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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Epilogue 03 - WYD 2008 Diaries

Good Morning to All!

Just to help our pilgrims track our memories and experiences, and help our reflection, which I needed to do for myself, here is our WYD08 Itinerary - as well as I can remember it - of pretty much what we did or had options to do.... Feel free to send me additions and corrections....

In Jesus, Fr. Gilles

Friday, August 01, 2008

WYD 2008 Photos 007

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Epilogue 02 - WYD 2008 Diaries

Greetings to All,

Since we who have been privileged to pilgrim to WYD 2008 in Sydney haven't been aware of the media coverage, I'm just now discovering it, beginning with Salt + Light TV. Check it out.

They also have a Salt + Light Blog, on which among other things they give reference to Pope Benedict's reflection on his experience of WYD and his hopes for all of us pilgrims and for all the young Catholics and Christians of the world.

You will also find on their blog the WYD08 Final Statistics.

As I just begin really to reflect on how I myself experienced this WYD08 pilgrimage, browsing the Salt + Light website, listening to their Zoom reports, browsing their blog, I find myself being drawn to read and reflect on the texts of Pope Benedict's addresses to us, which were at times difficult to hear, let alone focus clearly on....

I am deeply impressed and touched to my soul's life experiences by his reflection shared with us at the Vigil on the Holy Spirit.... his final paragraphs on St. Augustine's struggle to understand the Holy Spirit in a practical way actually helps us picture the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives, relationships, and faith community, and then his encouragement to us is remarkable and precious!

I'm so glad to now be able to reread his Sunday homily, which I had a lot of trouble even hearing because of the strong echo at Randwick.... Pope Benedict is really a good spiritual father for us, giving very practical and simple counsel on how to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with his power and unfold in us his gifts. Our belonging to the family of the Church is the way in which God has been pouring into us the life of the Trinity, and it is Jesus who at every Holy Communion fills us anew with the Holy Spirit, who is Love in Person and the Giver of life.

I hope we get a chance to discuss the words of Pope Benedict that are having the most impact on us.... In this ongoing Epilogue WYD Diaries, I hope to go back and fill in our Itinerary and my own experience of our journey, so that it may become clearer how the Holy Spirit has been leading us throughout our pilgrimage and onwards into our future..... Thanks to Fr. Raymond Lafontaine who sent us all of Pope Benedict's addresses in a single document!

In Jesus, Fr. Gilles

Epilogue 01 - WYD 2008 Diaries

Hello to you, dear fellow pilgrims, families, friends, and parishioners....

I'm still not on the right clock, but I've had a good long chat with my sister Lyette who is preparing her own vacation and with Papa whom I'm looking forward to seeing on Saturday.... I've emptied my backpacks and have had a look at my blog and journal and see the gap in both. I didn't have time to keep up my own journal and intend to catch it up this week. The blog was comprehensive until Thursday afternoon July 10th and resumed Saturday afternoon the 12th, and then was sketchy and brief from the 13th to the 18th, with little after that except one incident on the 23rd and then resumed on the 28th for a day and a half.

I hope to do a retrospective, a kind of epilogue over what I missed and also of my impressions overall in the days ahead.... This experience is too precious to allow it to fade. It is important to gather up the gifts the Lord gives us, to remember them and reflect on them and also to tell others about them, because it is only in the telling that we come to better understand and even to possess our own experiences.... otherwise they tend to fade into oblivion or at least aren't as available to us and may not have as lasting an effect on us as when we do reflect and give witness to what we have seen, heard, felt, thought, and experienced. It is for this that the Holy Spirit gives us power from above, to give witness to Jesus as the One we experience as truly our Lord, Teacher, Saviour, and the Beloved of our souls.

In Jesus, Fr. Gilles

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

the latest

Hi. The latest is we've just been summoned to reboard the plane and we probably will make our flight to Vancouver out of Auckland. They've fixed the mechanical problem. Stay tuned. If there are further developments I'll try to blog again. God bless one and all. Fr. Gilles

Monday, July 28, 2008

WYD 2008 Photos 006

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WYD 2008 Photos 005

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WYD 2008 Photos 004a

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Days 19-26 - July 22 to 29 of our WYD 2008 Pilgrimage

Greetings to all of our family members, friends, and parishioners.....

I'm publishing this post as I begin it and continue to edit and repost, just to alert the casual browser that I'm currently online in Sydney at Global Gossip, which is incidentally the most reliable Internet place I've found to date. I am also concurrently uploading photos to Photobucket and will then post them to this blog. I notice that last time the post came in twice... I don't know how that happened, but I was making haste in my last few minutes of online time....

My earlier postings went into quite a bit of detail, that was while we were in New Zealand, a wonderful time for all of us, even though it was really cold from the evening to midmorning. Mind you, for most of our pilgrims, cold has never been much of an issue.... I think there are only a handful of us "frileux" types....

Once we came for the first time to Sydney for the week of WYD, our pilgrimage accelerated a great deal.... I managed to give you a bit of a glimpse of those days and all that activity, and you will hear a lot more from your pilgrim family member or friend. We celebrated the Holy Eucharist last night in the breakfast room (the only gathering place) of our hotel, which is not the one originally on our itinerary (there were cockroaches apparently there) and which at least is clean, though in an army barracks kind of way....

We have had a few such profoundly meaningful celebrations of the Lord's mysteries, in which we have left room for our pilgrims to voice a particular intention. On this occasion, it followed up on a very significant large group sharing time which we had yesterday morning, Monday here, after breakfast and before our four different activity groups headed out for their day's outing. Our first such very open large group sharing occurred as a Liturgy of the Word because I was unable to speak without coughing heavily, and that was while we were still in New Zealand at the Kiwi Paka Lodge on Monday or Tuesday the 7th or 8th of July. It was a very deep personal moment when all the pilgrims shared personal impressions, aspirations, concerns, spiritual desires, and prayer intentions.

As I remember it, we had a number of significant celebrations of the Holy Eucharist while in New Zealand, in different places. During the WYD week, we celebrated as a group only once, and that was Saturday evening at the beginning of the Vigil, and a handful of our New Zealand guests and pilgrims themselves joined us. While we were in Cairns, we had no place or occasion to celebrate the Holy Mass, and only did so twice. On the Wednesday we went by minibuses to Cape Tribulation, a kind of resort area in the rainforest, and on Thursday morning, our group decided to join a French group from S. Jerome Diocese, with l'abbe Martin presiding. I would have liked to preside a Mass for our own group, but being still troubled by a cough when I attempt to speak I didn't mind joining the French Mass too. It was beautiful, and all were pleased, except perhaps a few whose French is not so strong.

Then we all trudged off to the nearby St Monica Cathedral of Cairns, a 7 minute walk of two blocks where we joined the 10 am regular Mass presided by Bishop Foley. I slipped into the sanctuary, having arrived just before Mass began - our group got a late start what with checking for presences and so on.... It was a lovely Mass.... The bishop was actually quite humorous, and I found out after Mass that he too has been suffering what what he called the flu, having spent a week in bed to no avail, which perhaps explains why he left out the creed and prayers of the faithful and went straight from the homily to the Offertory procession.... Still, we all felt revived by the Lord, the sheer beauty of the 24 stained glass windows telling the story of Creation, the faith of the congregation with whom we felt at home, and the beauty of the cantor's and choir's voices and music they had chosen, some of which was familiar.....

Sunday morning we had checked out of our rooms and loaded our baggage into a locked room near the entrance to Koala Beach Resort, and gone to Mass. After Mass, there were refreshments served and we are not known for refusing such offers!!!!!!!!! Meanwhile, Laura Ieraci with help from Isabel Correa set up a little studio outside the cathedral in a lateral courtyard in the sunshine - it was a radiant morning around 23 degrees - and interviewed a select number of our pilgrims, who had been asked the night before. A few others contemplated the stained glass windows and listened to a remarkable audio narrative interpreting them. Others browsed the cathedral gift shop on the opposite side of the church off the other courtyard. Eventually, we found our way back to Koala and from there went off into separate groups for lunch, shopping, browsing, exploring, or to rest in the sun at the Lagoon, a fresh water pond/pool near the shore and harbour.

We all met back at Koala for our bus to the Cairns airport to travel to Syndey, where we were welcomed once again by cold and rainy weather... oh joy!!! This brings be back to the sharing we had yesterday morning, the second such large group extended sharing of this pilgrimage, which is not a mean feat, considering the fact that most of our venues didn't allow for large group gatherings. We wanted our pilgrims to have the opportunity to share their impressions, hear those of others, and for us to reflect with them on the significance of some of our experiences and observations.

Sometimes one has to go to the other side of the world to notice things that may also be evident back home but are no longer obvious or consciously noticed because they have become familiar or commonplace. While the Church in New Zealand and Australia and Catholics here seem more orderly, for lack of a better word, I mean that they tend to be more reverent in church, less likely to chat and carry on as we do - especially in front of the Blessed Sacrament - and both the believer and the 'model citizen' tend to behave in an orderly fashion and carefully, politely; the society in general is quite secularized and shall we say a little looser than we are accustomed to see. For example, it is illegal in Quebec and the rest of Canada to drink in public, I mean outside or openly in public places. Not so here.

While we were in Cape Tribulation, our only night there, we had no scheduled activity except I believe a night walk on which a few went to observe the behaviour of the creatures of the night. Well not all the wild creatures were in the rainforest. We the adults carefully supervised our youth, around fifteen of whom were engaged in a social game in which the players act out specific roles assigned to them by the draw of a card. A few others sat and watched or played billiards nearby. A few I believe were resting in their cabins, and each cabin had at least one adult, and we did not allow any minors to be alone at any time, but always accompanied by an adult.

