12 August 2013

Top 10 list of World Youth Day 2013

Yes I know I am writing a lot about WYD recently.  But I mean come on, when 3.7 million people gather for something totally fun, peaceful, and not involving anything crazy/weird...it is easy to keep thinking and reflecting on it cause it is jam packed full of awesome.
So I decided to take a Dave Letterman top 10 approach to savoring the awesome, great moments along with stressful ones that may have led me to freak the freak out on the inside.  Only a little bit. :)

So, drum roll pleaseee...doesn't Dave Letterman always start his with a drum roll?? I thought so. Hmm, okay...moving on right along...

WYD 2013
10.  My "virgin" cocktail with a sleeping pill
Okay, I get this one may sound rather strange...no I did not drink on a trip I was in charge of teens.  First of all, when I travel internationally I typically don't sleep well; it takes me a long time to re-adjust to my new surroundings and by the time I do, BAM!  It's time to go home.  Once our group got to Rio, we were able to balance a a fairly good routine of keeping up with the official schedule and resting...but about half way through the week, I knew I needed a little help to keep me going.  So I pulled out the prescription my doctor gave me for Ambien to help me sleep better and with a chilled glass of zero cal cherry flavored ginger ale, I put on my sleep mask and threw in my ear plugs was off to sleep.  It did help me sleep sounder and give me the energy to not only survive, but thrive all the festivities of World Youth Day.

9.  "The Great Backpack Fiasco of 2013"
This phrase was termed by one of our teens...you can read when she wrote about it on our pilgrimage blog here and here. 
So one of the things all WYD pilgrims receive upon their arrival is this backpack full of goodies: an official t-shirt, hat, cross, a pilgrim guide with maps and resources for getting around, liturgy guide, and most important our free transportation and meal cards.  When we arrived in Rio at our hotel, we were told to drive 50 miles in the opposite direction to go pick them up.  So two adults went and waited for the backs.  After four hours of waiting they were told, they ran out and to come back the next day.  Apparently it was quite chaotic from what I heard when this happened; people were shouting and chanting, "Give us our backpacks! Give us our backpacks!"  The same adults went back the next day even earlier, but no backpacks.  At this time, I was preparing for the worst that we might actually never get them and we wouldn't get the free transportation/food cards.  On Wednesday morning our group was out doing some sight seeing in Rio, when we got a call from one of the other adults that they finally were able to find backpacks!!
We were in the metro station when we got the good news, and burst out into cheers and shouts because we were so excited...and only drew more attention to us as American pilgrims!  In thanksgiving we joined hands in the station and prayed the Our Father out loud together.  We were all so relieved that the "backpack fiasco of 2013" was now officially resolved!

8.  Going to Corcovado and seeing Christ the Redeemer statue
Our first full day in Rio we went to the famous Christ the Redeemer statue.  When we arrived there, the weather was very cool and cloudy...we took a tram up to the top which is about a 20 minute ride.
 As you walk up to the statue, you actually come up around the back side on the left of Jesus...hence the picture of Jesus' backside.

The day we went it was cloudy, and honestly you couldn't see all those famous views you hear or read about.  It felt like monsoon winds and we got pelted with buckets and buckets of rain...but hey it makes for all the more special a memory, right? :)

All of this proved an interesting reflection for several in our group that we talked about later that evening in prayer and de-briefing.  For a tourist, getting that perfect picture is important and matters...but we were not tourists in Brazil, but rather pilgrims on a spiritual journey. And sure would I have liked to see all the scenery around us, of course! But honestly that wasn't what going to Corcovado is really all about.  What I took away from that morning was more the spiritual meaning this famous statue of Jesus represents to me and to my life.  Christ welcomes all int His arms, no. exceptions.  He just wants us all...and in striving to be like Jesus (even though half of the time I royally suck at it) I really do want to be that way to all the people in my life.  And even though it rained cats and dogs, I really did experience God's light and warmth that day...just to be there and witness cultures from all over the globe being there in a celebration of faith was definitely one of the high points for me while in Rio.

