We are putting together a spread of pictures from World Youth Day for the NC Catholics magazine. If you have pictures taken on a digital camera (not cell phone) you would like us to look at, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline: tomorrow, 5pm!
Dear Parishioners of St. Luke the Evangelist,
I regret that I am not able to address you in person, but immediately after returning from Spain, I left Raleigh to start my college career at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. I returned from my World Youth Day pilgrimage on the 22nd of August having completed one of the most incredible and inspirational journeys of my life. Thank you parishioners of St. Luke for assisting and enabling me to go on this journey, you were in my heart and prayers. The hundreds of prayer intentions you graced me with were with me every step of the way, and they now all sit at the feet of Our Lady of Lourdes with a perpetual candle burning brightly for them in her grotto. As I prayed for all of your intentions I asked for some message or lesson to bring back and share with all of you. The message came in a strange and unexpected way.
On the last days of World Youth Day, the pilgrims walk to a site where the Holy Father holds an overnight vigil of adoration and the World Youth Day closing mass. Saturday afternoon the Diocese of Raleigh pilgrims set out for the airfield where the vigil would be; half of us took a metro, and the other half, of which I was a part, walked the eight mile path through the mountains and in 105 degree heat. It was a grueling but beautiful walk.
About a mile from the airfield we receive a call from Patrick, the leader of the group that took the metro. He told us that the field was dangerously crowded, he feared for the safety of the group, and had decided to leave the airfield. There was a miscommunication among those working at the gates and un-ticketed pilgrims were being allowed to enter the ticket-only event. The result was two million people in a location with space and provisions for 700,000 people. The vigil had become a kind of Woodstock where there was neither food nor water, and the crowds were so thick our group inside couldn’t move, much less stake out a place to bed for the night. Patrick surveyed the situation and the desperateness of the crowds, and decided to leave the vigil for reason of safety. I cannot express the heartbreak, frustration, and anger this caused all of us, for we so dearly longed to have this vigil and mass with our Holy Father. We regrouped outside the field where the decision to abandon the vigil was finalized and we turned around to head back into Madrid. I never did get to have mass with Pope Benedict XVI.
The next morning we went to a local church for Sunday mass, and it was in the priest’s homily that I and the rest of the group found meaning in the ordeal we had suffered. Father spoke of the pilgrims, acknowledged all we had endured, and then asked why. He said a true pilgrim would not endure the hardship for the sake of the experience, or the people around them, or even for the Holy Father, that rather a true pilgrim would only be concerned with the pursuit of Christ. He knew hundreds of thousands of us never made it to the airfield and he said that a true pilgrim would remain joyful and determined in his pursuit of Christ. He then reminded us that the Pope was not the pinnacle of the pilgrimage, that the Sunday mass was. The Holy Eucharist was where pilgrims would find their fulfillment, not in the beautiful vigil with Catholic brothers and sisters. After mass we found out that no pilgrim at the papal mass received the Eucharist because wind and lightning had destroyed all of the Communion stations during the night. Had we pursued the experience of the vigil rather than the beauty of the mass the next day in this local church, we would have never received the Holy Eucharist. We would have missed Jesus Christ in our pursuit of something beautiful, the Pope, but far less important than our pursuit of Christ. The priest’s message was to pursue Jesus in the way He has us pursue him, not in the manner that we assume to be best. The pursuit of the vigil with the Pope was a holy one, but it was not one that would end in Christ. The pursuit of the will of God was one that landed us in a position we did not understand nor see as good, but was indeed good, holy, and filled with Christ.
So the message I received is this:
“Follow the will of God, and direct all thoughts, actions, and intentions to Him for love and pursuit of His holy presence. Humbly accept and pursue the will of God above your own, even when it makes little sense. He is a God of integrity and promise, who has pledged to love and take care of you. Pursue Him restlessly in all things, especially in the sacraments.”
May God Bless and keep you parishioners of St. Luke, with courage and trust in Christ.
Your Brother in Christ,
On Saturday evening, the pilgrims attended a Prayer Vigil with the Holy Father at which there was Eucharistic Adoration. During the Vigil, a heavy storm occurred. As the rains and winds became stronger, so did the enthusiasm of our young people. Nothing was going to kill their joyful spirit! Fortunately, the storm lasted for a short time.