Our care and supervision paid off in a noticeable way that night. A stranger, a man in his 30's took interest in the social game and pulled a chair nearby to observe it as he sipped his glass of wine. Occasionally he asked a question of the game master, one of our young underage girls. When he left to replenish his wine, I approached Julie and Anna who had been standing nearby and was told that our young game mistress felt 'freaked out' by the man, who after all was a stranger and an adult. His interest had seemed innocent enough and may very well have been only that. Still, once I heard that I went into alert. I placed myself near our game mistress, and when the man returned and made a move to put his hand on her shoulder to ask another question, I moved in on him and informed him that his invasion of her personal space was not only unwanted but inappropriate, he being an adult and she being a youth. He showed some apparently innocent embarrassment, not realizing this was the case, and disappeared. Needless to say, our young game mistress was relieved and grateful.

Various of our pilgrims - youth together with adults - had other harmless encounters with young people or adults who were obviously inebriated, and our team took care to debrief with each of the groups their experiences. At the end of the evening, we met together and quickly came to a consensus that we needed to bring this up with the whole group at a general large group meeting in order to help them express their thoughts and feelings at their observations and draw some useful lessons from it all, in view of our experience of faith and of WYD.

It was useful that we had resolved to do this, because our first night in Sydney, Sunday night, we arrived at our destination on William Street around 10:30 pm. We brought our bags in, received keys to our rooms - four per room with at least one adult per room - and met downstairs, those who wanted to go out to eat. We went up the street to McDonald's and quickly realized we were in the red light district - our hotel was just off the edge of it. We carefully shepherded our sheep and surrounded them. While ordering and eating our meals - not the cleanest McD we've ever seen either - a few young men and women in line were obviously inebriated and carrying one a box of wine, another an open beer bottle. This would not be happening in Montreal.

Our presence reassured our youth, and the behaviour of our adults towards the troubled youth was a good example of Christian charity and respect for the dignity of others, no matter what. Obviously, we had all the more reason for our large group sharing yesterday morning. Well, it was wonderful to listen to our youth, how considerate and understanding they were for people who find themselves in various situations we would categorize as 'being lost'. Some also were glad for his opportunity to express their feelings: a bit spooked by it but reassured by the motherly / fatherly presence of our adult team leaders, angry at the conditions that cause youth to find themselves so lost, compassion at those who may not have had the experience of family and faith with which we have been so blessed, a mixture of compassion and need to be careful of oneself under such circumstances and glad to be with our group, and so on....

These are wonderful youth, our pilgrims, and it has been a joy and privilege for us to have accompanied them halfway around the world to these World Youth Days and to this great adventure, which many are already qualifying as life-changing, and an experience of a lifetime.

We have cautioned our pilgrims to brace themselves for the return. Having had many personal experiences of being on retreat, we have all known how difficult it is to return to the regular rhythm and routine of life once we have been off the 'merrygoround' of life in today's world. You our family, friends, and parishioners will not have had the countless experiences we and they have had here these almost 28 days, although you will undoubtedly be able to relate from your own similar experiences of being on retreat or pilgrimage.

For those of you who have never been either on retreat or on pilgrimage, then it may be more of a challenge for you to enter into the experiences of your pilgrims as they try to articulate and to relate to you their itinerary, the journey they have had from experience to experience, and from desire to faith encounter with the Lord, each in his or her own way.

We pilgrims ourselves will need time to debrief with each other all that we have experienced. The lucky ones are those who diligently kept a daily journal, while others of us like me just didn't find much time for it. Many days it was all I could manage to keep up with the Liturgy of the Hours, keep up with the group, and prepare for the upcoming celebration of the Eucharist. Still, we hope to provide those who can come a few meetings in the coming weeks to help us all to debrief some of our experiences while on pilgrimage, and how the Lord is inviting us to integrate these graces into our daily lives; so that we may no longer be as we were, but rather as the Lord is now offering us to be and to continue becoming.....

Peace be with you all, and please join us in prayer and reflection as we anticipate meeting at the airport and living through the days and weeks ahead that will, by our attentiveness and mutual caring, not let the treasures of this pilgrimage be lost, but will rather gather them up into hearts and minds and souls that are attentive, eager to receive from the Lord all the He desires to offer, and willing to take the time to contemplate the wonders He does in our lives and in the lives of those we love and of those we meet.

We are all conscious that life has gone on for all of you too, and we will also need to catch up on how you are and what has happened to you over this time, and what it has been like for you to accompany us in a spiritual and prayerful way through your love and desires for the Lord's man gifts..... Peace be with you one and all, and God bless you. Thank you so much for your kind prayers and loving consideration.....

Father Gilles, signing off for this WYD 2008 pilgrimage.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

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Days 12 to 19 of our WYD 2008 pilgrimage

Good evening, day, to all....

Well, the WYD portion of this almost month long pilgrimage has come and gone....

It was a thrill and an honor for our youth and for all of us to animate the Catecheses in a sports arena in Sydney's Olympic Park, where we also slept, but that was in "The Dome", a large facility - whose purpose I never got the opportunity to discover - shaped like a velodrome without the track. We were set up all in a row, girls at the far end with leaders at the end and leaders separating them from the boys at the near end to the center, with more leaders at that end.... Once we got used to it, we were glad to get back to it each night to sleep.

There was a lot of singing, a few skits, and lots of laughs and high spirits as we brought the other pilgrims, from 2000 to over 2500 to participate and sing. A lot of people were somewhat blitzed by the cold air, around 1 to 4 degrees at night and 10 to 14 during the day, so warming up with singing and movements was a welcome idea. We were glad to be there to welcome Pope Benedict on the Thursday and to participate in the grandiose way of the cross on Friday by sitting in a park which was one of the stations. Of course, the highlight was the overnight Vigil and the final Mass on Sunday.

Through the week, more of us have developed cold symptoms, so we continue to stock up on vitamins, try to get more sleep, and do all we can to keep warm. Still, not much can dampen the high spirits of our youth as we continued to enter into the significant and fascinating events of WYD. A few of our pilgrims elected not to go to the Vigil and one of our leaders accompanied them to stay in a hotel suite for the night so they could get better rest and keep warm. Franca took good care of them like a good mother, and got those who were coughing to wear a hospital mask to keep the room sanitary. On our return, I went to visit our convalescents and brought them Holy Communion from the Pope's Mass, beginning by praying with them, having them take turns reading the Mass readings, and sharing our impressions of the Pope's message, which those who were awake saw on TV.

After going back to the Dome for our last night, we packed up and left for good in the morning to fly out to Cairns, where we are now. It is much warmer here.... It was 25 when we arrived even though it was overcast and continues to be.... Today we went on a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef, where most snorkelled and a few tried scuba diving. I tried it but didn't get very far, what with my persistent cough.... We all had a good time and most are going to bed early tonight on a voluntary basis, even though Michael has given us a 9:30 curfew.

I'm trying to upload more photos... I've tried in two different places this past week, but the PC's were locked in some what that wouldn't allow me to download my photos from the camera and then onto a portable memory stick. I finally found a place that would allow that, and am now uploading the photos to Photobucket, but must then share them to the blog. I may not have the time to do it as the operator closes soon.

God bless you all. Don't worry, we are either well or recuperating. Either way, we are taking good care of our pilgrims as though they were our very own. Peace and love.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Days 7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14 News of our WYD Pilgrims

Hello everyone! No, we didn't fall off the end of the Earth.... Last Thursday July 10th, our day 7, I spent several hours in the afternoon becoming familiar with the St Patrick Parish PC and tried to load up photos to Photobucket and my blog, and also to send you news.

Our hosts then offered us supper cocktails style, with volunteers passing among us with trays of various homemade or bought goodies, mostly hot, and a good time was had by all. For my part, I was not feeling so good, having started with a sore throat the day of our arrival and now having trouble speaking without coughing at the end of the day.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent Friday and Saturday morning recuperating at Dale and Dave Elliot. In the afternoon they drove me to the Cathedral where they joined us for a Mass I presided for our pilgrims. I then rejoined them for a visit to Kelly Taltons, an oceanarium with a history of Antarctic exploration. That night we all had dinner as usual with our host families except for the 8 of us at the Monastery. We were invited to go as two groups to two other families and then four of us and our family joined the other group and family to watch a rugby match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South Africa Springbocks - well was that ever exciting. The Kiwis really take their rugby seriously and it as almost as loud with the 35 people in that living room as in the Canadians' forum!

Sunday we joined the Parish for their main 10 am Mass and our pilgrims sang a few songs with the local choir, who were very good! In the afternoon there was a pilgrim walk to Tyburn Monastery, where 8 of us were staying, and the Mothers received them with refreshments. Then we went to the chapel for a holy hour of prayer and adoration. It was meaningful and very touching. That night we all went out to Peter O'Connell's for a Farewell Bar-B-Q. When touching words were exchanged and also the next morning, heart swelled with emotion as both our youth and our hosts were reluctant to see these days come to an end, but of course they must and did.

Since Monday we have had very full days. We are staying at the Olympic Park in a sportplex called the Dome, sleeping on mats 18 inches apart on the sides and 6 feet apart at the head, with the feet on the aisles, with over 3000 other pilgrims!!!! We wouldn't have believed it when we arrives, but after full days of walking around from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm, we're glad to come back to our "Home Sweet Dome".

Tuesday we had the opening Mass presided by Cardinal Pell. Yesterday and today and again tomorrow (Friday) morning we along with Transfiguration and Holy Name of Jesus are animating the morning catecheses given by a different bishop each day. Our youth are having a blast getting 2 to 3000 pilgrims singing in another sport arena... One of the most exciting, moving and draining experiences of these days is marching up boulevards closed to traffic immersed in a sea of tens of thousands of other pilgrims travelling in groups like schools of fish, carrying flags and chanting in their own languages....

I'm about to run out of dollar coins and time and I'll take it to the max....

