Throughout this pilgrimage, our group has attained special graces and mercy from God. For me, it has ignited the fervour in my heart to ardently seek Him in every moment of my life. Words or pictures will probably never be enough to describe the kind of spiritual high that we as a group are collectively experiencing at this very moment. Every day and every activity that we do speaks of God’s infinite mercy and ardent love for us.
Yesterday was another big day for us – physically and spiritually. In the true spirit of a pilgrimage, we have covered a distance of more than 25 kms on foot (37K steps if I am to believe my fitbit!). It is absolutely tiring as, save for a few, most of us are definitely not used to this kind of endless days. But weary or not, all of us survived the searing heat of a true Polish summer, thanks in large part to God who has been so faithfully sustaining us throughout this whole trip.
Our day started early with the group walking towards St Anne’s monastery nestled in a picturesque mountain in the outskirts of Zdzieszowice. We walked across the town where town where local townsfolk were waving at us and graciously cheering us on. It is very heartwarming to know that the people of Zdzieszowice are welcoming us with open hearts.
Across rolling hills and golden fields of wheat, through verdant forests and quaint woods, we made it on a lookout of the mountain and was greeted with a spectacular panoramic view of the county. Then we proceeded further up into an amphitheater of some sort where many delegations from different nations (approximately 30 nations from what I have heard) converged for our culminating Mass for the Days in the Diocese.
It was my first taste of what WYD is going to be like in the next week. The atmosphere of the place was electric to say the least and people from different nations were all trying to outdo each other in their dances and their chants.
Aussies are not the bunch to be outdone so in full force, replete with inflatable kangaroos and crocodile, and under the Aussie flag, everybody was cheering in unison: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, oi, oi!
The Mass was con-celebrated by Bishops and hundreds of priests and it was said in Latin, the universal language of the Mass. This is the most beautiful thing of the universal Church for no matter our language or culture, we all come together in the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. And to see people of all nations and language come together is a very special grace indeed.
After the Mass, we then proceeded again on foot to the train station to catch our train going to the main city of Opole, the capital of the diocese. This being my first World Youth Day, I have a mental picture of our program as we are always briefed the day before but I never really know what is actually going to happen or what to expect day after day. So it was a very surprising thing for me, or most of us, that the culminating activity of the Days in the Diocese is actually a very grand event in the scheme of daily life in Opole. Our march through the town, through the cobble-stone streets and beautiful heritage buildings, has ignited the residents to a swelling of local pride that can plainly be seen by scores of people lining up the streets and waving down on us from the windows and balconies of their apartments.
It was a very touching moment. There was an atmosphere of happiness and camaraderie among people of different nationalities. The locals are very proud to have hosted us. I later found out from my host family that they have seen all the ruckus we have caused in their local channel.
We converged to an open field where we had some sort of a music festival – a time to share goodwill and celebrate our faith in a very prayerful way. There were singing and dancing and praising. I have to mention the soup they served was very good. There were also cultural exchanges and greetings in different languages and there were pockets of good and meaningful conversations with other pilgrims. The atmosphere was jovial, congenial and warm (literally and figuratively).
And then there was the exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament. There was complete silence as the Host was hoisted by the priest for all to adore. For me, it was the singular, most powerful moment of the day when all nations bowed down before the Eucharist – and adored Him. The moment was so tender and so poignant it was enough for me to shed a tear or two.
As we headed back to Zdzieszowice that night, as the lights were dimmed in the bus we boarded, I quietly thanked God for another beautiful day for knowing him deeper through the many people we encountered in this trip. I prayed that we will never lose this fervour of our faith in all circumstances and in the different seasons of our lives.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. +
Joel Tolentino (Alice Springs pilgrim)