I have just returned from my seventh World Youth Day experience with the Pope. Amazing and enlightening.
The highlight of my experience was the Vigil with the Pope. After a six mile pilgrim walk amongst thousands of pilgrims into the park “Cuatro Vientros” (The Four Winds, a prophetic name) we remained hydrated depending on the love of other pilgrims, bringing us water in the 110 degree heat. Finally, the sun relented and the vigil began in the usual way, selected youth asking the profound questions of life to the pope. The Gospel was read (John 15, “I am the Vine…”) in response to their questions, the Holy Father prepared to elaborate. Just then, a huge electrical storm enveloped the 1.5 million crowd with gale force winds blowing from every corner of the park with pouring rain.
The storm was greeted by a cheering crowd! The youth, not surprised by the storm recognized it as a test of faith and resolved to remain rooted in Christ. Some did not – they left the park to seek man made shelter, but our shelter was Christ and the Pope our captain docking the ark of the Church in the harbor of Christ. It was biblical. This went on for 20 minutes and the pope himself was buffeted by the storm! No words were spoken by the pontiff until the storm passed. At this time the Holy Father by-passed his talk and said: ”Dear Friends: I thank you for your joy and your resistance. Your strength is greater than the rain. Thank you. With rain the Lord has sent us many blessings. In this also, you are an example.”
At this point, he silently got up and left the stage. He vested in gold and brought the Blessed Sacrament out and exposed Our LORD in a monstrance. He then led the multitude in silence before our LORD. Picture this: Close to 10 minutes of silence with 1.5 million people before Jesus Christ led by the Pope! I recalled the word’s of Christ to the storm on the Sea of Galilee “Be still.” We were still and Christ bade us to cross the water with Peter and fix our gaze on him.
After benediction, the Holy Father said: ”We have lived together an adventure. Strengthened by your faith in Christ, you have resisted the rain. Before leaving I wish you all good night. Have a good rest. I thank you for the sacrifice that you are making and I have no doubt that you will offer it generously to the Lord. We shall see one another tomorrow, God willing, in the celebration of the Eucharist. I am expecting all of you. I thank you for the fine example that you have given. As happened tonight, you can always, with Christ, endure the trials of life. Do not forget this. I thank you all.”
This profound providential moment spoke to each heart and continues to be reflected on by millions.