Sunday, July 20, 2008

Home Sweet Home...well...sorta

I want to answer just a few questions in the comments sections before I tell you all about the last two days. The A&M flag at the Papal arrival was not us. It was the roommate of Katie Smith's brother from College Station. We met up with him a couple of different times in one of the many examples of how small this world can actually be. To the gentleman from Sydney who posted a comment and is reading this blog...Thank you for sharing your wonderful city with us. We try to make a special effort to say G'day and thank the Sydney Siders as it must seem that you are being invaded. Sydney as a whole has been one of the most friendly places I have ever been. This is my first World Youth Day but I cannot imagine another being as organized and as efficient as the Aussie way. I hope that we have not interrupted your life too much and pray that you saw the joy of Christ in our eyes.

Now...for the last two days. We left the hotel on Saturday morning at 7:30AM. We walked across the Sydney Harbour bridge to cross over to the CBD. I was impressed that the city of Sydney shut down this major artery in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world so that some 150K - 200K people could have the experience of walking across it. The weather was absolutely gorgeous albeit a bit chilly.

Once across the bridge we continued our walk South past Barangaroo and alongside Darling Harbour. Once we arrived at Central Station (about 4 Km at this point), we boarded a train and went to Wynyard Station. From Wynyard we walked up Martin's place to a large park area called The Domain.

We arrived at The Domain right as the processional for the Mass for U.S. Pilgrims was beginning. Francis Cardinal George was the main celebrant and many of our U.S. bishops were in attendance. The Mass, as I said before, was an intimate gathering of a few thousand people. We quickly realized that Steve Angrisano, our MC from Steubenville South this year, was doing the music along with none other than Matt Maher. As a side note, I understand that Matt Maher is an artist and sells his work, but the man is truly a faithful Catholic and pitches in with liturgies whenever he can.

After the Mass we met up with the group from Brenham and Fr. Alberto. It was nice to gather with some folks from our own diocese. We were wishing that we could have met up with the other groups from the Diocese of Austin but had a good time all the same. The kids did want Bishop Aymond to know that we love him and wished that he was here with us. It was fun to hear the MC call out the name of each bishop and ask the groups to come "claim their Bishop."

After Mass we walked up through Hyde Park and rejoined the Pilgrim Walk at Central Station. From this point, we walked another 4 Km to Randwick race park. The walk was difficult as it was uphill in several portions. However, the various groups that were singing and playing guitars made the trip seem a little shorter. There is a chant they do here in Australia as well that makes it fun. It starts out, "Aussie...Aussie...Aussie...." You would have to hear it to appreciate it. Most countries picked up on it.

When we finally made it to Randwick Racecourse we went looking for out "allocated spot." Of course when we got there all of the "padded" sites were taken. We ended up camping out on a slight incline in a grassy area. It ended up being a really nice spot. We finally arrived in our spot and set up camp around 3:30PM. We then sat around and waited until the evening liturgy started.

The crowd was one of the largest I have ever seen. We had a spot that was pretty close to the main altar. We could see the Pope fairly well with the screens and could see his outline without it. The evening liturgy was pretty impressive. It got pretty cold as the sun went down and we started to bundle up. For me, the best part of the night was having Eucharistic Adoration with the Holy Father. They played some music in the beginning, but towards the end, we all enjoyed sacred silence. It was amazing to be around 250,000 people on their knees adoring the Blessed Sacrament in silence. It was quite profound!

After the Holy Father left for the night, most of us took advantage of the opportunity to crawl in our bags and try to get some sleep. I fell asleep for the first time by 9:30 PM. I am still getting over a pretty good cold and have quite the cough so I was happy for what sleep I got. It got really cold during the night and we woke up several times. It is hard for 250K people to stay quiet all night.

I woke up around 6AM to find our kids still wrapped up like mummies in their bags.

There was a group from Africa not too far away that was singing as the sun came up. I loved it! They were so awake and so joyful! I then walked over to the adoration tent for my morning offering and was shocked to see that it was full. The Missionaries of Charity Sisters (the order Mother Theresa started) were there in full force and were singing like Angels. I could not believe that I had just woken up in a field in Sydney, Australia and was now adoring our Lord with people from all corners of the earth. This was one of the most powerful moments in the trip for me.

I then walked over to our group and packed my things while waiting for the teens to wake up. We had morning prayer at 8AM and then waited for the Pope's arrival. At about 9AM the Holy Father flew over the racecourse in a helicopter. At about 9:30AM he drove around the racetrack in his Pope-mobile. The teens got really close to him (about 15 feet) and got a good view as he drove by. We then celebrated Mass and watched as a member of our own diocese was confirmed by the Pope. The Pope's Homily was awesome and I encourage you to read it when you have time.