Some of us have had scratchy throats and today we descended on a 'chemist' - what they call a pharmacy - and scooped up remedies and lozenges... Don't worry parents, we are taking good care of your youth. They aren't much different with us as they are with you.... We look forward to all having internet access and sending longer messages. God bless you and until next time...

Today we got to see Benny!!!

Pax + Caritas

Fr. Gilles

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Days 6-7-8-9-10-11 Catching up on our travelogue

It's already 5 days ago that we made our way from the Waitomo grotto caves to St Patrick Parish here in Pukekohe, some 40 kilometers out of Auckland. Don't ask me what direction.... It's all so disorienting... We put on our bright red Habs shirts and grouped together outside the entrance of the Parish Hall (it's on the right, with the church in the middle and the rectory on the left) where a contingent of parishioners had gathered to welcome us, with folk of every generation from grandparents to toddlers....

We sang a song and an elder religious Sister Mary Martin sang a Maori welcome... There were some official words of welcome by Vicky, the Parish WYD Coordinator for these Days in the Diocese, and others. Then we all mingled and piled into the hall for "afternoon tea" .... it was all so civilized and proper, a good rest and food for body and soul after our long bus ride.

There was much mingling and introductions and in time we were all introduced and assigned to our host families... 8 of us were to stay and Tyburn Monastery, where 5 Benedictine nuns carry on continuous adoration and maintain a house of prayer and retreat. We were delighted to arrive to a warm supper waiting at 6:30 and later settled into our rooms. We joined the sisters for Night Prayer (Compline) which was very touching. The sisters sang with such small, delicate voices, as though expressing to the Lord with great affection their poverty and fewness in numbers and yet great confidence in his love and faithful help....

We were blessed with individual rooms with electric space heaters... and enjoyed showers and good food. The sisters prepared lunches for us, whether midday meal was already planned or not and we all found enough appetite to eat them, if not for lunch then for a snack in mid-morning or afternoon. We didn't get to see the beauty of the site where we were living until the weekend because we arrived at night after dark hits at 5 pm and left before morning light after 8 am.

Thursday - Day 7

We made our own breakfast from what the Sisters provided in the guest house: whole wheat bread, toasters, peanut butter and jams, fresh fruit, teas and coffee, milk, etc. Thursday, Friday and today Monday we made our way to the church for 8:45 to prepare for morning Mass at 9:00 with Frs. Peter Gray and Ikenasio Vilaliano (a Samoan), who have been simply wonderful. This first morning here we chatted and then were led on foot to a public park where we would perform a public service as part of our stay. Vicky said it was not far, just two blocks. She didn't say it would be two New Zealand blocks, which made it a 20 minute walk!

The weather was lovely and mostly sunny, though, and we enjoyed the walk and chatting, and photo ops. We arrived at this lovely park complete with hillside, gully, spring, trees, grass, and had 300 "trees" to plant. They were grasses and tropical tree seedlings around 12 to 24 inches high with root balls. Digging holes in the ground varied from very dry and hard ground to soft and muddy near the stream. Yes, some of us managed to get properly muddy and one of the local boys (6 foot +) managed to trip on a tree root jumping over the stream and landed one foot squarely in the water.... lots of giggling all around, and he was a good sport...

This was real labor, and many of our pilgrims looked like they had never handled a spade or shovel before, but quickly got the hang of it.... and all experienced deep satisfaction at making a difference and planting seedlings that would live on for many years and help the local Council reclaim unused land previously used as dumps.... The camaraderie and cooperation was a wonder to behold as pilgrims worked and helped each other and took time to have fun while still getting the job done. The organizers were thrilled at the group's progress and delighted that all 300 seedlings were planted.

We leisurely made our way to the other side of the stream and park where a grill had been set up and as Sami put it "an infinite number of sausages" were waiting for us... They do it simply here, serving on a slice of bread you could grill yourself, with butter, and ketchup... there were fruit and cookies... and of course the guys and a few gals played Haki Sak....

to be continued.....

Days 6-7-8-9-10-11 Our wonderful stay in Pukekohe, New Zealand

Good Day! Please note I've edited the previous post titles a little to put order in the photos postings: 001 is the Sunday Mass sendoff of June 28-29, 002 is the first posting of photos from New Zealand, and 003 is the most recent posting of photos from here. Now we are Monday morning and preparing to leave at noon. We've had a wonderful stay here in the little town of Pukekohe, among the people of St. Patrick Parish. I'm going to check on what's happening and if there's time I will return to catch up on my travelogue.

You see I've been out of commission for a bit. On our first day a week ago Friday it turned cold, rainy and windy and we walked, the leaders, back from a restaurant after Mass at St. Benedict in Auckland, and I caught a chill. Sore throat, dry cough when I tried to speak... So the leaders agreed I should go to see a doctor. Helene and Kim's hosts, Dale and Doug Elliot brought me to the clinic where she works as receptionist and a doctor put me on penicillin and other tablets, rest, Vitamin C, keeping warm, etc. I spent Friday and Saturday morning at Dale and Dave, and they drove me in to St Patrick Cathedral in Auckland where the pilgrims came after a climb up a volcano on the island in the harbour and we prepared and celebrated the Holy Eucharist.

It was a marvelous Mass in a remarkable setting, a beautiful worship space recently renovated. The Lord inspires us at such moments with meaningful words, pregnant silences, moving singing and touching communion of spirits.... So I'm still recovering, and I managed yesterday to have the PC load photos to Photobucket during our 10 am Sunday Mass with the parishioners, and after Mass sent them to the blog. Now I'll go check on the rest of our group and may or may not come back to continue the travelogue where I left off last week. God bless. Pax + Caritas.

We all love you our families, friends, parishioners very, very much, carry you and our intentions in our hearts and prayers and at Mass, and wish you were here with us, and look forward to see you again soon.... Hugs and kisses from everyone!!!!!!! ooooooo xxxxxx

Fr. Gilles for all our Pilgrims

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Finally, you get to see some photos!

Good Evening to All,

I finally have managed to upload photos to Photobucket and send them to this blog. It took a couple of hours on an unfamiliar and slower PC, in the Parish Office in a country where there is no indoor heating; so it's like sitting outdoors around 8 degrees minus the wind....

Anyway, here they are, but I'm afraid they're not in much order. There are photos taken the day of our departure, during the flights, in between flights in airports, on arrval, and all along the way.... up until our white water rafting last Monday - it's now Thursday evening here. In future, I will try to keep photos in separate folders for each day so the PC doesn't scramble them. Why PC's do such things I'll never understand, but there you are.


Fr. Gilles

WYD 2008 St Luke Pilgrims Photos 002

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Two years of anticipation - we finally meet our host families - Days 6-7

As we their team leaders observe our marvelous youth - and we are very proud of them, of their attitudes, of their behaviour, wherever we go - we are glad to see that so far our pilgrimage has been an adventure that manages to keep ahead of their expectations and is generally at a pace to match their youthful enthusiasm and boundless energy.... I can attest to that, no longer being so youthful myself!

I started numbering our pilgrim days at 0 for Wednesday and Thursday July 2-3 our travel days, with our first day on the ground here "down under" in New Zealand being Day 1. So then yesterday Wednesday July 9 was day 6 and we were off again to an early start, reporting at the breakfast area / conference room with our bags. The bus wasn't there and some of us became a little panicky, just a little, wondering whether we had gotten the time wrong, but no, David had gone with the bus to fuel up with diesel.

Many of the pilgrims bought the breakfast for NZ$13 and all who had it two days earlier got a $5 credit because they didn't actually provide enough bacon for everyone.... The rest of us opted to have breakfast from supplies we had accumulated these past few days. We were all in a good mood, in varying degrees of wakefulness, despite the third night in a row at or below zero, but we had gotten the knack of making the best of the room heater and layers of clothing. Some used their sleeping bags over their bed. Finally we were off exactly at 8:30 as scheduled, and our team leaders, guide, and driver were very happy about that, because we had an appointment to visit the Waitomo Caves at 11:00 a.m.

It was a long drive of over 2 hours away, and we observed magnificent landscape. In the far distance dark green tree covered mountains... at their feet rolling towards us energetic rolling hills covered with moist green grass kept quite short by flocks of sheep scattered all over the hill sides and tops, and around Rotorua, herds of dairy cows.... valleys and gulleys in between the hills and in some places brooks and little rivers, with sheep fences all over the place, and pretty little homesteads dotting the landscape here and there.

We pass through little villages and bigger towns, with picturesque and quaint homes.... We are told that in and around Auckland even modest 3 bedroom homes go for at least NZ$350,000. Nothing very big exists for less than that, unless you go into the countryside, but even there, it is hard to find anything for what we would consider a decent price. The cost of living is relatively high here. At first this was a shock to our pilgrims as we went out for meals or shopped at a food market for the fixings we needed to make a meal. However, since we rarely go out for three meals a day, we are remaining within the $35-50 range we originally told our pilgrims, which translates into NZ $45-65.

The Waitomo Caves are known worldwide because their ceilings are covered with glow worms that glow constantly as they burn their waste - they leave no droppings - and lower long sticky filaments with which to catch passing unsuspecting insects, which they then draw up to eat much as a fisherman draws up a fish caught on a fishing line hook. We had stopped just before arriving at the Caves because of the constant winding turns we were taking in the bus as we drove up into the hills, which caused a few to feel a bit noxious.... On arriving, we gathered outside the bus and lined up to await our guide.

