24 July 2008
22 July 2008
All week long, pilgrims had been speculating about where the next WYD would be held. The prevailing rumor was that it would be in Spain. That rumor turned out to be true, as the Holy Father announced that WYD 2011 would be held in Madrid. It is an interesting choice given the current tensions between the bishops and the government of Spain. It became crystal clear to me during this week in Sydney that a World Youth Day needs the cooperation and support of the local government in order to succeed. Here in Sydney, for instance, streets were closed to traffic, extra bus and train services were added, bus routes were changed, public structures, such as the Opera House and the Exhibition Centre, were given over exclusively to WYD and the normal rhythms of the city were disrupted for the week. None of that could have happened without the support of the local government. So how will this work in Spain? If the government refuses to cooperate, it could score a moral victory against the Church, but it might also negatively affect the image of Spain in the eyes of the world. If, on the other hand, the government works together with the Church to make WYD a success, it could increase tourism to Spain, but at the risk of alienating some of the stauncher members of the Socialist Party. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Upon reaching Randwick, every pilgrim received a bag containing that evening's dinner plus tomorrow's breakfast and lunch. By 3:00 p.m., when those who opted for the long walk reached Randwick, the place looked like a refugee camp. Tents had been set up and sleeping bags rolled out on every square inch of ground for as the eye could see. The area allotted to the Capuchin pilgrims was not particularly near the altar, but it was near the adoration chapel.
The evening vigil service with the Pope did not start until 7:30 p.m. so the pilgrims spent the time eating, praying before the blessed sacrament, napping, and talking with the other pilgrims. Various musical performances, shown on large video screens set up around the area, also helped to fill the time. The vigil service consisted of song, testimony from several pilgrims, an address by the Holy Father, and Benediction. In his address, Pope Benedict spoke about Saint Augustine's understanding of the Holy Spirit. It was quite challenging intellectually, which shows, I suppose, that he wants WYD to be more than just a Catholic Woodstock.
When the Pope left around 9:30, the pilgrims prayed an "international rosary" and sang the Salve Regina. Fortunately, the rain that had been forecast for Saturday night never materialized. Some high, thin clouds partially obscured the full moon, but otherwise, the night was dry and relatively mild. The tired pilgrims eventually crawled into their sleeping bags for a good night's rest. [In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I returned to the friary after the vigil service, and slept in the warmth and comfort of my bedroom there. And no, I do not feel guilty at all about it!]
21 July 2008
Participation in the Via Crucis was hampered for us by the difficulty of seeing the video screens and of hearing the audio. At least by the time the group acting out the Way of the Cross reached Barangaroo, the audio problems had been solved. There were constant references throughout WYD to the fact that it was being celebrated on land that once belonged to the Aborigines. In addition, Aboriginal dance and music was worked into all the liturgies. Even the Via Crucis acknowledged the importance of the Aborigines in Australia's history and culture by having Simon the Cyrene played by an Aborigine.
Catechesis was followed by the Eucharist, celebrated by Bishop Oudeman. Then after a quick lunch provided by the parishioners, the participants set out for Barangaroo, where the Pope was scheduled to arrive by boat. Getting to Barangaroo, or to any of the other event sites in Sydney, was no small ordeal. Our group had to first catch a city bus into the city. After exiting the bus, we had to walk about 2 km (a little over a mile) to get to our assigned position at Barangaroo. Other groups of pilgrims converged from all directions so that for the last several hundred meters we were squeezed into one flowing mass of humanity. We had been assigned an area next to the path that the Popemobile would take upon leaving the area, and we arrived early enough to get positions along the barricades.
There was great excitement in the air when the Holy Father finally arrived around 3:00 p.m. The event was somewhat marred for us, however, because the loudspeakers nearest our section stopped working just before the Pope began the prayer service. As a result, we missed the entire first five minutes of his homily. The speakers then began working intermittently for the rest of the homily, which was maddening. What I could hear of his homily was very inspirational so I eventually went here to get the complete text online.
After the prayer service, the Holy Father boarded the Popemobile to leave the area, passing within about two meters of us on the way.
