Photo: fot. Mazur/episkopat.pl
Day 2: World Youth Day 2016
Outside of the arena, young people, priests, bishops, and cardinals gather for an English-speaking pilgrim event.
About 18,000 English-speaking pilgrims gathered for a youth rally and Mass today in Krakow.
Eric Mahl speaks with young people inspired by his witness talk at the School of Mercy.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
World Youth Day 2016 continues in Krakow, Poland, and runs through Sunday, July 31. Our Editorial Department staffer Melanie Williams attended the English speaking Catechesis sessions today, including a breakout session with our Marian Missionary of Divine Mercy, Eric Mahl. Melanie will continue to provide daily coverage all week long.
Another day of World Youth Day has passed! The Holy Father arrived in Krakow today, and homage to the great mercy saints — St. Faustina and St. John Paul II — took center stage. In his remarks addressed to the Holy Father, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish bishops' conference, said:
The message of mercy is, in fact, strongly connected with a daughter of our nation, St. Faustina Kowalska, as well as with Pope Saint John Paul II, who through his life and writings drew us close to its value. …
[Speaking about the 1050th anniversary of the baptism of Poland and its fruits]
… It suffices to mention, from the long list of Polish Saints and Blesseds, those who are revered worldwide, namely St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, who heard a voice say: "I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart," and Saint John Paul II, who in his teaching often alluded to the subject of mercy, saying: "It is a comforting message addressed primarily to the man who is tortured by a particularly painful experience or crushed by the weight of his sins, so that he has lost all hope in life and is close to succumbing to the temptation of despair."
Read the full text provided by vatican.va. Be advised: That link can be unreliable. (No offense, Vatican!)
Tomorrow the Holy Father will greet the young people.
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Today, I had the opportunity to go to a very large arena today in Krakow, where 18,000 English-speaking pilgrims gathered for catechesis sessions and a Mass with Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
Eric Mahl, one of our Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy, gave his witness and testimony to hundreds of young people from all over the world. He said to the young people, "I don't have any letters before or after my name. I don't have any advanced degrees, but God has taught me in my very own school of mercy."
He spoke about the call of God that spurred him to abandon his career as a player in the NFL, sell all he had, become a hermit, and live as a homeless man among the poor for three years in Cleveland. He told the young people that for years he was trying to give and do something for God, and he finally realized recently that he needed to receive from God.
"I was always a lover, and I needed to become a beloved," Eric said. He inspired the young people here to be loved by God so that they can go out and love and be merciful to those around us.
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I spoke with some of the youth here today.
Therese Villaca, 23, from Greenbay, Wisconsin, had just finished a year as a missionary teacher in Arizona and attended the talk for the English-speaking pilgrims, "School of Mercy."
Therese said, "I grew up with a devotion to Divine Mercy. I always knew to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy when someone was dying. When I realized that World Youth Day would be in Poland for the Year of Mercy, I knew I had to come."
Jessica Bestgen, 24, of St. Louis, is attending World Youth Day with her fiancé. They are getting married in just a few months, and Divine Mercy is a huge devotion in their lives.
Jessica said, "This trip has shown the humanness of each of us. It has shown our weaknesses, and our need for communication and forgiveness. This has taught us how to live everyday life with each other."
The first day that Jessica and her fiancé arrived at World Youth Day, they met an elderly couple, Sandra and Mike, who have been married 50 years. Sandra and Mike come to World Youth Days to give witness to the vocation of marriage — that it's possible for a marriage to last in a time when so many marriages fail. This made a huge impact on Jessica.
Jessica said, "World Youth Day fosters vocations, all vocations. It gives life and purpose for all young Catholics."
Speaking of discernment, Sam Fluty, 18, of Danville, Kentucky, has been discerning the priesthood, and he is grateful to be here at World Youth Day.
"Being surrounded by other young people who are also discerning is a blessing," he said. "I see how we are a witness to hope to the older generations, and I see that hope here."
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Many more young people are being converted, having their lives changed, and being brought ever closer to the Lord this week as they gather together as one human family in the Catholic Church. Tomorrow, our chief shepherd, Pope Francis, will be joining us — and we can't wait!
This evening, he hosted an informal Q&A in which he told the young people to "make chaos" by spreading the joy of their faith. Catholic News Agency has full coverage of that.
And here's the Holy Father's official transcript of his greeting today to the faithful from the window of the Archbishop's Palace of Kraków:
I greet you warmly, all of you!
I see you full of excitement and joy. But now I should tell you something which saddens our hearts. Let's be silent [for a moment]. It's something which concerns one of you. Maciej [...] was just a little more than 22 years old. He had studied graphic design and had left his work to become a volunteer at World Youth Day. In fact, it's his flag designs, and the images of Patron Saints, the pilgrim kit, and so on, which you see decorating the city. It was in doing this work that he rediscovered his faith.
In November he was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors were not able to do anything, not even by amputating his leg. He wanted to get here alive for the Pope's visit! He even had a seat reserved for him on the tram that the Pope will use. But he died on 2 July. People have been very affected by this: he did a lot of good to many people.
Now, all of us in silence, let us think of our friend with us along the way, who worked so hard for this Day; and all of us, silently, in our hearts let us pray. Each of us can pray in his own heart. He is here with us.
One of you might be thinking: "This Pope is ruining our evening". But it's the truth, and we have to get used to good things and bad things. Life is like that, dear young people. But there is one thing which we cannot doubt: the faith of this young man, of this friend of ours, who worked so hard for this WYD, that faith has carried him to heaven, and he is at this moment with Jesus, who looks at us all! And this is a grace. A round of applause for our friend!
We too will meet him one day: "Ah, it was you! Good to meet you!" That's how it is. Because life is like that: today we are here, tomorrow we will be there. The hard part is to choose the right path, as he did.
Let us thank the Lord for giving us these examples of courage, of courageous young people who help us to persevere! So do not be afraid, do not be afraid! God is great, God is good and we all have something good inside us.
Now I leave you. We'll see each other tomorrow again. You do your part, which is to make a ruckus all night ... And show your Christian joy, joy which the Lord gives you to be a community that follows Jesus.
Now I give you my blessing. And just as children we learnt before leaving to say goodbye to our mum, let's all pray to Our Lady, each one in his own language. Hail Mary ...
Good night! Good night! And pray for me.
Please continue to keep us all in your prayers, especially for our safety and the Holy Father's safety. You will continue to be in our prayers!
Follow me on pilgrimage this week on Twitter and Instagram.
Melanie Williams is a recent graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville and now works as a writer at the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, MA.
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