A group photo of my volunteer team, after the mass at Marienfeld: 7 people, 6 nationalities, 8 languages! (And we speak Esperanto, hence Esperantinis!)
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I still find myself thinking back to the days of the WYD in Köln, and why it has been simply amazing despite the fact that most of the time I spent there was spent working, away from the Catechesis sessions, away from the Spiritual programmes. To my regret, I did not even go for a single reconciliation!
After some thoughts, I realized a few things in particular struck me deeply:
- Visible display of faith
When I departed for Köln, I had no idea what kind of event is the World Youth Day going to be. It exceeded all expectation, and I was moved to witness so many young people responding en masse to our new Papa Benedict XVI's exhortations. He is not Papa JPII, his speeches are entirely of different style, but he proclaims the Truth, and that is what young people want to hear. It is heartening to see and hear this hunger for Truth, this visible affirmation of faith from the young pilgrims, despite what the rest of the World says.
- Young Church
One of my team members come from a small German village where there is Mass only every two Sundays because of priest shortage. While this is generally still a malady, I was so happy to see so many young priests and seminarians from all over the world attending the WJT. (In fact +9,000 priests turned up, more than twice the number expected, and most of those I encountered are pretty young!) The springtime of the Church is before us!
- Meeting of other wayfarers
Although deep within my soul's subconscious, I know to trust God for "We come from God, we depend on God, God has a plan for us-- a plan for our lives, for our bodies, for our souls, for our future." (Pope John Paul II), I am made of weak flesh and blood. Often the worldly uncertainty in my own journey made me feel even more solitary. Meeting other 'wayfarers' during WJT reaffirmed that while it is not an easy journey, each of us is never alone.
Well, that's it for today's WJT reflection! I am currently reading a small book containing quotes of Papa JPII—"In my own words". In there I find two insightful quotes (amongst many!), that are particularly applicable:
"Everyone has a vocation: parents, teachers, students, workers, professional people, people who are retired. Everyone has something to do for God." ('95 Homily at Giants Stadium)and
"The search and discovery of God's will for you is a deep and fascinating endeavor. It requires of you the attitude of trust expressed in the words of the Psalm... 'you will show me the path to life, fullness of joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever' (16:11). Every vocation, every path to which Christ calls us, ultimately leads to fulfilment and happiness, because it leads to God, to sharing in God's own life."
and then in EWTN's page of daily Mass readings, I found this quote:
The devil will try to upset you by accusing you of being unworthy of the blessings that you have received. Simply remain cheerful and do your best to ignore the devil’s nagging. If need be even laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Satan, the epitome of sin itself, accuses you of unworthiness! When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future!
-- St. Theresa of Avila
Sunday, August 28, 2005
When the Pope cruised up and down the Rhein, there was a mass of pilgrims (and volunteers!) on both side of the Rhein hoping to catch a glimpse of him and to hear his welcome address. There were so many people there that I had no time to take out my camera; I'm sure my team members did take some picture of him! The first time I saw him, some of us were trying to climb onto trees, and I was hoisted up by a friend in my team! He was a white spot waving from on top of the boat.
The second time was when his boat turned around, and he was much much closer to the river bank that I could see his eyes twinkling ;)
The third time was quite a miracle. Our team split up, half was waiting on top of a Polizei van to catch a glimpse of the Pope traveling around in Koln to the Dom, while I went off with the other group to reach the volunteer center. Well the streets around the Dom were packed, and we were jostled, rather than walked, because it was impossible to cross the road. A few minutes later, there was a cheer and the Pope in his Popemobile crawled past us, not three metres away! *Snap, Snap* Again I was staring at him, and didn't have time to take out my camera (but my friends did have a good shot of him!)
At the Marienfeld, I saw him from afar, traveling in Popemobile to the hill of the altar. But so did one million other people!
"What do you think of the Pope?"
This is an interesting question that our team leader asked all of us the first day we met. What do they mean by that question anyway?? Of course we love the Pope! I don't know what kind of person the Pope is, but I love him for being the Pope. From his writings you get a glimpse of the kind of character and style he has, from his sermons and addresses you get to know about his concerns and his thoughts! I have never met nor seen the late Pope JPII, but Papst Benedikt XVI is his own person, and a great teacher too, even from what little I've heard from him!
