us all those wonderful youth but also the generation who have seen Poland eventually get its independence from the Communists and the Nazis. How Poland has suffered but the new generation never experienced it and only know the new Poland which they are fully enjoying. None of the youth of the parish were visible. I guess they were already heading for the youth mass six kilometres away on the Mater Misericordiae campus with the Pope. My hosts insisted I come back for breakfast and then they drove me to within a kilometre of the WYD venue.
Although the youth had spent the whole night in the field they were still as lively as ever. I was better placed this time and better wired up to see and hear the holy Father arriving behind a long procession of bishops and priests. I could see nothing of them with my naked eye, only what the screens showed me. Once again the choir was beautiful but the singing did not engage the faithful where I was standing. We were mostly silent spectators. I know that those round the altar had a wonderful view. That is one of the downsides of such big gatherings, I guess. But I still marvelled at the logistics of organising such a big gathering. We were reminded that the feast today was of St. Ignatius of Loyola – the founder of the Jesuit order – who gave us Pope Francis. Some have estimated that three million youth were there. Well the place was as full as the eye can see. Some parts of the area did not even have screens-only FM radio! Some of our Light Life moment youth were victims of this and came back a bit down hearted.
In the Homily the Pope took Zacheus' encounter with Jesus as his theme. He made three points. 1. His stature 2.Being out of sync with his peers 3. Being called by name. He pointed out how the world looked down on Zachaeus but Jesus looked up to him.
Youths need not look down on themselves and have negative thoughts about themselves, let them see how positively the Heavenly Father looks at them, no matter what they have done.
Pope Francis' love for the youth came through in every sentence. It was a beautiful sermon of highlighting God's mercy and encouragement. The Eucharistic prayer was in Latin and we all managed to get to holy Communion. And then the thank you followed by the announcement of the next WYD venue in 2019 in PANAMA. The Panama delegation were jubilant. And then we had the angelus and then the blessing and the final ITE MISSA EST…. Deo..o.o.o..o.o.o.o.o.o.o.o gratias.
And so the big journey back home begins. But as Pope Francis says 'World Youth Day' is today, but must also stretch into tomorrow, and we need to keep it alive in our hearts wherever we go…home…studies…work. Keep the relationship with Jesus alive by the GPS of prayer.' He used a lot of computer and mobile phone illustrations in his homilies.
Ground sheets and sleeping bags were rolled up, empty water bottles put in the waste bins and the long journeys home begin. The fire fighters turned on their sprinklers as we passed and cooled us down as it was 12 noon. We were each given at the gate the left over lunch and breakfast packs. Truly we have not had one moment of hunger or thirst throughout the whole week. The Kraków people have been pleasantly surprised by the youth and have loved them to bits. There has been no attempt to exploit the youth financially. We didn't even have collections. The registration was only $50 or $60 if you wanted to contribute towards sponsoring someone else. The whole city has belonged to the youth but now they give it back to the residents. Kraków has been blessed for opening their doors wide for these millions of young people. May God bless them again and again.The Youth of the world came, they celebrated and now they are moving on. The motto has been: "Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy"
Fr. James D. Fanning mhm
Do widzenia! Arrivederci! Hasta la vista! Panama here we come!