World Youth Day ~ Madrid 2011.
On Wednesday the Carmelite group braved the metro to the other side of the city for a day with our Prior General and members of the Carmelite family world wide. Friars, nuns, sisters and young people gathered around three words – Look, Contemplate, Love. Fr Fernando led us in a reflection on these words coming from John of the Cross. We then gathered in language groups of twenty people to discuss these words and situate them in our own reality. I was leading a discussion group with people from Malta, Ireland, Spain, Italy, USA, Canada and the UK. I was reminded of similar conversations with the YCW around the maxim See, judge and act. The afternoon was filled with different creative presentations on the work of Carmel throughout the world. In the evening we went back to the Cabrini school for a reconciliation service.
On the 14th of August 9 Carmelite pilgrims joined the Southwark Youth Service for World Youth Day. We joined 1.7 million young people from across the globe for a week of festival, community, worship and recollection. The city of Madrid became a city of youth. We stayed with the Cabrini sisters in their school in the north of the city. After a welcome meal the whole group began the task of becoming a community.
Monday morning began with Mass with Archbishop Peter Smith, who stayed with his diocesan group for the whole pilgrimage. Then in the Madrid heat we set out to orient ourselves with the Metro and to find some key places in the city. One of the amazing phenomena of the World Youth Days is when pilgrims recognise each other as pilgrims. Conversations are initiated – where are you from? What is your name? What do you do? Why did you come? What have you enjoyed so far? Songs are shared (loudly) on the Metro and on the streets. Smiles light up faces as familiar tunes are shared. Prayer begins, organically, summoned from that moment, and there is a deep sense of silence and wonder that stills those who are present.
|Southwark youth Services Group|
|Fr Damian, Br Neil & Br Paul|
|Fr Fernando & Fr Raul|
|Southwark priests and Fr Damian|
I cannot identify one moment in the week that stands out for me, there are many. Simple acts of kindness and concern, making sure that no-one is alone (unless they want to be.) The awesome silence as 1.7 million people adore the Eucharist in silence. The music, the smiles, the words of encouragement as you walk along in the heat, the silence in the chapel as people prepare to encounter Christ in the sacraments, the moments of communion over a drink or a meal.
We are home now and blessed with memories. Rio in 2 years – we will have to see.
Photo's: Br Neil Scott & Fr Philip Glandfield