I may not have mentioned before, but this is a good spot to do so... Whenever we have found ourselves waiting in line or in between activities, or for others to get back from something, our pilgrims naturally do as they do at home. They "swarm" together... in circles or in a row to chat, sit or lie down together, even nap together, like so many kittens or puppies in a litter.... When they are feeling more energetic, the "Haki Sak" enthusiasts gather in a circle of 5 to 8 or more to try to keep in the air without touching with their hands a little cloth bag the size of a golf ball, only it is soft and half filled with little beads.... It's really quite amazing to see them go at it for an hour on end, like when the first group had returned from white water rafting and had showered and changed and we awaiting the second group to return. The second group had hiked up the trail to observe the first group come over the 7 meter waterfall - not a 90 degree drop but more like a 45 degree rapid that goes down 7 meters - but once the first group was done, some hiked up the trail to observe the second group do it, while others just wanted to get out of their wet suits, boots, spray jackets, and fleece underneath it all....

Getting back to the caves, it was amazing to walk through the caves, up and down staircases put in after they were discovered, explored, and first opened for tours in 1889. Most of the caves are huge, as long as 40 kilometers - your eyes are not deceiving you - while the biggest one we got into here was a mere 80 or so meters long and 35 meters high. It is called the cathedral and has amazing acoustics since the limestone absorbs all the sound and leaves no echo. A number of famous singers have been here to sing in it: the Beatles, Tom Jones, and now St. Luke's Youth Choir! We kept going further down until we came to the home of the glow worms, and took two turns getting into one of two large aluminum boats capable of holding 25 or so. We sat down, did as we were told and kept very quiet and flashed no lights and took no pictures; so as not to spook the flow worms, lest they turn off their little lights.

It was so eerie and peacefully quiet down there, as we slowly drifted under ceilings of glow worms that looked like starry night skies.... When we finally emerged from the caves and walked back down the short trail to the bus, I couldn't help but notice the beautiful large trees in the gully dropping down fairly steeply on our left... for a moment I saw myself in one of the many scenes in The Lord of the Rings where the hobbits travelled through strange forests filled with living, moving trees.... It was so still, so calm and peaceful, so eerie in the half light of the shade under the canopy formed by the branches of the tall trees in the gully and the fern trees on the right.... I walked slowly, quietly, drinking in the sights, colors, stillness, fragrant moist air mixing the perfumes of the trees and plants all around....

One of those timeless moments you know will stay with you for a long time.... It was a kind of feeling mellow, as Helene said when we slowly walked away from the Polynesian Spa where we had soaked in that wonderful series of hot pools the other day... Well, that mellowness lingers with me, with us, and this is one of those moments where I was pleasantly aware of my whole body again in that mellowness, just from the sensory symphony of impressions in this place of marvels....

I believe that each pilgrim has been soaking up such experiences, and many have taken the opportunity to share their impressions with others in twos, threes, fours, etc. etc. and when we are all together....

We finally got ourselves back on the bus and drove back to Otorohangha, I think it was, where we had stopped earlier, only this time it was for lunch. We walked off in little flocks... Matthew wanted to join the others up ahead I could tell, and I accompanied him, as do all the mentors paired with younger pilgrims, and left him with Louis, knowing that this was one time I just couldn't bring myself to eat fast food - Subway - as comforting as it is for them to find something familiar. So I backtracked and found another little flock had gathered in a local grocery store open onto the street in a market like full view entrance and picked up bananas, cream cheese, a pear and made my way back to the bus to get some left over whole wheat bread, a tomato, and an opened jar of pitted olives stuffed with red pepper. When David got back and opened the bus I got those items and sat down at first at a picnic table in the shade and realizing it was around 10 degrees moved into the sun near a coffee shop. Pleasant to eat when you're hungry and warming up in the sun.....

Gradually, all the sheep gathered around the shepherd, Michael, chatting with contented tummies and smiling faces, in little groups, taking photos, and made our way back into the bus for our long drive to Pukekohe and St. Patrick Parish, where we would meet our host families. On the way Helene gave us a singing practice of the French Canadian songs in our songbook that we will sing for our hosts this week. We had a lot of fun not only singing them, but carrying on lively conversations about all that we have been experiencing. It's a wonder that Helene was able to carry on the practice at all, with all the chats going on, and she called on Philippe McAnany, Catherine Millette, Patrick Renaud, and others to help....

As we approached the town, the excitement level noticeably rose and Michael asked us to put on our Canadiens shirts. On arrival Laura Ieraci representing the Catholic Times and the Diocese of Montreal set up her tripod and camera and then we all filed out. There was a delegation of all generations waiting for us on the steps of their Parish Hall and we sang "He Reigns - Awesome God" for them. An elderly Sister from the Convent next door sang a Maori welcome song for us. Words were exchanged, and we were welcomed into the Hall for afternoon tea. How civilized and proper! We got our things off the bus and brought our bags into the Hall and mingled and enjoyed tea, which means tea, coffee, or other drinks such as juices, and cakes and cookies.

After a time, we had a little singing practice and at the same time sang for our hosts, inviting them to join in. Some of their youth also going as pilgrims to WYD 2008 in Sydney joined us. We sang the WYD 2008 theme song "Receive the Power" and several other songs. It's fair to say we raised the roof and warmed many hearts. Then our host families arrived and we were called by name and assigned to our hosts and sent to a table to retrieve our Auckland diocesan Pilgrim kit and an instruction sheet. Once everyone was assigned and announcements made, we all went off to our respective host homes. Seven other pilgrims and myself, including Louis, were assigned to the Tyburn Benedictine Monastery of contemplative Sisters, where they conduct what is called Continuous Adoration, i.e. not perpetual because they aren't enough to cover the week.

We had a lovely supper once we got our things into our rooms and after supper settled in. We joined the sisters for Compline, Night Prayer, at 8:00 p.m. and then went to our rooms. From what I hear, all of the pilgrims are encountering cultural differences of all kinds, from entering into homes without central heating and just electric space heaters in their room, to different diets and different ways of going about domestic activities, to the different climate. It's already dark at 5:30 or 6:00 pm and doesn't get light till around 8:00 am.

This morning we got ourselves breakfast and prepared to be picked up - we are the farthest from the church at around 15-20 minutes - and we gathered around and then went into the church for morning Mass. I went to the sacristy and was warmly welcomed by Fr. Ikenasio Vilaliano, originally from Samoa. I was thankful I kept my woolen sweater I bought a few days ago but regretted taking off my jacket which I could have kept under my alb. I must remember to bring my church cap I wear at St Luke in winter -my head and hands were bitterly cold in this unheated church - it must have been only 5 degrees if that. Still, Mass was lovely, and Jesus was here for us.... The pilgrims broke out in lively chatter and flocked together in the aisle after Mass.

We gathered together outside, the pilgrims chatting and sharing stories, while the leaders briefly met to discuss a few issues experienced overnight. Then we all trooped off for a 15-20 walk (not far our host coordinator Vicky said, just two blocks). She neglected to tell us it was two New Zealand blocks..... to a park where we helped the local Council plant some plants and trees along the sides of a brook to beautify the park, which they have worked very hard over a few years to clean up. The youth and leaders really got into this labor, the first real work we've had to do since we left Montreal. Carly and others also got to hold Vicky's baby before and afterwards in the still moments. A few got their shoes and pants muddy, but nothing that can't be easily remedied, and we were then treated to hotdogs (local sausage) on buttered brown bread we heated on the grill ourselves. Two local young men had grilled and prepared the sausages and napkins. Simplicity, with ketchup, but so satisfying after a good work shift!

There were also lots of bananas, apples, and cookies. Everyone had their water bottles and extra had been provided for those who didn't before we came to the park. Then our group did what they do so well, gathering around, sitting, chatting, playing Haki Sak, a few even climbed a tree to sit and chat... Our youth have enjoyed taking in the local youth and pilgrims.... And now, they have been at the school across the street for a singing practice, which must be over by now. I will continue trying to upload some photos, which is currently happening, and transfer new photos to my memory flash stick.

God bless you, one and all..... Union de priere. Desole que tout est en anglais....

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Day 5 - As we prepare to leave Kiwi Paka and meet our host families

Paul Di Libero

Jesus is truly present with us.

Catherine Millette

This is truly the most amazing felling in the world. There are no words to explain how we feel and the beauty of the group that surrounds us. God bless you all!

Jessica Pereira

New Zealand is FANTASTIC! It's impossible to describe the beauty and the greenery and the magnificence that surrounds us every minute of every day. Though we cant describe entirely the beauty of it all, we are becoming more and more grateful to the Lord as each day passes, as we are taking it all in. The power, the glory, the love and the infinite grandeur of God is so apparent to us now as we are journeying together. Thank-you Lord Jesus Christ!!!

Fr. Gilles

Day 5 has been exhilarating for the whole group.... After our Spaghetti Bolognese with garden salad prepared by Franca, Mario, Louis, Laura, Helene, and a host of others, we opened up this blog and several contributed posts.... Then we were off for a good night's sleep and awoke to, believe it or not, -2 degrees Celsius!!!! Even the bus had frost on it. I've been finding it hard to recover from the throat irritation and both yesterday and now today the second half of the day I have increasingly difficulty to speak without coughing, a dry cough. Several have offered help with their various remedies....

We were off to an early start at 7:15 this morning with breakfast at McDonald's and then on to the Agrodome where we enjoyed a gift shop of various sheep and wool related items of clothing and souvenirs, and then a show demonstrating the 19 different varieties of sheep in New Zealand, sheep shearing, lamb bottle feeding, cow milking, and a demonstration of sheep dog talent.... It was really very informative and entertaining.

We went on from there to Rainbow Springs - a sort of zoological garden where we observed in a nature park the various animals, birds, trees, and plants native to New Zealand and a wonderful setup for various trout that come up to spawn. I've never seen such humongous trout up to 30 inches long and some 8 inches or more in height... and over 5 kilos I'm sure.... in a beautiful pool with great vantage point views at poolside and up above it....