Above are two pictures of the two Popes at the Domforum, at the Domplatz, behind the Dom itself. Here at night, often there was a Polish crowd (and all sorts of other nationalities!), alternating between "Giovanni Paolo" and "Benedetto".
Since most of my time in WYD was spent working and traveling between Koln and Dusseldorf, I heard only parts of the sermons in English, and read the transcript afterwards. Despite this 'delayed' experience, its effect on me is no less profound. I'll write more on the spiritual aspect of the trip later...
Friday, August 26, 2005
I haven't been able to stop thinking about Koln and Weltjugendtag since I came back... there's just so much to remember and write out that I don't know where to start!
I'll just write what I remember most then...
Seven masses in 11 days!
This has got to be an all-time high record for me. I arrived in Frankfurt at 5:40am, and in Koln at 8am. The volunteer check-in started at 10am, and I met a volunteer who helped me with my luggage and walked me to the check-in. They started each day with a mass, I was told, and the first thing that happened to me in Koln, was mass! It was an amazing mass, because for the first time, it had parts which weren't spoken in English or Latin, and the hymns sung (Abba Ojcze, one of them) were in Polish!
The rest of the day I was well, rather lost, because arriving at the volunteer accomodation (a Gesamtschule), there was no one to be found. I found two 'lost angels'—German volunteers who helped me find the deserted accomodation on their way to their own accomodation (Fuhlinger See). Tired after having walked for nearly two hours with my luggage, I waited in the deserted accomodation until the rain ceased, at which point somebody came out of the school building and kindly let me and two other volunteers keep our luggage in the school compound. I went back to Koln shortly after, because I hadn't had anything to eat since 3am airline breakfast :p At the volunteer center I was told there was no more food for the day, and decided to show two sisters from Mexico, the way to Koln Messe-Deutz, the volunteer check-in. It was by now was brimming with volunteers, most of whom queued for about 2-3hours.
While waiting for the Mexican sisters, someone approached me speaking in Chinese ;) Good thing I remember a little Mandarin, because it turned out to be Elliot of the blog FideCogitActio! Although I have emailed a few bloggers that I'd be going to WJT, I'm not expecting to meet any of them given that nearly a million turned up! Anyhow, Elliot was looking to gather a group of six to collect food, and I was desperately hungry by this time!
I made my way back to the Gesamtschule, and finally met my team members for the first time. It was good to see a group whom I can "belong to". I'm almost embarrassed to say I felt totally forsaken that day, it being the first time I stepped my feet in Europe! The school had only communal shower *_* (needless to say, I became less and less shy with the summer heat!)
Volunteer opening mass
The volunteer opening mass was held on Sunday the 15th at Bayer Arena, Leverkusen. It was great (again it was in German), with a few songs in other languages. To my horror, the choir sang "I don't know how to love you" from Jesus Christ superstar! My jaw nearly dropped open, but no one else next to me seemed to realize the inappropriate-ness of singing this song... ah well..
Also, that mass was where I heard for the first time the WJT theme song Venimus Adorare Eum, and it's still playing in my head now ;)
This has been a long post! A few observations:
- German language is intuitive, and it was not at all difficult to pick up! I wish I had taken some effort to learn it before Koln; then I'd be able to understand most of the masses, and to communicate even better with all the volunteers and buses I've had to direct ;)
- The organization was chaotic. Most of the days, our itinerary was centered around getting food :-( But it's been fun!
I'll write more when I'm less excited, and maybe post a few pictures on the places I managed to visit (despite the fact that my working station is backstage in Burgplatz, Dusseldorf!)
Thursday, August 25, 2005
I left Koln on Monday night, arrived in Singapore on Tuesday night, back to work on Wednesday morning, and I've been feeling sleepy ever since!
It was wonderful, wonderful, really wunderbar! There's so much to write and share, but now I'm too sleepy :) I miss everyone of my volunteer team. We'll meet again soon!
Saturday, August 06, 2005
As the month of August begins, I realized that there are less than 5 days left before I depart for Cologne for WYD! These last few weeks of getting a visa and transport funding have put me on a roller-coaster journey; afraid of getting my hopes up, and mindful always to pray that His will be done.