Dinner was served to all the pilgrims after the Pope's departure. The fare was not exactly gourmet, and the ambience left something to be desired—sitting on the asphalt as thousands of people kicked up dust and sand as they walked by. On the other hand, no one was expecting four star treatment, and the food was actually quite good considering the number of people they had to feed in such a short time.
Each evening during the week various concerts, exhibits and lectures were offered around the city. This particular evening, most of our group attended the two performances offered at Saint Stephen's Uniting Church. The first was the world premier of Brother John Russo's "Holy Rosary". Brother John, a member of the Capuchin Province of the Stigmata (New Jersey), took on the challenge of setting the rosary to music while he was a postulant several years ago, but never had the opportunity to have it performed. For the occasion of World Youth Day, he rearranged the music for string orchestra and chorus. While the rosary was sung, images of famous paintings illustrating each of the mysteries were projected on the screens positioned at the front of the church. Despite the fact that the performance was inadvertently omitted from the list of WYD events, there was a large audience on hand for it. The reaction to the performance was overwhelmingly positive. Afterwards, most of the audience remained for a performance of Oliver Messiaen's "Quartet for the end of time," which was beautifully performed. The composition itself, however, is an acquired taste that many of the audience have yet to acquire.
Here is a short video of the Papal arrival. We could not see it very well from our vantage point.
16 July 2008
After Mass, the participants were treated to an Australian barbecue for lunch. They then walked a short distance to the Italian Forum for an afternoon of song provided by various artists. Brother Dean Mathieson and his band performed once again. Gary Pinto, who co-wrote the official theme song for WYD 2008, performed with his band. The closing act was provided by "Pellisintetiche", led by Brother Lucio Saggioro, a Capuchin of the Venice Province. The humorous and energetic performance had the WYD participants on their feet dancing in no time.
The friars of the Australian Province have been working feverishly for the past six months arranging lodging for the friars, venues for various activities, speakers for catechesis and hundreds of other details. Bush hats off to them for their excellent (dare I say, uncharacteristic) organization!
Although the opening Mass of WYD was celebrated Tuesday afternoon, some events began already that morning. One of them was the abovementioned vocations exhibit. Various musicians entertained the crowds of young people at the exhibit, including the Australian Province's own Brother Dean Mathieson. At the vocation booth, the friars had several kinds of literature about the Capuchin Order, as well as label pins with the Province's website listed on it. The booth was well visited, both by prospective candidates and by people who wanted to let us know how much they appreciate the Capuchins friars working in their home countries. It was an uplifting and humbling experience to hear their appreciation.
The opening Mass began at 4:30 in the afternoon, with Cardinal George Pell of the Sydney Archdiocese presiding. The venue of the Mass was an area along Darling Harbor officially known as Barangaroo, but known to the locals as "The Hungry Mile". Getting there and finding one's place was predictably chaotic, but spirits were high nonetheless. Before the liturgy, the pilgrims were greeting by Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who praised the role of religion, and Christianity in particular, in the history of society. The liturgy itself was very beautiful, incorporating music inspired by the cultures of the Aborigines, the Maori and some of the nearby islands. While the friars were somewhat scattered among the crowd, there was a visible reminder of their presence at WYD in the person of Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who was near the main celebrant during the Mass and frequently shown on the Jumbotron.
03 July 2008
Besides the triennial report of the outgoing Provincial Minister, Br Tony Marti, the brothers also heard a report from Br David Beaumont on the Province’s mission in northern Mexico and one from Jesus Vela on the efforts of the Vocation Office. The newly-elected Provincial Council consists of (left to right in photo above): Jesus Vela (Vicar), Peter Banks, Matthew Elshoff (Provincial Minister), Robert Barbato and Michael Mahoney.
Five resolutions were passed with large majorities at the Chapter:
- to ratify the Guiding Principles;
- to ratify the Action Steps;
- to consent to the establishment of a new friary in northern Mexico;
- to use the help of outside expertise to improve the results of the Vocation Office;
- to authorize the creation of a Strategic Planning committee, composed of both friars and lay people, to help the Province focus on its mission and to determine the resources needed to accomplish that mission.