We went back to the mall and the food court for lunch and then on to Skyline Skyrides and Gondola / Luges where we rode gondolas up to the top of a mountain, what a view, and three brave souls rode the Sky Swing, a ride taking them up 100 feet by cable and then they pulled the cord themselves and were dropped, swinging in a huge arc back and forth until they stopped.... breathtaking! Just about everyone rode little luges down the mountain and went back up for a couple more rides.... They all had a lot of fun, and of course several of the youth played Haki Sak, or however it's spelled, in groups up to 8 in a circle.... Whenever they have a few moments in between acitivity.... They're getting to be very agile and a second group has begun.

We had supper back at Kiwi Paka and then a Prayer Service, given that my voice has just about given out and I can't speak without coughing, and Divine Providence made this a wonderful opportunity for the youth to celebrate Evening Prayer and share their thoughts and feelings as the Lord spoke to them in the reading, Psalm, and Gospel of Jesus calming the storm. How very deeply these young adults and adolescents live their lives and faith, responding deeply to all that happens to the members of their families, to their friends, to school and work colleagues.... Some of them shared how they came to faith or to know the Lord, or how Jesus has comforted them, and how intensively they desire those they know and love to come to know Him and taste his consolation too....

They then prayed for all of these people they mentioned, for Pope Benedict who himself faces many obstacles in his way as he prepares to come to meet us in Sydney, for our host families preparing to receive us tomorrow, for all the other Catholic youth of the world preparing to come and for those unable, and for all Christian and other youth and all people facing the challenges of life in our time.... They also remembered with affection and gratitude our families, friends, and all the parishioners who have been so supportive and who are in spiritual communion with us in prayer and joyful anticipation of the grace the Lord is pouring out upon us all in these days of grace. Pope Benedict is praying for and anticipating that these World Youth Days will be for the young pilgrims and for the whole Church a new Pentecost for a renewed period of evangelization that more and more people in our world may come to know Jesus, accept Him as their Saviour, and love Him, and in this way come to know the joy, peace, and love we who believe in Him have come to know....

Well, off to bed... after we pack our bags for another early departure.... Please pray for us, and for me that I may recover my health and voice....

Monday, July 07, 2008

Day 3-4 News, comments, notes from our pilgrims....

Julia K
Soaking in New Zealand's natural hot springs today, we had the oppurtunity to appreciate this county's beauty at it's fullest. Though all the pilgrims were reluctant to leave the springs, we were greatful for the chance to witness the beauty of this country, and greatful to God for guiding us here. We look forward to what each new day will bring.

Amber Adaszkiewicz
This trip has been such an amazing adventure. The amazing scenery is beautiful and the memories were share together would be a longterm rememberance. I'm so grateful to God for allowing me to share this wonderful experience with my second family. This will be a trip that we will never forget.

Patrick Renaud
Ce voyage est pour linstant une experience absolument incroyable a vivre. Bien entendu le paysage est paradisiaque et ce, a perte de vue; cest beau et tu sens cette beaute transcender tout ton etre. chaque journee est un collier assemblant des moments-perles inoubliables. Je remercie sincerement tous et toutes ceux qui ont contribue dune facon ou une autre a la gigantesque organisation de ce pelerinage. jespere seulement que les temoignages et les photos que vous trouverez sur ce blog vous inspira la meme senerite.

Ryan Alfred
This trip is a once in a lifetime experience and I'm so grateful God has given me the strength to go on this grand pilgramage. A big part of this trip for me is the actual faith journey, it has helped me to connect to God a lot more so far. Experiencing this trip with some of my best friends only makes this hourney so much more exciting sng wonderful. I miss everyone back home and am praying for you. WYD is only the beginning of this pilgrimage I'm on.

Erin Johnston
Wow. Through all the rain, wind and cool New Zealand air, God's work and beauty is so vibrant and amazing here. So far, the scenery has been amazingly beautiful. Though we have had our many cold days, God has blessed us with a safe trip here as well as a wonderful opportunity. I have a feeling that this experience will definitely help all 46 of us to grow deeper in our faith... and if a few hot springs are included on the way, all the better!
We all miss everyone back home and are extremely thankful and greatful for all of your help and support in sending us pilgrims to New Zealand and Australia this year for the trip and pilgimage of a lifetime!
I thank God for all that we have had the chance to see and do. It is amazing!

Matthew Rettino
Here we are at the other end of the world, and yet it feels like we could be home, though it is just the same entirely different. The Waikato region of New Zealand looks like we are in Vermont or the Eastern Townships save for the odd tropical plant. This is an entirely new experiance for me. Until now, I have never flown, never been to another continent, never been to another hemisphere, and never been to another radically climate. I have also never consdidered myself on a pilgrimage. This pilgrimage is the summit of the trials of the year, with finishing High School and all finishing writting a book just before. I am treasuring every single experiance in this new land and look forward to going to Australia and get that place stamped in my passport as well. I hope World Youth Day in Sydney will chan ge my way of thinking in some way before I return home. It is truly amazing here, a good country.

Fr. Gilles
Well, time to wrap it up for today / tonight. God bless us all, everyone, as Tiny Tim said so well in A Christmas Carol. Union de priere....

Greetings from Kiwi Paka **** Youth Hostel in Rotorua, New Zealand - Days 3-4

Greetings to All,

Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday, but it was quite a day. Saturday we celebrated a weekday Mass at the Armitage Hotel in Tauranga and we left there Sunday morning after such a hearty breakfast I have the impression it was really a Hobbit breakfast: sausages, eggs, fried mushrooms, beans, various fruit from preserves, fresh fruit wedges, cheeses, toast, coffee or tea, juice, and on and on.... poor pilgrims we were not in that wonderful moment!

On the road we went to visit Kiwi 360 which is a display farm like an eco museum combination arboretum displaying all the kinds of fruit and nut trees grown in New Zealand. It was an amazing tour on a little motorized train with a great guide. We stopped a few places to see close and touch the trees and kiwi vines that grow about 6 feet off the ground. Kiwi was the first local product of New Zealand fuelling their independence around 50 years ago and continues to drive the national economy. We got to sample green and golden kiwi fruit in the gift shop and also some local kiwi and other wines and liqueurs. (We were careful of our minors, don't worry.) It was very pleasant and most bought souvenirs, plastic bottles of kiwi juice, fresh kiwi fruit which are harvested over a 6 week period every year in April/May.

Our itinerary was tweaked by Michael and our team of leaders who then had our guide Margot and bus driver Dave bring us to a supermarket where we had time to stock up on items for lunch and perhaps another meal and snacks. We enjoyed the shopping too much and took more time than we had been allowed, so we only had 30 minutes to get back to Kiwi Paka 5 minutes away, prepare and eat our lunches and get back on the bus, but we made it! Margot was impressed that such a large group could actually make and eat lunch in 20 minutes flat! The reason was we had an appointment for a tour of the Maori Cultural Center, which is so busy with tours that we would have missed out had we been late.

Very fascinating culture, the Maori, who are a Polynesian people who came here some seven centuries ago. Like most indigenous peoples, they identify God as represented in the elements of the environment with which they relate and from which they derive their sustenance; so that the various tribes relate to the ocean, or the forest, or the mists, as do the locals here, who have settled in the area at the center of volcanic geysers and mists. The guide left a deep impression on us of a people with strong family and ancestral ties, a strong sense of honor and identification to one's tribe and family. We lingered a bit there and in the gift shop and by the time we made our way to Kiwi Paka and settled into our chalets, it was past six o'clock.

Until now, we shared rooms in twos - one adult with a minor - but now we were grouped in fours with two sleeping in beds on the ground floor and two on the upper level. Because we had not had the opportunity to have an exact time at which we would have wanted to celebrate Sunday Mass - we had planned to celebrate before supper but hadn't been able to communicate that in advance to the desk - it took a while for us to negotiate permission to use the only conference room from the group that had exclusively reserved it. In the end, we celebrated Sunday Mass at 9:30 until 10:15, and it turned out to be a very personally meaningful celebration. At the Offertory each pilgrim came to place a host for Communion in the paten and mentioned out loud an intention for which he or she particularly felt drawn to pray: a person, a place or people in the world, or a situation. I got to hear them all, and it was profoundly moving to see how deeply each pilgrim felt about the intentions, needs, hopes, and caring for others they carry within.....

Everyone seemed to get a good night's sleep, but we are all still learning to adapt ourselves to this winter climate. It was cold in our chalets despite the heater in each of them. You see, there are only single pane windows, this being a moderate and almost semi-tropical climate. When it's 10-11 degrees in the morning, it's 4-5 degrees during the night. So we find ways, sleeping with tuques, caps, scarves, whatever works.... We had breakfast - a very simple, even frugal buffet served up by the hostel - and were off to the Kaituna River 20 minutes from Rotorua with River Rats White Water Rafting for, you've got it, WHITE WATER RAFTING!!!! We hope at some point to post photos, if I can find a PC that's up to date enough to allow it. You'll definitely get to see them on our return. We hired two professional photographers who took lots of shots and gave us 5 CD's with infinite copy rights!

Three of us bumped or bruised out hose or head.... Isabelle Correa, who had been with us along with Laura Ieraci of the Catholic Times and also representing the Archdiocese, and Louis McAnany, and Stephanie Chehab, but all are well and glad for their experience..... It was quite the exhilarating experience, even for Laura and I and our Guide Margot who simply watched. Had it not been for my throat irritation and dry little cough, I would have been in there like a flash...

However, it was a delight to have lunch at a central food place in a mall where there were half a dozen food counters; so all 47 of us (40 St Luke + 4 Chinese Mission + Isabelle & Laura + our Guide Margot) could choose what we wanted without having to wait hardly at all. Matthew Rettino and I (we were grouped in our pairs for rooming) had fish and chips and they were so good we had a second helping, which we shared both times. Then we drove a relatively short distance to the Thermal Baths and had an exquisite time going from one thermal pool to another ranging from 38 to 45 degrees C..... Awwww... poor, poor pilgrims!!!!!!!!!

