Father Dave reminded us that if all we go back home with is "a great time in Sydney" (having met great people, eaten good food, and seen popular sights), then we've missed the point. So we took the time to examine ourselves and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. One of the leaders talked about what pilgrimage is, going to walk where Jesus walked (initially in the literal sense, with journeys to the Holy Land; now we seek to walk His way in our lives). We also had some witnesses and then half an hour to each pray on our own. It was very powerful. The Lord is speaking to us in so many ways through all these events, we just have to stop and listen!
What are we going to take from this experience? What are we going to take home with us? The other day, a girl jokingly asked a bishop after his inspiring talk if he could come home to her parish to encourage the people there. "You do it", he told us. You go home transformed, and see how the Lord uses you to His glory.
I am personally being so stretched and challenged here in many good ways. I'm seeing it happen around me as well. On the way home last night I passed a lounge bar where the bouncer stopped me to ask what my sweatshirt said ("Mary Spouse of the Spirit"). We got to talking, it became apparent he was religious. He commented to me how many atheists he had encountered the World Youth Day crowd. I don't doubt it. People are here by a wide variety of motivations: to socialize, by parental pressure, curiosity, as well as conviction. But the Lord has people here for His own reasons. It will be amazing to see what fruits come of the seeds planted here.
Last night there was a large praise session at Barangaroo (the large gathering spot) with well-known musicians such as Matt Maher and Hillsong United. There was a great spirit in the place, with edifying music, reverent readings of Scripture, and a crowd that was eating it up.
We also ate, literally, from the World Youth Day meal packs. We're each given meal tickets for every meal of the week, but when the time comes to redeem them, you have to group up with five other people to receive a 6-person picnic. Yesterday evening, I was wandering around on my own (having visited some Australian friends earlier) when I heard someone call my name. It was my friend Anna from California, and she invited me to come share their dinner. It was a great coincidence to see her and it was really nice to meet her friends. The food was pretty good, too. Vegetable soup (in solid plastic bags), bread rolls, fruit, and brownies.
I had heard some people complain about the food, but as we ate last night, we discussed the fact that for many pilgrims, this food is far more than is usually available to them or their families. Indeed, to have a certain, full meal, to have clean sinks and toilets widely available are things that may be rare to others while we take them for granted. In that sense, it's very humbling to be a pilgrim amongst our Catholic siblings from around the world. For many of them, this pilgrimage is a rare privilege made possible by much sacrifice and dedication. May we all remember what a privilege it truly is!
Today we are making the pilgrimage walk out to the racecourse where we will camp out for the overnight vigil. Tomorrow we will all have Mass with the Holy Father. Please pray for us!