World Youth Day Part 2

World Youth Day 2005: journal, part 2 (Days 5-10)

(for Part 1 see below)

Day 5 - Mon. Aug. 15th: Burgebrach to Wesseling by coach
Sore heads after night boogieing with the locals at the Firemen's party in Burgebrach? Check.
Sleep depravation? Check.
A nice quiet, relaxing 5-hour coach journey to recharge the batteries before the final enslaught of activites over 5 days in and around Cologne and Bonn? Err, no.

Yes, this was the coach journey from hell (for tired people with sore heads, that is). 5 hours of unremitting jolity, songs, shouts, jokes and impersonations (mostly in a language we didn't understand) from a group of truly lovely Indian people who just happened to be celebrating that day the anniversary of Indian independance from.... yes, you guessed it, Great Britain!!! God really does have a sick sense of humour :-). Obviously my brain had been addled by the stress of such an experience, because when we got off the coach in Wesseling, my guitar stayed on it (or at least until all the Indians' baggage was off-loaded) and I didn't realise my mistake until many hours later in our new "home" (a sports hall we were to share with about 250 young French people, including our 60 or so De La Mennais Brothers-led group). Our Bavarian hosts of the first 4 days were to save the day by tracking the guitar down and bringing it to the Marienfeld for the final weekend's outdoor festivities with the Pope where we met up with them.

Our new Indian friends who were in fine voice throughout the journey!!


Day 6 - Tues. Aug. 16th: Wesseling and an outdoor festival Mass in Bonn
We began each of the next few days with morning prayer together with the French group at a local parish church 15 mins. walk away.

Coming back from morning prayer.

Luke chillin' out back at base

On the Tuesday afternoon we made the short train journey to Bonn with the "Frenchies" to take part in an international outdoor festival Mass (+ concert). Other such events took place simultaneously in Cologne and Dusseldörf. It was one of the highlights of the whole trip. There were about 20,000 people from umpteen nations. Various musical groups performed, but the highlight for me was a wonderful vocal group and band from Burkina Faso in Africa who provided the music for the Mass itself.

Doing our bit for Anglo-Italian relations.

Whilst wandering the streets of Bonn before the Mass, I literally bumped into a group from our neighbouring parish in Liverpool, Bishop Eton, led by Joanne Brophy, the daughter of one of our P.E. staff, Mr. Brophy. Her group included 2 other former SFX pupils.

Joanne and fellow Scousers

The 2 men in hats are Bro. Edwin (Haïti) and Bro. Jean (France)


Day 7 - Weds. Aug. 17th: Pilgrimage to Cologne Cathedral and other festival activities
The Wednesday saw us making our first visit to Cologne itself. We visited various festival activities including adoration in a local church and a Christian rock concert organised by xt3.com, an ecumenical, English, Catholic-funded youth web portal. There we met former St. Austin's Parish youth worker and former gangster (before his time at St. Austin's!), now succesful author and evangelist, John Pridmore. Our Colin was star-struck. Bless! With John was Sophie's old flame, Raphael (sorry Soph :-), a sickeningly talented young German multi-instrumentalist with whom I used to lead the music at the St. Austin's LifeTeen youth Mass.

Later that day we teamed up with the French for a pilgrimage walk along the river and up to Cologne Cathedral, an experience which had a powerful effect on many in the group. Just as we got to the Cathedral we witnessed a most moving sight: hundreds of Polish people fervently waving their national flags underneath a massive picture of their favourite son, John Paul II.

John Paul II and his compatriots

Cologne was heaving with people. For those who don't like crowds at the best of times (like me) it was rather stressful. Especially the return trip that night by metro train. Oh those Italians!! Great people, but they didn't seem to understand that trains cannot hold an unlimited number of people standing up. Added stress then came from me and Sophie (the English 'adults' of our group) being pushed onto a train whilst our young charges remained on the platform at the mercy of those marauding Italians. Fortunately, Brother Patrick and our French friends were able to keep them company and bring them home safely. Thank God for mobile phones!!

Day 8 - Thurs. Aug. 18th: English-speaking catechesis in Bonn
Back to Bonn for some R.E. from the Archbishop of South Dakota (good bloke) at a catechesis session for English-speaking pilgrims. It was followed by a Mass in the same hall with music led by.... our Indians friends!!! Good fun was had by all, as can be witnessed below.