Well, let me tell you, considering all the cold we've endured, it was really divine providence that arranged us to be warmed, comforted, and consoled in these baths. Truly therapeutic in every way.... It's been some time since any of us have felt so relaxed, mellow, alive, great.... We came back, and with military precision, in minutes gathered in the conference room and prepared for the Holy Eucharist, and once again put our intentions along with a host into the paten.... and so prepared ourselves. The Lord spoke gentle words to us about how He is the One who as our loving Father and Creator provides all these powerful forces for our good and life, as Francis of Assisi was the first to so clearly proclaim it: Blessed are You O Lord our Creator for Sister Water, so fair and pure, for her power to cleanse and refresh us....

The gods identified by the Maori in the elements of nature are actually the servants of the God we have come to know and adore in Jesus, who alone reveals to us the Father. As in the Gospel Jesus touched and revived the little dead girl and the woman with the hemorrhage, so too does He call us to touch others in their need and bring them the same comfort and consolation with which He fills us with life and goodness.... Now it's time for me to let this go and join the gang in enjoying a pasta supper Franca just cooked up for 47!!!!!

We will now being to include pilgrims in this blog, as they come over to the PC and add their comments, observations, messages to you all..... Enjoy them.

Sandra Ouellet
Up to now, my journey is as colourful as a rainbow:
Red for all the warmth we can feel,
Orange for the glow of our light unto the world,
Yellow for having good weather or hoping to see the sun,
Green for being respectful and nice with others in ANY situation,
Blue for having a place where we can rest,
Indigo for having such faith to cross all boundaries,
Violet for hoping to have a better world.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Day 2 - P.S.

Yesterday, the PC at the Kiwi International wasn't up to date in Flash and/or Java, so I wasn't able to load photos up to Photobucket even though I spent close to an hour and $5 only to be given an error message at the end. Today, I haven't had time to try, and this PC for a reason I don't understand won't allow me to write and email, though I was able to read. Time and energy may prevent me from even trying tonight and tomorrow we're off again at 9 am, so....

Greetings from Armitage Hotel, Tauranga, New Zealand - Day 2

Goodness but it seems that we've been on the road longer and that this couldn't just be day 2, but there it is. We landed in Middle Earth yesterday, which actually seems a week ago, and today we were in Hobbiton itself, in Matamata, and entered Bilbo and Frodo's hole at Bag End and we all fit into it, even though it's not the full dwelling we see in the films or in the book, which was built on set in studio in Wellington, NZ.

Our tour guides took us in 2 groups up and down the amazing site which is in the heart of a sheep and cattle farm of 500 hectares. They provided us with huge golf size umbrellas in pairs and we spent almost two hours hearing details about the construction of the site and filming of the scenes depicting life in the Shire. We stood under the Party Tree where Bilbo made his farewell speech, a huge tree almost a hundred feet high and almost ten feet in diameter!

We saw a sheep shearing demonstration and two of our young women got to bottle feed a couple of lambs three months old. Awwwwww........ they're so cute!!!!!!!!!!!!! exclaimed all the youth. But all was not joy and comfort, as we were exposed to some cold weather last night and today.

Last night we went out to join Fr. Tony pastor of St. Benedict's Parish up Queen Street in Auckland at 5:45 and our pilgrims were a hit with the local congregation who were thrilled to meet us. In fact Fr. Tony and Eva and her husband joined us for supper at Denny's but while a few got lifts with Fr. Tony and Eva in two vehicles the others trooped through wind-driven rain for a 20 minute treck only to find ourselves in a supercooled airconditioned restaurant, and try as we might, nothing could or was done about it. Then we had to walk back, but again Fr. Tony and Eva with her husband's van came to our rescue and in the end only the leaders walked all the way back. I took a chill and have had something going on in my throat since then but have been taking Echinachea remedy to fend off anything serious. The jury is still out.....

Michael had to forbid anyone wearing sandals or going barefoot until the end of our pilgrimage at Cairns, where it will be warm enough for that. At Hobbiton today near Matamata we were again out in the weather and despite taking better precautions, several found themselves shivering and were glad to get back into the heat of the bus. Yet, for all that, the majority of our youth as I write these lines have been having a great time swimming and diving in the heated pool or heating up their bones in the hot tub steaming in the cold night air... with the exuberance and stamina that only youth enjoy, at least to that extent and with that much energy..... Oh, to be young again, eh?

After Hobbiton, we drove an hour or so through awe-inspiring rolling hills covered with sheep - they number in the millions here - and gullies and mountains that remind one somewhat of Ireland or Scotland and yet with a difference... the vegetation and trees are different.... We stopped for lunch in Matamata, the main town in this rural sheep and dairy countryside, and guess where we ate, after travelling some 20,000 kilometers? You got it, McDonald's! I was so hungry I didn't care where we ate! Being out in the intermittent showers and chilly wind does that to your appetite!

Well, by then it was around 4 pm when we were back in the bus and on our way here to the hotel, a very nice hotel I might add. Unloading of backpacks, gathering in the lobby around Michael, giving out of keys to our regular twosomes adult/minor, up to the rooms with our loads to reconnoitre our rooms, and back down for a meeting to see where we go from here. The leaders met first and we decided to celebrate Mass first, a Saturday weekday Mass, followed by supper, followed by frolicking in the pool etc. We had a lovely celebration of the Holy Eucharist with everyone participating in the preparations and the celebration itself... great joy, robust and enthusiastic exchange of the Lord's peace, profound silence and recollection before Holy Communion, extended silence and personal adoration and openness to the Lord, reading of the daily reflection in Magnificat, this one by Catherine of Sienna.... oh joy!

15 minutes to put things back in our rooms and then powwow, at which the consensus was to order pizza in, and while we wait the youth enjoyed the invigorating heated pool and hot tub, now they've all come back in and run up to change, and any moment the pizza will arrive. Well, there you have a glimpse of our days, and may you continue to be open to the grace of these days which bind us together in spiritual communion across tens of thousands of kilometers, for there is no separation of distance or time in the Lord! Pax + Caritas to all!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Greetings from Auckland, New Zealand! All is well!

Joyful greetings from our 40 + 4 from the Chinese Catholic Mission of Montreal + Isabel Correa and Laura Ieraci who have joined us at Kiwi International Hostel....

It's an amazing experience to lose a day in one's life.... as we crossed the International Date Line it was suddenly Friday morning.... what happened to Thursday? This has been my most amazing anniversary of ordination ever... riding the waves of excitement of all our pilgrims... 25 years ago I was ordained a priest and celebrated my first Mass at St. Kevin Parish.

Our first obstacle turned into a blessing... the way our agent Spirit Tours booked our flight we had no assigned seats whereas all the other passengers did, so in effect Air Canada was oversold by 40 seats - we were now 44 as we were joined by four youth from the Chinese Catholic mission of Montreal. So the airline offered us 25 seats in executive class... our adults and a few youth had the opportunity to stretch their legs and get a little more attention and care, but we looked in on our younger pilgrims and everyone had enjoyable flights from Montreal to Toronto, a fun wait and then another flight to Vancouver, rather than our original direct flight.

All was well and we had time to spare to board our long flight for New Zealand. We had good meals all the way, but of course some of our "growing" pilgrims managed enough appetite to find other things to eat along the way. As you will see from the photos, we are off to a great start. The travelling was rather long, but most managed some rest. We started off with a bang in Auckland by going to visit the Sky Tower (we skipped the NZ$220 Sky Jump bungee cord thing...) had a snack from a corner store, went to visit Mt Eden, the most prominent extinct volcano (the city is build on dozens of these little cone-topped grass covered hills) where there was a breeze that my 59 year old bones found chilling but the youth enjoyed. Then we visited a park with a beach on the Sea (Tasmanian or Pacific, I don't remember) and we finally came and settled into our rooms at the hostel, two by two.

We went strolling along these fascinating downtown streets and found a few places to have a late lunch - some of our youth went for Subways, others for a Pizza place, and the rest of us found a vegetarian Indian place where a most satisfying meal was only $6. Now I'm uploading photos to Photobucket while all around me there is a buzz of chatting and guitar tuning... We are going to have a music practice to limber up for the catecheses we will be animating for a rather large crowd of youth for three mornings in Sydney in a few weeks, then we're off to join the local Benedictine parish for the regular 5:45 Mass. We called ahead and asked if they could allow us room to celebrate Mass and it turns out they will be very happy to have us join them for the regular Mass.

All the pilgrims are deeply aware of your loving support, prayers, and love, and we carry all of you in our minds, memories, hearts, and souls, and lift up your intentions and those of all whom you love and/or carry in your hearts.... May we all be a leaven of God's love in our world in which so many people are seeking for a greater purpose and meaning for their lives. We pray that they will come to meet Jesus as Simon and Saul did, and the encounter so changed them they changed their names to Peter and Paul....

Open your arms and hearts to receive 44 hugs and kisses....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day 6 & 7 - When life becomes so intense it sweeps you off your feet, don't resist; rather listen for the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit within....

The last 3 days have blurred into one.... not just because they were full and we went to bed late, but more importantly because of the transparence, maturity of faith, and incredible depth of the witnesses offered to the Congress delegates and pilgrims....

If you've read my previous post, you can catch a glimpse of the power of God's truth radiating from the young Philippino Bishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle.... Click on the title above and see the powerful Liturgy of Reconciliation and the original drama performed as a theatrical proclamation of the Good News. The whole morning and Cardinal Claudio Hummes' homily brought home to me that much if not all of our human suffering and confusion is related to preferring to try to give ourselves life rather than receive it from God (Adam), letting ourselves be dominated by our jealousy of the love others enjoy and refusing the opportunity to awaken to our own sinful selfishness (Cain), or allowing ourselves to become distant from our loving Father (the prodigal son openly rebelled while the older brother openly remained obedient but secretly rebelled).