The Vigil continued with Eucharistic Adoration. I will never forget the scene. As soon as the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, there was profound silence in the midst of a crowd estimated at two million. As one pilgrim said to me, “Only Jesus could make that happen!”
The love and reverence that our young people have for the Eucharist are absolutely amazing. They firmly believe that in Christ our Lord we find our strength and peace.
The closing Mass of World Youth Day was on Sunday. Many of the pilgrims camped out overnight without any of the comforts of home and with little rest. Yet, they were so alive at Mass. They waited for this moment to be in the presence of our Holy Father for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (due to large crowds, some were not physically present but spiritually united). One pilgrim stated, “I will never forget the day that I attended Mass with the Holy Father, so many bishops, priests, religious and peers from all around the world. It was family!” How blessed we are to be Catholic and to belong to the Church that is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic!
I joined our diocesan pilgrims for our closing dinner this evening. Some of the pilgrims spoke and conveyed what these days meant to them and their spiritual lives. Their words were inspirational and moving. In summary, they said they return home a “new person” and “firm in faith.” They will arrive back home tomorrow. As they share their stories, experiences and blessings, I am confident that the Diocese of Raleigh will be greatly blessed.
Please continue to pray for our pilgrims and all our young people. They give the Church every reason to be filled with great hope!
The spirit in Madrid is one of great joy and excitement. Our youth from around the world reflect such a deep love for Our Lord Jesus, His Church and the Eucharist. Our diocesan pilgrims continue to make this a real “spiritual journey.” I am so proud of them.
A major component of World Youth Day is catechesis and the teaching of our faith. Yesterday, our diocesan pilgrims attended a session given by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. He reminded the youth that they are “to be authentic witnesses” for Jesus and His Gospel. He told them they respond to that call by reflecting joy, charity and love for the Church and one another. The Archbishop asked them to persevere in sharing the faith and never tire of gently and sincerely inviting their peers and others to embrace it. I am convinced that our youth, strengthened by the graces of World Youth Day, will return home renewed in their commitment to be authentic witnesses. The session concluded with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at which Archbishop Dolan enthusiastically told the pilgrims that the Eucharist is always the source of our strength.
Last night, pilgrims participated in the Way of the Cross and the Holy Father presided. We remembered all our family members and friends at home who are suffering in any way and asked the Lord to bless them with his healing love. Pope Benedict asked the pilgrims to remember how much God loves them and to believe that no cross is greater than His love.
This morning (Saturday), there was a Mass for all the pilgrims from the United States. Approximately 65 U.S. Bishops were in attendance. At the end of the Mass, a young woman (representing all the pilgrims) conveyed love, support and assurance of prayers to the Bishops. You cannot underestimate how much those words deeply touched my heart and the hearts of my brother bishops. Cardinal George responded and assured the young people of how much the Bishops love them and what a source of inspiration they are for us.
Tonight is a Prayer Vigil with the Holy Father and Eucharistic Adoration. The pilgrims will spend the night in adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament and in preparation for the Closing Mass with Pope Benedict on Sunday. While the schedule is demanding, the energy level of the pilgrims appears higher than ever. The reason is clear. The pilgrims are on fire with their love for the Lord, the Holy Father and the Catholic Faith. I am confident they will bring that energy back home with them as “authentic witnesses” of Jesus and His Gospel. Please continue to pray for them and know of my prayers each day for all in the Diocese of Raleigh.
When the Holy Father arrived today in Madrid, all the bells in the city were ringing. What a gracious welcome!
Tonight, Pope Benedict XVI greeted all the pilgrims in multiple languages at the Opening ceremony. The Holy Father encouraged the young people to be “firm in faith” and reminded them that faith in Christ Jesus keeps us on the right path both now and for eternity.
The enthusiastic and joyful response of our youth clearly demonstrated the reason for our great hope in the future of our Church!
Bishop Michael Burbidge
Video segment from World Youth Day of three Diocese of Raleigh pilgrims with Bishop Michael F. Burbidge sharing their thoughts on events so far. The three are Nick, Margaret and seminarian Marlon Mendieta-Rojas.
Video courtesy of Fr. Philip Tighe, St. Catherine of Siena, Wake Forest, NC shot on a smartphone.