This is as the high winds broke my umbrella...
But I was still smiling through it all :)

7.  Seeing Pope Francis
On Thursday was the official welcome of Pope Francis to Rio.  He was already in the city doing other things, but it was the first official time he met with the WYD pilgrims and prayed with us.
Having been to WYD twice before, I knew how awesome and special it is to see the Pope up close and I wanted to be sure our pilgrims could have the same experience.  I took our crew to catechesis in the morning; where we had prayer, music, and learned about our faith from a bishop around the US.  My Dad, our body guard/male chaperone was sent on a special mission right after breakfast to stoke out a post along the barricade so we would be sure to front row seats to see Pope Francis.  Our group left catechesis a little early to beat the rush of people and also before the metro closed down into the city at 1pm.
We arrived about 11am and set up a good ol' USA camp along the barricade:)

From about 11a-2p, it was pretty empty around Copacabana.  We were able to split into groups so somebody was always at our spot, and go walk on the beach a little bit, go shopping at the official WYD store, and get food.  I popped a squat on my foam mat and started reading the pilgrim and liturgy guide that came in our backpacks we got the day before.  Nothing like sitting on the street reading a good book ;)

From about 2-4, it got more crowded.  Some Brazilian people started gathering around us, probably hoping we would be gracious to give them our spots. fat.chance.  I'm sorry but if ya want a good standing spot to see the Pope get your butt out here early like we did.

From 4-6pm, it was.crazy.insane. We were literally pushed.right. against the barricade.  The folks behind us were yelling at us to move our backpack, but we chained them to the barricade.  They kept yelling "Americanos, move!" Heck.no. First of all they were pushing so hard that they actually moved the barricade over our stuff that wasn't chained to it.  On top of that there were volunteers pushing it back, with the National Guard behind the volunteers.  Lucky us we got to be sandwiched in the midst of it all...but it is all bout perspective, and I'm choosing to say it was a very 'unique' memory:)

This picture sums it up pretty well, and was probably about 30 minutes before we saw the Pope drive by.

You can of just now when the Pope is en route: people get more pushy, lots of chanting, and then once you hear the screaming a see a flash a of camera light you know the moment is upon you:)
I had become friends with one of the volunteers in front of our area, and he said when Pope Francis drove by he would take my camera and get some pictures.  I was more than happy, because I knew there was no way I could get a good a shot because I would be to busy yelling and cheering my little heart out.  No they ended up not being great shots, but later in the week I got a great video that was really clear to see.
Here he comes!!

And there he goes!!

I know for people who aren't Catholic understanding what the Pope is/means to Catholics may seem odd.  We don't see Pope Francis as Jesus at all.  But when Jesus commissioned the 12 he specifically told Peter, "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church."  We understand Peter to be the first Pope, and we see the role of the Pope as a representation of Jesus...the Pope is the spiritual leader/teacher of all that Christ left us.  Did you know every Pope can be historically traced back to Peter?? Crazy!
6.  The porta potties...and how to remain dignified
So originally the overnight vigil was to be held somewhere else in Rio, much further away.  However because of all the rain at the beginning of the week on Wednesday the officials decided to move the whole horse and pony show to Copacabana..especially after they killed 4 alligators at the original site because of all the flooding!! I'm all for adventure, but NOT when it involves alligators!

So anyway because the vigil was moved to the beach, there ended up not being enough porta potties.  Long lines I can live with, but the smell of umm you know, bodily fluids, as you wake up in the morning is not the type of thing that makes you want breakfast.  I used them on Saturday night before I went to bed, and the smell was already bad...bad enough where I jammed toilet paper in my nose when I went in.  By the next morning many people were saying they were overflowing, so in the morning I dug a little hole and did my business in a fairly dignified manner.  Don't judge me.
We were all so glad to get back to the hotel that night and use a real toilet!!

5.  The experience of being with 3.7 million people, all on the same beach
Yup, you heard right; 3.7 million was the total number of people at the closing Mass on Sunday morning.  Honestly other than the whole bathroom thing and it being crowded, it is actually such an awesome experience!  I really loved when our group split off into pairs and just walked around the beach in prayerful, quiet...just observing all of these people, cultures, flags, and many expressions of our faith in Christ.  People sometimes say that the Catholic Church is dying or not vibrant, well clearly they haven't been to World Youth Day.
It is just such a joyful thing to witness and be a part of!  It makes me feel not alone in my faith and really does re-charge my spiritual batteries to see so many people, young people mostly, pumped up and fire for Christ and their faith!

