Saturday, July 26, 2008

World Youth Day - A Blessing for Australia!

Apart from the mean-spirited whingeing miserable "liberal" Catholics who with the aid of the ABC (our national broadcaster) are still trying to adapt the Church to their memory of the 1960s (supported loudly by liberal Anglicans, other liberal protestants and the anti-religion faction in our society), the people of Sydney in particular, and Australia in general, overwhelmingly found themselves swept up in the spirit of the World Youth Day celebrations.

Sydney is my home town, although I haven't lived there for 28 years, and I was so proud and excited that the breathtaking beauty of its harbour and other landmarks has been seen by the world in a new way. The city itself became a stunning sacred shrine for the most amazing experience of the Stations of the Cross, televised to an estimated half billion people around the world.

I managed to view the telecast of the Mass celebrated by Cardinal Pell at Barangaroo on the shore of the harbour, as well as most of the Stations of the Cross. Those responsible for the liturgical planning have to be congratulated for seamlessly blending the old and the new. The juxtaposition of modern music, hymns and even Gregorian chant was skilfully done, and the altar arrangements and ceremonial (there and in the final Mass) made it quite clear that "catholic-lite" is becoming a thing of the past!

The pilgrims themselves represented the breadth of the Catholic Church, and demonstrably ranged from those with charismatic renewal backgrounds to communities who worship with the 1962 Latin Missal, and everyone in between. But clearly, as Cardinal Pell once quipped, "These days it's hard to find a so-called 'progressive Catholic' under 50!" On the whole, the youth who have remained or who have been evangelised in recent times want the REAL Gospel, the REAL Faith and the REAL Jesus!

And that's who Pope Benedict proclaimed. He didn't patronise the youth by dumbing down what he had to say. Indeed, some admitted to the media that they would have to re-read particular addresses in order fully to digest what he was saying. But the pilgrims from all over the world expressed their love and affection for the Holy Father throughout the week. And they were reverently and expectantly hushed as he spoke to them of their role in the Church and the wider community over the decades ahead.

The Traditional Anglican Communion had at the very least two official pilgrims. Ray Eyles, a professional media man and retired TV producer from our Mermaid Beach parish covered World Youth Day for The Messenger, and recently ordained Fr Stephen Hill from Patmos House (slightly more youthful than Ray!!!) took time off to be part of it all.

In St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney (19/7/2008)

Randwick Racecourse, Sydney (20/7/2008)

Randwick Racecourse, Sydney (20/7/2008)

Randwick Racecourse, Sydney, the Altar (20/7/2008)

Pope Benedict gave a number of addresses, including the following:

At his welcome by the young people at Barangaroo, Sydney Harbour (17/7/2008):

"Dear Young People,

"What a delight it is to greet you here at Barangaroo, on the shores of the magnificent Sydney harbour, with its famous bridge and Opera House. Many of you are local, from the outback or the dynamic multicultural communities of Australian cities. Others of you have come from the scattered islands of Oceania, and others still from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. Some of you, indeed, have come from as far as I have, Europe! Wherever we are from, we are here at last in Sydney. And together we stand in our world as God’s family, disciples of Christ, empowered by his Spirit to be witnesses of his love and truth for everyone."
Click HERE to read the whole address.

At his meeting with a group of disadvantaged young people of a rehabilitation community (18/7/2008):

". . . All through the Gospels, it was those who had taken wrong turnings who were particularly loved by Jesus, because once they recognized their mistake, they were all the more open to his healing message. Indeed, Jesus was often criticized by self-righteous members of society for spending so much time with such people.

“Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?”, they asked. He
responded: “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick … I did not come to call the virtuous but sinners” (cf. Mt 9:11-13). It was those who were willing to rebuild their lives who were most ready to listen to Jesus and become his disciples. You can follow in their footsteps, you too can grow particularly close to Jesus because you have chosen to turn back towards him. You can be sure that, just like the Father in the story of the prodigal son, Jesus welcomes you with open arms. He offers you unconditional love . . ."
Click HERE to read the whole address.

To the pilgrims gathered for the Vigil at Randwick Racecourse on the Saturday night (19/7/2008):

"Once again this evening we have heard Christ’s great promise – 'you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you'. And we have heard his summons – 'be my witnesses throughout the world' – (Acts 1:8). These were the very last words which Jesus spoke before his Ascension into heaven. How the Apostles felt upon hearing them, we can only imagine. But we do know that their deep love for Jesus, and their trust in his word, prompted them to gather and to wait; to wait not aimlessly, but together, united in prayer, with the women and Mary in the Upper Room (cf. Acts 1:14). Tonight, we do the same. Gathered before our much-travelled Cross and the icon of Mary, and under the magnificent constellation of the Southern Cross, we pray. Tonight, I am praying for you and for young people throughout the world. Be inspired by the example of your Patrons! Accept into your hearts and minds the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit! Recognize and believe in the power of the Spirit in your lives!"
Click HERE to read the whole address.

Homily at the Final Mass at Randwick Racecourse (20/7/2008):

". . . this power, the grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires. That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church. Prayer is pure receptivity to God’s grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father. In the power of his Spirit, Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his love, and to receive 'power from on high', enabling us to be salt and light for our world.

". . . Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will
you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the 'power' which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make . . ."
Click HERE to read the whole homily.

Finally, I was not the only one to have been deeply moved by the Holy Father's Angelus Address following the Mass. Here it is in full:

"Dear Young Friends,

"In the beautiful prayer that we are about to recite, we reflect on Mary as a young woman, receiving the Lord’s summons to dedicate her life to him in a very particular way, a way that would involve the generous gift of herself, her womanhood, her motherhood. Imagine how she must have felt. She was filled with apprehension, utterly overwhelmed at the prospect that lay before her.

"The angel understood her anxiety and immediately sought to reassure her. 'Do not be afraid, Mary…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you' (Lk 1:30, 35). It was the Spirit who gave her the strength and courage to respond to the Lord’s call. It was the Spirit who helped her to understand the great mystery that was to be accomplished through her. It was the Spirit who enfolded her with his love and enabled her to conceive the Son of God in her womb.

"This scene is perhaps the piv
otal moment in the history of God’s relationship with his people. During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes.

"In fairy tales, the story ends there, and all 'live happily ever after'. In real life it is not so simple. For Mary there were many struggles ahead, as she lived out the consequences of the 'yes' that she had given to the Lord. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. When Jesus was twelve years old, she experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when, for three days, the child went missing. And after his public ministry, she suffered the agony of witnessing his crucifixion and death. Throughout her trials she remained faithful to her promise, sustained by the Spirit of fortitude. And she was gloriously rewarded.

"Dear young people, we too must remain faithful to the 'yes' that we have given to the Lord’s offer of friendship. We know that he will never abandon us. We know that he will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord’s 'proposal' in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us. She is our example and our inspiration, she intercedes for us with her Son, and with a mother’s love she shields us from harm."

Let's all pray for the pilgrims, that, empowered by these days of conversion, celebration and spiritual renewal, they will, as Pope Benedict said, use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to build the church and world of the future.


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