Thursday, July 17, 2008

Viva Il Papa!

That was the chant from the crowd as the Papal boat-a-cade arrived at Barangaroo. The atmosphere was absolutely electric! More about that in a minute.

We found a quicker bus route to our catechesis site this morning. Owen, the night clerk at our hotel, should be declared a Servant of God and perhaps Blessed by then end of the week. He gave us the inside tip on a different bus route and it was much easier on the legs. We arrived at the catechetical sight and were delighted to learn that our Bishop for the day was none other than Archbishop Bathersby from Brisbane. We were fortunate enough to celebrate Mass with him at the Youth Arise Festival last week. After that Mass we were able to take a group picture with him. I hope to post that later on. Bishop Bathersby gave excellent catechesis and also shared with us some of his archidiocese's own problems. the archdiocese has a Catholic population of 650,000 and only about ten percent of that number actually go to Mass on Sundays. Suffice to say, evangelization is a very important topic to him. After the catechesis session we had a time of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After adoration we moved into Mass. Once Mass was over we collected our lunch (Tuna or Baked Bean sandwiches, a bag of chips, and a drink) and then hopped on the bus for the trip into town.
The bus dropped us off at the Queen Victoria building which is a different stop than what we were used to. As providence would have it, there was a hardware store directly in front of the bus stop. We stopped in and bought a nine foot pole for our Texas flag (I just might try and bring it back as a carry-on for giggles...yeah right). For the past week we have watched as everyone else flew their colors proudly while the most we were able to do was drape it on our backs or a fence. Once we got the flag rigged up we got stopped by everyone. No one had seen this flag before and wanted to know what it was. Quite a few people thought we were from Chile as they have almost an identical flag. At one point I had the flag rolled up so that just the red, white, and blue were showing. Upon hearing a man across the street yell, "Viva la France!" I quickly unwound the flag (almost in an offended manner) and informed him that we were from the great state of Texas. It did not strike me until we got here that it may have been more appropriate to bring a U.S.A. flag instead of our state flag, but we have reason to be proud don't we? And besides, it really helps our group stay together and it looks good flying high alongside Sydney Harbour don't you think?

Once we finally made it to our assigned section at Barangaroo, we realized that we were about fifty yards from where the Holy Father's boat was going to dock. We all let out a little yell when we saw the Pope-mobile park just a few yards away. Suffice to say, Pope Benedict crossed anywhere from 10 to 50 yards from us. While I was not able to get the best pictures, some of the kids did and I will get them up later. In the meantime, here are a few of mine. Mind you, the Dutch were pushing in the back and almost through the fence. I now have a better appreciation for how world wars can start.
You can see the Holy Father on the second deck of the boat dressed in white and red:

Here is the Holy Father exiting the boat:

After the Papal arrival and liturgy (yes, we received a blessing from the Pope!), we collected our dinner. Much to our delight (sarcasm) we had another round of beef stew and bread. The soup was warm though so we couldn't complain. The weather here seems to have gotten a little colder today so the soup was good. After dinner we made the trek up (or down who knows) to Darling Harbour to the Sydney Entertainment Centre for the Life Teen event. We had more praise and worship by Matt Maher and then adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with the Bishop from Lexington, KY. After the event we walked to the train alongside a group from Indiana and Canada. After the dueling "O, Canada" and "America the Beautiful" we conceded that Canada was actually its own country and not just "America Light!" We then sang more songs together as we made our way to the train.

We arrived back at the hotel around 11pm. It was a long day but, seriously, how many days can you say you have had that included: adoration, Mass, being within 50 yards of the Holy Father, warm WYD soup (sarcasm) and then more adoration? We are truly blessed to be here. I will ask for your increased prayers though as our schedule becomes a bit more pilgrim-like (translation = difficult) for the next few days. Until then, here are a few pics. I am not sure how frequent posting will be the next few days so please bear with us.

By the way, I have a new appreciation for how parents feel when they say, "I'll take out the trash/do my homework/clean my room in a minute." And the parent responds, "yeah right...I'm not going to hold my breath!" Well, they tell me the blogs are coming....



Angie Solcher said...

Okay guys...I am worried you are not eating enough...I am worried you are not getting enough sleep and...are you drinking plenty of water? I do hope you are not too chilly....
I will pray for all of you these next few days: strength, endurance, good humor, and food!
The arrival of the Pope was very exciting to watch...

Ralph and Paula Day said...

Wow!! I am watching you"LIVE DOWN UNDER" Thurs 7:00PM.on TV. You all are awesome!! God is among you and within you!! I heard that the blue skies opened up when you arrived! Know that all your little sacrifices ( walking forever and eating gourmet Aussie food!)has strengthened you in more ways than you'll know. Soak up all the culture God has to offer. Share with those around you especially your TEXAS SMILE!! Fr. Michael, Alecia and Tom we are so thankful for what you are teaching our youth and pray for your legs, stomachs, backs and nerves daily!! Teens, God has picked you to dig deep and give willingly. Kev Day, I was so PROUD to see you standing next to our flag. You continue to amaze us! We miss you and know we will see you again as a powerful witness of HIS WORD.

God Bless Each of you,
Paula and Ralph

Bruce and Laura Burdick said...

Jordan and Claire,
Just returned from Mexico and watched CNN in the hotel. Looked for you guys in the crowd. What an incredible trip. Received a message from friends who saw the A&M flag. Was that you guys? Also, reset your debit pin#. Birth month and day for each of you. Should not have any more problems getting cash. Please call your cousin Leslie in Sydney before you leave.
Love, Mom, Dad, and Maddy.

alaina said...

I remember WYD Toronto, and the same thing happened to us when we flew our Texas Flag. They often confused us with Chile, and asked us why we were flying a state flag. The only other state flag that we saw was California, if I remeber correctly. We always explained, that we weren't only proud to be from the USA, but we were even moreso proud to be from Texas. May God continue to bless ya'll and illuminate your paths. Enjoy the Holy Spirit which flows abundantly at WYD, and may you bring it home to share with everyone.

Alaina Zachmann

Kathy and Brien said...

What a Blessed adventure! Loved the pictures! It gave me chills to hear about the arrival of the Pope in Tom's blog- Thanks to Tom, Alicia and Fr. Michael for your endurance through all the yummy food (sarcasm!) , long treks and your continued good humor with the teens- All of you are in my daily thoughts and prayers-