4.  Prayer Vigil on Saturday night with the Pope

The vigil on Saturday into Sunday I think is one of the high points for many people.  We arrived at the beach about 11am and where able to secure the same little grove of palm tree's we hung out during the Stations of the Cross on Friday.  We made such good time because we decided not to wait in the LONGGG line for the food boxes for the Vigil.  We ditched the line and decided to head to the beach so we would have a good spot on the beach.

Saturday afternoon and early evening was spent keeping an eye on our stuff and protecting 'Camp USA', walking to a market far away to get some water/snacks, walking around the beach just observing all the people/flags/cultures present, and standing in very long lines to go potty.  Saturday evening was the prayer vigil with the Pope.  There was Eucharistic Adoration, music, silent prayer time, and Pope Francis gave an awesome reflection.  It was amazing just to close my eyes and look back in my mind that I was there praying with millions of people from all over the globe.
After the prayer, I busted out my blankets and ear plugs...and after one final trip to the bathroom, was off to sleep:)

Setting up camp at Copacabana

Red bike lights on our palm tree...Christmas in July

 3. Participating in the largest flash mob EVER!
Sunday morning before the closing Mass, all 3.7 million of us participated in the world's largest flash mob to welcome and honor Pope Francis.  Not gonna lie.  It was wayyy cool.
Our group is somewhere in there...I'm the one dancing around wearing an Iraqi flag:)

2.  Going to Mass with people from all over the globe
The closing Mass started about 10am on Sunday.  The language used was Portuguese but on mini radios we brought with us we were able to tune in on a certain station to listen in English.  We sang...prayed together....heard the Word proclaimed...and reflected upon the challenge Pope Francis left us in the homily: GO. DO NOT BE AFRAID. SERVE.
Check out the text here, it is really awesome!! :)
Honestly, even with the masses of people on the beach and over flowing onto the streets, you could hear nothing but the bells ringing at the consecration.  To see so many people kneeling in reverence for their love of Christ as they waited to receive communion.  We all walked to special umbrella's where priest's were giving out holy communion.  The communion hymn was "We are one Body, one body in Christ..." the same song played the previous Sunday when we attended Mass at Immaculate Conception in Jacarei.  That song means so much more to me after worshiping with so many of my brothers and sisters in faith from all over the world.  We really are all one family, one body in Christ.

After Mass, Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day will be in Krakow, Poland in 2016!  I'm very much considering going to the next one...my Dad even said he is ready and willing to do this again:)

1.  Most powerful words of World Youth Day...
Surprise, surprise it was from Pope Francis.  But even since returning home, I've sat and reflected on them and they still mean just as much to me as they did hearing them the first time on the sandy beach of Copacabana.

"We need saints without cassocks, without veils - we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints - saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. we need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints." 
--Pope Francis

"What do I expect as a consequence of the Youth Day? I expect a mess. There will be one. There will be a mess here in Rio? There will be! But I want a mess in the dioceses! I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out to the street! I want us to defend ourselves against everything that is worldliness, that is installation, that is comfortableness, that is clericalism, that is being shut-in on ourselves. The parishes, the schools, the institutions, exist to go out!" 

 --Pope Francis

So GO OUT in the world! Be saint and be a messy Christian!
Go make an awesome, beautiful mess in the world for Christ:)


  1. I can't even begin to imagine how incredible that must have been to see the Pope go by and to participate in the prayer vigil...um really just all of it! What an amazing experience, Patty! And thanks for sharing that first quote from Pope Francis - I have seen the other one, but not that one. Anyhow, that is SO true! We need Catholics who are able to connect with others and evangelize through their everyday lives!

  2. Wow, that certainly sounds like quite the adventure, and also like you had a great attitude about it even when things didn't quite go according to schedule!

  3. This is such a great list. Thank you for sharing. I love those words from Pope Francis. Very touching. I am glad you had such a wonderful time.


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