Yet after all the worldly buzz that plagued my preparation, I finally get down to reading materials for the WYD; its history, its purpose and most importantly, why I'm going there.
I don't think I'll be writing from Cologne, though I might post a picture or two ;)
August 12th: Frankfurt to Cologne
August 11th-22nd: Cologne (I'm not sure where I'll be, since I have volunteer duties everyday. I hope to visit all 12 Romanesque churches in Cologne, and the Dom, of course!)
August 22nd night: Cologne to Frankfurt, and then back to Singapore
Well, those of you who are going, I hope we can somehow see each other there ;) If not, have a safe trip and may you find Him who invited you :D
Friday, August 05, 2005
I have always lamented the failure of Singapore's public transport to turn up when I most need them. And so, this afternoon, while trying desperately to catch First Friday mass and fulfiling my need to dutifully accompany my younger sister to go North of the border, I (silently) cursed the ever undependable public transport.
I wanted to attend 5:30pm mass at one of the 4 churches in town, all within "smokin' distance" of each other. Having arrived 15 minutes too late, I went to the next parish—St Joseph, and was happy to see that mass was for 6pm. Little did I know that this parish celebrates its Holy Hour every first Friday, and as soon as I got over the reluctance of having to sit through one whole holy hour (a pleasant surprise and a timely reminder that I should spend more time with Him), I broke into a wide grin :D
Eucharistic adoration was fantastic, especially so because there was sufficient time to sit down in quiet to prepare myself before it started. The following mass was said by a foreign priest—Filipino—as I found out later through his sermon, and boy, it was beautiful!
The pagan part of me was seething at being 'conned' into sitting for Holy Hour and Mass with a long homily, but the better part thanked the saints (whose statues were looking down upon the congregation) and the angles who must have intervened to delay the accursed public bus!
Fr. "Sam", the Filipino priest, talked about the preceding day's reading on the people of Israel tempting God in the desert, and a lot more about his personal conversations with our Lady. In earlier posts, I have written about how God is the one on whom we should put utmost trust in, and yet there are occasions when letting go is the last thing I'd intuitively do. Fr. "Sam" said, that when we do not trust in Him, we are putting Him to the test, because not trusting Him, we're not fully believing that He Can, and that's putting Him to the test. And finally, he sung the most beautiful prayer over consecrating of the bread and wine!
This has been a long post, and my thoughts aren't exactly coherent, yet I'd say that this minor incident is another Major illumination for me and it explained a lot of loose ends. And may it be the first of many Holy Hours to come :)
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Yesterday I went for prayer meeting and the gospel reading is this upcoming Sunday's: where Jesus walked on water, and St. Peter too, before his faith wavered. It was uncannily close to the story of my own journey of faith.
I just finished reading a short version of St Augustine's Confessions, and his and St Peter's words echoed back as I remember that I often think how meaningless and mundane people's lives are (especially those in developed countries), and how we get frustrated hearing about starving children in Africa but not doing anything about poverty in the world.
Like St Augustine, I sometimes said in my prayer, "Grant me <this> God, but not yet." The distraction would often be my current work and little start-up. Sometimes some big events happened, which would inspire me to ponder a bit further about Meaning, and then I'd remember the words of St John of the Cross, who said that through suffering we climb up the 'ladder' (the cross) into Heaven. Against wise advice of "pray that we may not be put to the test", secretly I wonder what harm could a little test be, if at the end of it, we find our true strength in Him?
Then jolly St Peter came into the foray, with his request that Jesus beckon him, only to falter and cry out "Save me, Lord!". How can one not identify with St Peter? Again and again, I remember wanting to commit myself to work in the field of the Lord, only to buckle under worldly demands and then having to say, "Sorry Lord, I can't take this, save me!"
"You man of little faith! Why did you doubt?" My first reaction to that would be to say I am no longer doubting. For many years prior to my baptism, I used to pray nightly to "Whoever is up there" for Him to reveal Himself. After baptism, I no longer doubt who He is. But there is a deeper dimension I am seeking.
"But who do you say that I am?" This is what I am trying to figure out now. Who is He in my life? What role do I see Him as? What do I want to see Him as, at the end of this life?