21 July 2008

WYD 2008, day 3

Thursday catechesis for the Capuchin group was again held at the Capuchin parish of Saint Fiacre, and was led by Bishop Joseph Oudeman, OFMCap, Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane. The Capuchin group, by the way, includes not only the English-speaking friars attending World Youth Day, but also groups of youth from Capuchin-run parishes in Australia and Guam as well as a few other groups that were assigned to it by the WYD organizers. The theme for the day's catechesis was: "The Holy Spirit: Soul of the Church". After his talk, a few of the participants commented on what they hoped to take away from the talk, and some asked the Bishop questions, all of which showed a high level of interest among the participants.

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.

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