After the Holy Father left the racetrack we waited around for about an hour or so before making an attempt to leave. I will edit this post with pictures and more information on our walk home but am going to take a quick break for now.

Ok, back from a quick pizza break with the guys. Apparently the first round we ordered did not quite cut it and the guys ordered a second round. We were discussing how this is the first time we have been full since we left the Busch's in Brisbane.

Anyway, back to the walk. I have a picture that pretty much sums up the trip and hopefully will be able to post it soon. One of the girls in our group, Sarah Phillips, developed some really painful blisters on her feet from the walk before and was unable to walk today without a great deal of pain. We were somewhat worried as we had another 4 Km walk back to the train station. The solution to the problem? K Kap gave her a piggy back ride for most of the 4 Km. Alicia pitched in here and there but for the most part K Kap carried her.

That pretty much somes up all of the teens attitude for the past two days. We had finally reached a level of unity that we had not previously seen. Everyone shared food, helped carry packs, and literally carried one another. They just did what had to be done. It was heartwarming to see. The conditions the past two days were the toughest of the trip and there was not one negative word or complaint. I dropped toward the back of the pack and just enjoyed watching our group march along.

All of a sudden along the walk a large group was stopped in the middle of the road. Pictures do not do justice to the number of people in the streets. It was like a running of the bulls. So when we came across a group stopped in the street many of us started to get irritated and were about to let them know when we realized what they were doing. It was a large group from Italy that stopped to sing to some people sitting on the front porch of their building. When I looked at the building I saw three of the cutest elderly ladies sitting in their wheelchairs on the porch of a retirement home waving and smiling as big as I have ever seen. They were loving every moment of it. When the Italians moved on we took our spot in front of the ladies to say hello and wave at them. The whole scene really lifted our spirits for the remainder of the way home.

We arrived at the hotel around 4:30 PM and took much needed showers. We then gathered together for some pizza and then turned in early for the night. The girls told me that they saw me on the news. Apparently there was shot of me praying during Mass. I did not see any cameras during the Mass but I am sure they must have been doing a story, based upon how I looked, about the homeless coming to the Mass as well. I think Therese took a pic of me looking less than stellar and will put it up when we get home. Tomorrow we will spend a day of sightseeing and then will make our way to the airport on Tuesday. It has been a long trip, but parents, I think you will be happy with the results.

Peace be with you all,


Anita Kapchinski said...

Mass was beautiful on EWTN (5 to 600,000 people in attendance) - many of us parents have this recorded so you can see it from another perspective. I kept seeing what I thought was the TX flag, but it was Chile. Our group was in the background, however, during a "Life on the Rock" interview a few days ago.

Hearing about the upper respiratory symptoms that seem to be plagueing many WYD missionaries (including TV announcers), painful blisters (poor Amanda!) along with other trials encountered along this journey, Kevin's reference to first chapter James really comes home - you continue to turn lemons into lemonade at every turn. The way you are living the Gospel by taking your individual gifts and strengths and coming together as "one body" is truly inspiring.

As I prepare for the first Mass this Sunday morning and as I offer my humble efforts up to the praise and glory of His name, I will also offer up special intentions for your comfort and well-being this day!

Whistler said...

blister care & prevention 101 by Whistler :)
sorry its a little late, but hope it helps on the short walk back to the Lone Star!
bandaids over an antibiotic ointment during the day, take the bandaids off @ night to help them heal faster
wear 2 pairs of socks, one pair inside out to help reduce friction.
it also helps to powder your feet & the outside of the bandaids lightly.
I encourage anyone with aches & pains to meditate on the Stations of the Cross that ya'll experienced this past Friday.

Ralph and Paula Day said...

G'day Pilgrims-
We have been watching on EWTN also. We saw the Papal arrival and recently saw the crowd at the racetrack. What an amazing journey. Thanks for your blog Tom. 250,000 people in silent adoration is incredible. We are praying for your safe return and look forward to hearing the stories in person.

Kevin Day - we love you.

Ralph and Paula Day

ZeldaWisdom said...

I'm watching the closing mass see people streching their arms through one another to receive Holy Communion truely speaks of the energy of Christ you must be feeling! Peace be with you all, especially during your trip home. Kev, can't wait to hear about your journey!
Love, Emily

Charlotte_Texan said...

STAY WYD group,

I have really enjoyed reading the blogs. Through all of your descriptions and stories, you all have been able to transmit the feeling of actually being there; although we are almost half way around the globe. I am glad that you have enjoyed that wonderful experience and hope that Tom, Alicia and Father Michael have helped you in this spiritual endeavor that many people will only dream of. As you return, don't hesitate to shed light on those less fortunate to go, bringing the word and experience to all you meet.

Now that you have almost completed the journey of WYD, I guess your next big spiritual journey shall take you to Rome & the Vatican City , and experience the center of our spiritual existence.