The first result of all serious sin is fear, fear of God, of not being loved, of being rejected, hurt, or killed, fear of living fully, fear of God's will for us. The Son of God made himself small and weak in order to allay our fears; yet some of us continually or all of us occasionally continue to be afraid. Though Jesus was an innocent little baby, Herod was still afraid of Him. Because of his preaching the religious authorities were afraid of Jesus.... yet what we all desire is to come to our Father's table and have a place there. When we let ourselves be driven by fear, we end up trying to control the very life we can only receive as gift. We must let go, repent, and accept to receive the gift of his love our Father freely offers us in Jesus.

The wonder, truth, and beauty of our catechesis, testimony, and Penitential Liturgy was felt by all as awesome and profoundly moving.... Our faith was stirred to the very depths, and our need for repentance was awakened.... I had already had the joy of going to confession a few days earlier and also had the privilege of hearing a few confessions and celebrating Reconciliation with those penitents... on this day I had not signed up to hear confessions before coming and now they didn't need my; so I had a few hours "off" and wandered around then went to the adoration Chapelle Don de Dieu to pray.

During the Mass at 4 pm I dozed during the homily, but the Liturgy was beautiful and moving.... Afterwards, some of us got together and had supper in the same manner as lunch, filing through the distribution tent along with thousands of others to receive a box lunch and then finding seats in one of the 12 tents named for the Apostles in which there were dining tables and chairs. We began making our plans for the end of the week....


I realized I didn't want to carry my bag so I did a little extra walking and brought my bag to the van at the other end of the grounds in the free parking area, decided what to bring in view of the wet weather we've been having, and returned to the Colisée Pepsi for the start of the procession. Well, they had already started, but I didn't realize it right away and wondered where the 100's of bishops and 1000+ priests were and only saw them later... they were far enough ahead of the "Host Mobile" as some called it.... I joined a few dozen priests who with seminarians carrying torches and incense made the vanguard. We were followed, accompanied, jostled, and generally crowded by the faithful, who could not contain their desire to be close to Jesus and contemplate Him in the Sacred Host....

We walked for 3 hours along some 5.1 kilometers, and saw the full range of humanity along the way.... It was wonderful to manifest our faith and affection for the Lord and accompany Him in his procession through the streets, as though He were reclaiming his rightful place in the city of man, from which He has too long been banished, at least in the minds, hearts, and eyes of some.

I hadn't brought my camera, though originally I planned to bring it. I forgot when I dropped my bag at the van, but I was glad I didn't have it, because it was an immersion of grace to attend to Jesus, listen to the prayers and reflections on the little portable radio we had for simultaneous translation, and watch the people in the procession and on the sidelines... and reflect on the love God has for all his children, for all of humanity, and for creation....


We've been walking all week, some 2-3 kilometers, and with the procession on Thursday, it was more like 8-9. This is far tamer than a real military boot camp, but in a way, I've been feeling that this week has been just that for me, a boot camp to tone up for WYD 2008 in Sydney. We have been doing things we don't normally do: walk a lot, carry a backpack all day, go out in the rain and wind, eat food that has little or no resemblance to a familiar diet, get immersed all day long day after day in a sea of people, sleep less hours than the body craves, pray a lot more than usual, and so on....

The shocking result is that as much as the body feels unhappy and wants to complain loud and long about what it's going through, by the end of the week it suddenly finds itself feeling better than it has in a long time. That just goes to show that our feelings - both physical and emotional - are so often unreliable in telling us what's really going on. Could it be that discipline is actually good for us? Imagine that!

FRIDAY THEME: The Eucharist and the Mission
On Friday, Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, India, asked "Who is this God who shares with us his own mission?" He is a God of love. Jesus in the Eucharist is the secret of the successful mission and conversion of the poor and oppressed tribals centered in Ranchi since 1845. Then as now, the challenge for the mission to the poor, oppressed, and those whose human rights and dignity are denied is threefold: social and economic disparity, diversity of religion, and cultural diversity.
Today, the bulk of humanity and of the poor are in Asia. 1.9 billion in Asia live on less than US$2 per day, and 900 million live on less than US$1 per day; yet increasingly those who are well off and rich are increasingly restless. Lingering trends are a need for personal meaning, freedom, love, equality and peace; the desire to make a more just, equitable, and better society; and the need for communion with other human beings. In addition, given Jesus' command of mutual love and unity in Him, there is no place for religious rivalry and discrimination. We must dialogue and work together with other Christians.
The first Christians understood that because of Jesus' love for each of them, they were no longer apart but one body together, and their fraternal love and caring engendered a new society based on mutual respect and sharing in the midst of diversity. It is because of our human condition that this new society is not finalized and we struggle against inequality, injustice, and exploitation. Christians learned that it made no sense to honor Christ in the beauty of the Liturgy and church adornments while showing contempt for Christ when He is poor, hungry, naked.... which is why the Eucharistic Liturgy and community must be different from the world.
Because Jesus lay down his life for his Church, now his Church of every generation is able in Him to lay down her life for the world. God made visible in Jesus his desire that all humanity may experience the life nad love of God offered in Jesus at every Holy Eucharist, when Jesus gives birth to and develops a loving, sharing, humanizing faith community as a leaven for a new society anticipating the fullness of the Kingdom of God....
It was good that I heard in simultaneous translation Jose H. Prado Flores' workshop on Tuesday and appreciated all the more his testimony on Friday. He proposed that the sin of good people is getting used to God, prayer, the Eucharist, and all the things of God and then trying to give something to others while in this frozen state, like offering someone a frozen steak uncooked. He was in this state, talking more about Jesus than with Jesus, not being taught by his Word, not more than a reporter relating what others have said, caught in a routine like the disciples on the road to Emmaus who were trying to control God, to control the hurricane of Pentecost into air conditioning that I can control and not allow myself to be disturbed.
This is the sin of good people: "I am the one who decides." Then one day I asked God to drive the car, but I kept the map, wanting to decide where we're going and when to turn. But He had mercy on me because He is God and allows no one to control Him. So Jesus taught me the meaning of his Word and I began to live the Liturgy of the Word and became on fire with his Word burning in my heart like a steak sizzling on the Bar B Q - other people notice, they smell and come to find out what's cooking. Still I needed surgery on my cataracts to see that God is God. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal this or bring us close to the mystery. The Eucharist is beautiful, and it's good to understand but we need to enter into the mystery of God.
I thought I was good, he says, and didn't need any conversion, like the Pharisee who was pleased with himself and was in effect changing the God of Mount Tabor for a god of rewards. The conversion of the sinner to the just is easier than the conversion of the just to a son of God who knows God as "Abba, Father", which only the Holy Spirit can reveal to human hearts.
In addition, I needed conversion from a master of the Word - I was at that point a professor of biblical languages and theology - to a disciple and servant of the Word, letting God be God. Then He transformed me. "You seduced me, O Lord, and I let You seduce me. You overcame me because You are stronger." So this is how the St. Andrew School of Evangelization came to be formed to train and form disciples to train and form other disciples to look for Peter's just as Andrew found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit showed me that the Word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit and constantly expiring the Holy Spirit, as Mary was filled and made pregnant with the Word of God, but I wanted to control the Holy Spirit like a tied balloon, but then the Holy Spirit can't breathe out or blow where He wills. (Prayer) "Father, through your Son Jesus, grant our Pope, Bishops, Priests and all yor people to be filled with your Holy Spirit and serving your Word allow the Spirit to blow where He wills. Amen."
In his homily, Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekinn s.d.b., Archbishop of Hong Kong, made the point that when we hear "Ite, Missa est." we know the Lord sends us into the world. The Eucharist is of the faithful but for the world. God wants to bring all humanity to the eschatological banquet. The Eucharist makes the Church a sacrament to be an instrument of God to bring humanity into communion with God. The New Covenant is universal, for all mankind. "When I am lifted up from the Earth, I will draw all things to myself." John 12:32
We must keep the windows and doors of the Church open to the Holy Spirit and to allow people to come in. God can and wants to save everyone; yet He wants us to share the Bread of Truth with all for the full knowledge and experience of his salvation. "Come to me and I will give you rest." See all the restless people in the world, and all the calamities. Where was God when these calamities strike? Jesus was letting them complete what is lacking in his sufferings, and at the moment of death surprising them with an occasion to know and love Him and fullness of life. We accept to be messengers of God's offer of life and love both by Word and works of justice and love. These varied works are like planting trees which will naturally bear fruit.

SATURDAY THEME: Witnesses of the Eucharist in the midst of the world
What with going to bed late and morning traffic, we only arrived early for morning prayer on Saturday, but each morning the Liturgy of the Hours lead in English, French, and Spanish, with a variety of choirs and music directors made for a most prayerful start to each day....
His Eminence Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, Archbishop of Douala, Cameroun, was a very powerful speaker, generally soft spoken for emphasis, in short an experienced orator and preacher. He is a man of great accomplishment in the area of fundamental human rights and the defense of the defenseless and their human dignity. I want to listen to him again, as I was tired and couldn't help but nod off....
One of the most powerful witnesses this week, though there have been many, was Marguerite Barankitse of Burundi, who wanted to engage the full assembly, wanted her word to be used by the Lord to touch us; so she asked that we all put down our papers and pens and listen to her. She has been laboring for some years with courage to promote peace and reconciliation in Burundi. She has consecrated her life and all her efforts to children victims of the war, running La Maison Shalom since 1994. Listen to her powerful testimony on the Quebec Church website.
Treated like "the fool of Burundi" by European journalists, as a traitor by her Tutsi tribal people for having taken in Hutu children in her Maison Shalom, she is considered to have lost her head by people for whom social categories are all important. She was threatened but clung to the faith she learned from her mother and faced many dangers focused on Jesus as her Lord. She has been stripped of everything and has learned to put her trust only in the Lord. Her testimony questions us who claim and want to follow the Lord; yet insure ourselves "for the next 100 years or more". Our belonging cannot be to this world, but to Jesus Christ....
This beautiful woman in love with God and with people is at the same time seductively attractive for her beautiful soul and transparent heart, and in the same moment very unsettling as Jesus was in his time and St. Francis of Assisi 800 years ago.
There is much more happening at the Congress today, but I have run out of steam and went home in late afternoon, packed all I could for tomorrow morning's trek to the Plains of Abraham for the closing "Statio Orbis" Mass over the whole world. At this writing I'm listening to the live Internet cast of the Youth Vigil at the Congress. Have fun listening to these and other recordings on the Quebec Church website.... God bless you.

