Simply: It was the most beautiful "big" Mass I have ever been part of!
But back to the very beginning, like the Stations we weren't intending to head down to the Mass either. Not sure exactly why... maybe the crowds, maybe "big" Masses often don't do it for me? But we were eventually swayed, maybe most by receiving free tickets because we hosted some pilgrims. But just about everyone was saying "don't miss the opportunity of a life time!"
We headed down on the Saturday. Sandi had to work on the morning and I met her at Penrith train station with a small picnic, which we had in a nearby park. From there we headed to a friend's place in Botany (thanks Joseph!), where the plan was to stay the night and walk to Randwick racecourse the following morning.
It was difficult to work out how early to leave. The 8km walk was not going to take much over an hour, but the crowds were going to be sizable. There were apparently 250,000 pilgrims already in the racecourse camping overnight (the boys and Briony a part of it all). Thinking it was going to be better to be early rather than late, we left at 8am, telling our friend Joseph that we hoped to be back before 4:30.
It was like our own Pilgrim Walk!
We didn't see anyone else until we walked into the precinct around Barker Street and then there were lots of people walking to Randwick. It was very exciting. We got to the racecourse in good time (we thought), the crowds were not too thick heading in. Then everything almost stopped as a large motorcade drove past with police sirens blaring. We asked one young policeman who that was, but he didn't know and expressed the opinion that his motorcycle friends may have been overdoing it a little. It was apparently the Pope.
Jesse rang us to say that he had a nice position in J2, so once inside we started heading in that direction. There were a lot of people in there! It was awesome to look around and only see people for as far as you could see. People and national flags.
The path across the race track was closed, someone else in the line to cross said it had been closed for some time and would remain so until the Pope passed by on his way to the altar. A couple of minutes later the Pope did drive past.
We found Jesse and the others without too much trouble (funny to say that in the midst of nearly 500,000 other people!) about 9:45. It was great to see them again: we hadn't seen them since the previous weekend!
The Mass started promptly at 10am and went through to about 12:30. It was really beautiful. The music, singing and prayers in various languages from around the world was a powerful testament to the universality of the Church.
It was wonderful to be part of it, just one of half-a-million others, all there for the same reason. Communion: how do you serve 500,000 people Communion? I didn't know, and still don't know, but it happened! There were 3,000 Priests apparently, being shielded by yellow umbrellas. After Communion there was a period of silence for personal thanksgiving. It was probably more amazing kneeling amongst 500,000 silent people than it was praying in unison with them, or cheering wildly with them. 500,000 silent people is an awesome thing!
There was another concert for the kids after Mass, but we didn't stay for that, and headed off about 1pm. Jesse gave us a couple of bread rolls from his Pilgrim Pack to keep us going, which we greatly appreciated: we were getting a touch hungry by that stage! Took ages to get out of the racecourse; finally bumped into some Papua New Guineans on the way and had a chat in Pidgin. We eventually got back to Botany just after 3pm and headed back home shortly after that.
What's interesting is how close we came to not going to any of the WYD events. Thank God we didn't miss those incredible opportunities!!
What is also really nice is that the cynicism that pervaded the media before World Youth Day was replaced with some sort of acknowledgment of the greatness and wonder of the event.
Comment from: Glenn Mowbray [Visitor]
What a life-giving experience it was! We were at the Papal Mass as well; strange we didn’t see you there!
Comment from: scribbly [Member]
Yes, I thought you were going to be there, and kept a lookout for you all… wait… is that you I can see in the first picture???
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