Sunday, August 21, 2011

We have shared an adventure together...

...said Papa Benedict to roars and roars of applause, after the electric storm and the thunder and lightening, and the evening prayer vigil interrupted by this dramatic intervention of nature following a day of intense and burning heat and shortages of water among some actions of the million strong crowd.

We who were there will never be able to convey adequately how extraordinary it was, how stunning that mixture of fear and panic and heat and thirst and sudden splashing water...the relentless heat of afternoon giving way to darkness, and the blessed relief as the sun finally, finally went down, and we began to know that the Pope would soon be with us, and also that supplies of extra water were on their way and that this world Youth day was going to be something glorious after all...

Saturday began with groups of young pilgrims gathering all over Madrid and walking,walking, walking, with flags and banners, and snatches of song, out from the city to the vast airfield where we were to pray together and spend the night in vigil. It was hot. All were in good spirits and  the route was clear ...ahead of us as we marched was a great wide winding column of young people, with flags from every continent on the earth, all heading for the Cuatro Viente airfield through the dust and scrub and sudden bits of pleasant suburbia.   The heat was intense, the sun scorching ...as we passed some blocks of flats there was a sudden glorious relief as people poured out buckets and buckets of cool water on us from their windows. Some had hoses...oh the joy of the cool water on our heads and bodies and feet....

On arrival at the airfield there was of course no shade, the numbers pouring in were larger - much, much larger - than had been thought and great crowds pressed around the water taps.   The prospect of spending the night in this chaos seemed grim.  But gradually things were worked out, young people running to shriek their joy as the  Fire brigade drove up and down showering great powerful jets of water at the various sectors, and announcements being made about water supplies arriving for  us all shortly. I prayed for rain...as lots and lots of others must have done, because as dusk arrived so did the clouds and as the Prayrt vigil got under way, Heaven opened on us with wind and lightning and rain and drama...

Papa Benedict had by now arrived too and was hailed with cheers and then started to talk to us and open our prayer vigil,... At one stage things had to break off but they restarted as the storm abated and suddenly there was peace, and I will never, ever forget the silence as something between one and a one and a half million young people knelt before the Blessed Sacrament with the successor of St Peter and prayed...his firm, reassuring and gentle voice guided us into the prayer and then he knelt and the silence slowly, slowly spread out from him in the sanctuary across the wide airfield through crowds and crowds right out to the perimeter where at first the were still people talking and sorting out supper and water and bedding and so on...and in that great silence there was peace and stillness and after that the whole World Youth Day project made complete sense after all, and we shared this great adventure of storm and prayer together...

4 comments:

diddleymaz said...

Watched Mass on EWTN this am, wonderful Day, thank you for sharing the day. :)

Manny said...

It sounds glorious! I wish i was there. I did catch the rain on TV.

Marianne said...

Joanna, thank you so much for your posts, have really enjoyed reading them. May the graces received by all continue to bear fruit in the years to come. Hope L appreciated you bringing her missing Quo Vadis tee shirt. Looking forward to her and her sister's return and hearing all the chat, reminiscences and of course the week's dirty washing!!

Manny said...

Fantastic! Feels like I'm there. :)