Day 5 - continued... The Eucharist, the life of Christ in our lives....

THURSDAY THEME: The Eucharist, life of Christ in our lives

I encourage you to click on the title to get to the catechesis given by Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Bishop of Imus, Philippines, from Thursday morning. He is a young bishop and dynamic teacher who led us on a remarkable reflection on the life of Jesus in our life. Jesus guides us on the true way of spiritual worship and authentic adoration.

1. The sacrificial worship Jesus offered was unlike that of the Temple and was authentic worship in that He offered himself in cries and tears to the Father, so that He could express to the Father our own cries and laments which He made his own. Jesus' sacrifice of himself to the Father was also authentic worship because He offered himself in obedient submission to his Father's will, not out of any personal desire, identifying himself to our weaknesses and sins so as to lift them up to the Father rather than judging us. In Jesus' sacrifice and worship obedience and compassion are inseparable.

2. Baptism unites us to the sacrificial death and perfect worship of Jesus, and in Christ we can offer our lives to God, and this involves dying to sin, which is the fundamental worship of the baptized. We are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1) and joined to the sacrifice of Christ build the Church. Part of Jesus' suffering was the irony that his free offering of himself in obedience to the Father and out of compassion for us was not recognized as obedience to God or communion with us. Instead, he was condemned as a blasphemer because his authenticity was a threat to those considered the good people, people of influence. The One who proclaimed God's mercy was shown no mercy.

Jesus denounced the worship of false gods such as profit, prestige, pleasure, and control, which made those who engage in it insensitive to the needs of others. The false god is self interest, it is the self, and to maintain false gods other people are sacrificed in order to maintain self interest; while Jesus sacrificed himself in order to offer true worship to his Father. "How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god called profit? ...women are being sacrificed to the god called domination? ...children are being sacrificed to the god called lust? ...trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god called progress? ...poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed and defenseless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security?"

The bishop then added it's not enough for us to point the finger, but we must examine ourselves as Church, because, like those who condemned Jesus in the name of authentic religion, we can become blind to God and neighbor through self-righteousness, spiritual pride, and closedness or narrowness of mind. The authentic and generous faith and love of simple people regularly puts us clergy to shame and teaches us, puts us in the presence of authentic worship of God which enlightens us.

3. "Worship and adoration are so intimately connected that they could be considered one and the same. The spiritual worship of Jesus on the cross is his supreme act of adoration. In the Eucharist the Church joins Jesus in adoring the God of life, but the practice of Eucharistic adoration enlivens some features of worship. We believe that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist continues beyond the Liturgy. At any time we can adore the Blessed Sacrament and join the Lord's self offering to God for the life of the world.

Adoration connotes being present, resting, beholding. In adoration we are present to Jesus, whose sacrifice is ever present to us. Remaining in Him we are assimilated more deeply into his self giving. Beholding Jesus we receive and are transformed by the mystery we adore. Eucharistic adoration is similar to standing at the foot of the cross of Jesus, being a witness to his sacrifice of life and being renewed by it. Apart from the Blessed Mother and the Beloved Disciple who kept vigil with the dying Jesus, the Roman centurion who had been watching over Jesus when He died could be a model of adoration.

Probably the centurion started guarding Jesus from his arrest in the garden up to his death. Seeing Jesus betrayed, arrested, accused, humiliated, stripped, and brutally nailed to the cross, he surprisingly concluded, "This man is innocent. Truly this is the Son of God." Already hardened by many crucifixions he had supervised, he must have seen something different, something new in Jesus. At the end of a routine execution came a profession of faith. It was not just another crucifixion after all. It was a manifestation of innocence, a manifestation of the Son of God. We learn from the centurion's adoration that the sacrifice of Jesus cannot be appreciated unless we face the cross.

Mark's gospel says the centurion stood facing Jesus. Like any leader of guards he kept careful watch over this criminal. He did nothing but look at Jesus, but physical nearness was not enough.
He had to be vigilant, observant, focused, so that he could account for every detail. We learn from the centurion to face Jesus, to keep watch over Him, to behold Him, to contemplate Him. But first, the centurion spent hours watching over Jesus out of duty, but ended up contemplating Him in truth. The Holy Spirit had guided him to confess "Jesus is the Son of God."

What did the centurion see? I can assume that he saw the horror of suffering that preceded the death of Jesus. He was an eye witness to the torment, humiliation, and loneliness inflicted on Jesus when friends betrayed Him and left Him. He must have been shocked to see Judas plant a seemingly caressing kiss that was in fact an act of treachery. He heard the lies fabricated in the Sanhedrin and Pilate surrendering to the crowd despite the lack of a case against Jesus. He heard a painful cry, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"

The centurion saw unbelievable cruelty from friends, leaders, and the silence of a distant God. Betrayal, inhumanity, viciousness continue up to our time in the many crucifixions of the poor and of creation. We cannot help but wonder why friends, leaders, and even God cannot respond. But I also believe that the centurion saw incredible love, love for God who had failed to remove this cup of suffering from Him, and love for neighbor. For his enemies He begged the Father's forgiveness, to abandoned He promised Paradise, for his Mother He secured a new family, and to the God who had abandoned Him, He abandoned Himself: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

The centurion saw love blooming in the desert of inhumanity, amid the noise of ridicule and lies. This man saw truth, only yes to God, yes to neighbors, yes to mission. On the cross of hatred and violence the centurion found love, a love that refused to die, a love that is as strong as steel against evil, yet tender for the beloved. His death was transformed into life. Jesus survived the horror of the cross with hope and love and conquered the evil with tenderness. He was innocent. He was from above. He was the bread of life. He was from the Father. He us truly the Son of God."

Because of God, we can find goodness, beauty, and love in unexpected places, like the 13 year old the bishop met in a nutrition program. She was too old for the program but was feeding her little brother in place of her mother. The bishop offered to have food given to her, but she said, "No bishop, there are many other hungry children in the village. Give the extra food to them." He was struck by her honesty and innocence and drawn into deep silence. "My God, my God, why are these children going hungry. I did not expect to see love, sharing, honesty in this place of death. Truly these are innocents. Truly these are children of God."

"In eucharistic adoration let us join the centurion in watching over Jesus and see what he has seen. Let us spend time too with the multitudes of innocent victims of our times; we might be able to touch Jesus who knows their tears and pain for He has made them his own and changed them into hope and love. Watching over our suffering neighbors we could be changed like the centurion into discerners of truth and heralds of faith, and hopefully, when people behold how we carry each other's crosses in love, they too would see innocence and the Son of God in us. Let us adore Jesus who offered his life as a gift to the Father and breathed the Holy Spirit on us sinners. Let us adore Him for ourselves, for the poor, for the Earth, for the Church, and for the life of the world. Thank you." (Loud and sustained applause and extended standing ovation, the longest of the whole Congress)

Needless to say, this young bishop had an incredible impact on the entire congressional assembly and on me personally.... Next came an older Vietnamese woman and sister of a bishop who was incarcerated for around 30 years by the communist regime and became incredibly close to Jesus and even ministered to prisoners during that time. Salt and Light has or will air a show on his life entitled "Road to Hope." Her account hit very deeply after what we had just heard in the deep catechesis by a lively bishop and witness to Jesus, and we were then three for three in the lead into our celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

"La Table de la Réconciliation" was an exquisite drama written by l'Abbé Robert Gendreau of Montreal who staged and produced the Way of the Cross for WYD 2002 in Toronto when he used in its integrity the text written by Pope John Paul II. This time he adapted key Scripture texts pertaining to Reconciliation: the fall of Adam, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, and Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son.

His Eminence Claudio Cardinal Hummes, Archbishop of Sao Paolo, Brazil, gave a masterful homily highlighting the points demonstrated powerfully in the play. Adam tried to give himself life rather that continue accepting to receive life as gift from God, and the result was fear of God over his own nakedness. Cain was jealous of his brother's approval from God because he refused to face his own selfishness and greed and was bothered by his brother's innocence, generosity, and love for God, and the result was fear of himself being killed by strangers.

Jesus' response to overcome Adam's fear and shame was to allow himself to be rendered naked and tortured, and make himself close to him. His response to Cain was to allow himself to be killed by strangers, that He might win Cain over.

The prodigal on his return was afraid to look into his Father's eyes, lest he see disappointment and no love. His elder brother pointed out that of course the Father loved him, and the ensuing dialogue, it came out that the elder brother was no so perfect after all but played the part of a good son in order to enjoy the abundance, power, and influence he could have from the father's estate and approval. In the end, the elder convinces the younger that he has a lot in common with their father and should go to him, and the younger convinces his elder brother that he has forgiven him now and he too should go to the father, and they both do.

It was so real and revealing and touching - we all saw ourselves - that the assembly broke out in spontaneous applause and even cheering at various points at the end, as the drama unfolded in a satisfying conclusion and reconciliation at the father's table, which was a powerful image of the Eucharistic Table set for us by Jesus with his Body and Blood.

to be continued....