An estimated 1.4 million young Catholics cheered enthusiastically when Pope Benedict XVI arrived Sunday morning, August 21, for the Closing Mass of World Day 2011. Many of them had stayed overnight for prayer, meditation and rest in the large field near the Madrid airport. On Saturday evening, they had gathered for a Vigil and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Their spirits were not dampened by a heavy rain storm. The Holy Father praised them for their devotion and determination when he told them in his homily that the sea of happy souls “fills my heart with joy.”
The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, who led a group of 64 pilgrims from the Diocese of Raleigh to the five-day celebration, provides a reflection on the last two days of World Youth Day 2011.
On Saturday evening, the pilgrims attended a Prayer Vigil with the Holy Father at which there was Eucharistic Adoration. During the Vigil, a heavy storm occurred. As the rains and winds became stronger, so did the enthusiasm of our young people. Nothing was going to kill their joyful spirit! Fortunately, the storm lasted for a short time.
The Vigil continued with Eucharistic Adoration. I will never forget the scene. As soon as the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, there was profound silence in the midst of a crowd estimated at two million. As one pilgrim said to me, “Only Jesus could make that happen!”
The love and reverence that our young people have for the Eucharist are absolutely amazing. They firmly believe that in Christ our Lord we find our strength and peace.
The closing Mass of World Youth Day was on Sunday. Many of the pilgrims camped out overnight without any of the comforts of home and with little rest. Yet, they were so alive at Mass. They waited for this moment to be in the presence of our Holy Father for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (due to large crowds, some were not physically present but spiritually united). One pilgrim stated, “I will never forget the day that I attended Mass with the Holy Father, so many bishops, priests, religious and peers from all around the world. It was family!” How blessed we are to be Catholic and to belong to the Church that is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic!
I joined our diocesan pilgrims for our closing dinner this evening. Some of the pilgrims spoke and conveyed what these days meant to them and their spiritual lives. Their words were inspirational and moving. In summary, they said they return home a “new person” and “firm in faith.” They will arrive back home tomorrow. As they share their stories, experiences and blessings, I am confident that the Diocese of Raleigh will be greatly blessed.
Please continue to pray for our pilgrims and all our young people. They give the Church every reason to be filled with great hope!