"The Spirit lives to set us free..."

"... Walk, walk in the light!"


Day 9 - Fri. Aug. 19th: Catechesis in Cologne, festival activities, looking for a group member's ID pass
Catechesis in Cologne, this time with the Cardinal of Los Angeles, who didn't win any brownie points from me for his words of welcome, during which he gave a "shout out" to those lay people, priests, bishops, seminarians and nuns present... totally ignoring the possibility of Brothers being present. In fact, there were at least 5 Brothers from different congregations present, 3 of whom I met by chance during a break. He never even acknowleged us later once I'd gone and introduced myself to him as a Brother. Really bad form, but unfortunately a common attitude in our Church. It's as if some people feel so insecure about the reduced numbers of candidates going on to the priesthood that they feel threatened by the simple fact of our existence and don't want to put the idea of an alternative vocation in the minds of "impressionable" young men. Give me a break! If someone is genuinely called by God to be a Brother, then surely we should trust that He knows best. Who are we to impose our own human logic and will over His? As you can probably tell, this is a bit of a bug bear of mine. In fact, I have become more and more involved recently in a working party group of Brothers from different congregations that seeks to develop collaboration and mutual support between us, especially in view of encouraging vocations and developing awareness in the general public of who we are and what we do. Here endeth today's lesson! :-)

Luke, Sarah and Matthew in Cologne

Back to WYD: this day in Cologne is one that will live long in my memory for different reasons, but especially for the epic journey I undertook to try and find the ID pass mislaid by one of our group at Cologne Cathedral. This involved a 3 hour trek on foot, a legnthy torrential downpour, closed metro stations due to over-crowding (those marauding Italians again! :-), and more... I eventually found the pass in a lost property office, though it took another hour to convince the volunteer on the desk to hand it over!!!

When I got back to Wesseling, I just had time to lie down and start a well-earned evening siesta when a local samba band came in to entertain the troops for at least 3 hours (well, maybe 20 mins.). Arrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh!!!!

Bro. André and Bro. Jean.

Day 10 - Sat. Aug. 20th: Departing for Marienfeld, Night Prayer with the Pope... and 1 million or so other people!
Our fun-filled German adventure culminated in a weekend spent with the newly-elected German Pope, Benedict XVI... and about 1 million other young people, spread out across a large number of fields, sleeping outdoors without tents (just our sleeping bags!). Pope Benny's first foreign gig, you might say, and in his homeland to boot!

To get there, we first had a 1 hour pilgrimage hike, followed by a 3 hour wait queueing up for a coach to take us the final miles.

Queues almost as bad as Alton Towers!

Eventually, we made it to the converted open-cast mine (the aforementioned fields) that was to be our last port of call. Personally, I will never forget the open-air prayer vigil on that final night. I set off on my own to walk/clamber for about 20 minutes through the praying, candle-holding crowd during night prayer, to get as near to the front as I could, and then wandered back some time later whilst listening to the Pope preach, looking out over an immense sea of a million flickering candle lights, illuminating the darkness. Those lights were to me a moving sign of the faith that had led these young people from all corners of the globe on a pilgrimage to come together and worship Jesus, their Saviour, just as the Wise Men came bearing gifts to Bethlehem over 2,000 years earlier to worship the child they believed would be a future King. And what were our gifts? Ourselves. Our songs, our laughter, our friendship, our cheerfulness (“Team Win Always Wins!” was our rallying cry, even after queuing for hours just to get lunch, even when soaking wet in the rain), our sharing, our openness and ultimately our love of Him and of each other.

Getting ready for a night outdoors with Matthew practicing his goldfish impersonation.

Matthew, Sarah + Sophie with "Monsignor" Sean Riley
(seminarian friend of ours from Liverpool who we managed to find in the crowd)

"Team Win"

At the end of the concluding Mass the next morning, before we all left to go our separate ways, all in some way changed as people, the Pope announced in the traditional manner the venue for the next World Youth Day in 2008. Sydney, Australia!! Look out Oz! Here we come!! ?

Homeward bound


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