Words not do this amazing experience any justice.
There is nothing I can say to adequately convey just how powerful and personal this is for all of us.
We just wrapped up our third evening in Krakow by having night prayer with some sharing. It seems that God has called us all here at times when we really needed to be here.
Pope Francis arrived in Krakow yesterday, and as should be expected, the crowds love him. Our singing and chants and general party atmosphere is continuing, but it somehow feels that we now have more of a focus and an intentional spirit about our celebrations now that our Holy Father is present with us. It is good to rest in the knowledge that our shepherd is close at hand in the city, and to hear him teaching us and witnessing to the living Church founded by Christ is an edifying experience.
As amazing as this party is, I however have found that God has been using the unplanned parts of our days (or at least the unofficial schedule) to touch us most deeply.
For example, this morning all of the buses to the Divine Mercy shrine were cancelled because of road closures for the Pope. We were all waiting despondently at the bus stop, unsure of what to do. Suddenly a 7 seater taxi ( the perfect number!) pulls up on the side of our road in the middle of nowhere...
We hopped in and got to the John Paul II shrine. Hundreds of people were queuing up to enter- when I spotted the Divine Mercy tower in the distance I broke out of the crowd and did a little dance of joy ( I've been doing lots of these). This outburst of delight attracted the attention of a beardy man in the crowd who came running towards me...I thought I'd attracted a lunatic (wouldn't be the first time).
As the man approached I saw it was our Jesuit novice, Patrick Corkery! !
We were all overjoyed to see him - of the hundreds of pilgrims gathered what were the chances of him seeing us?! (He said that he'd thought it was a lunatic dancing in the crowd until he realised it was me...then he KNEW it was a lunatic). The whole encounter seemed like a gift from God.
Meanwhile, Lucas just 'happened' to bump into an old friend he'd worked with at another world youth day. She was able to Similarly, we didn't gain access to the Matt Maher concert at the arena last night and were all a bit fed up when who should appear as we were walking away but our old Manchester student friend Jacinta?! Seeing her made missing the concert worth it, because to me God is in people more than anywhere else!
These little meetings would not have been possible if we had managed to get the bus earlier in the morning as we'd planned or if we'd got into the concert. Tonight Lucas remarked that, on this pilgrimage, things worked out better when we let go of our own plans and surrendered to God's plans for the day.
Clare was moved by the Pope's simple yet powerful words at the opening liturgy tonight about trusting in God, and knowing that He wants us to live life to the full. These words resonated with many of us, as some of us have been drawn here at difficult points or crossroads in our lives.
This year for me has been one of having to let go of my own plans and allowing God's mercy to shape my path. Being here at the capital of Divine Mercy is also a deeply personal experience for me, as I first encountered the greatest treasure of my life- Jesus Christ- through the death of John Paul II on the feast of Divine Mercy. It is too wonderful, too perfect to be here in this Year of Mercy, a year in which I have felt that God is calling me again to do some definite service for Him.
It seems to me that we have all been called here to Krakow for a purpose, not by chance at all, but that God is using memories, identities and encounters with new people and old friends to reignite our faith and to whisper words of love and encouragement to our hearts. It may seem strange to say that God is whispering in a sea of 1 million young and noisy pilgrims, but He is. He knows just how to get to each one of us in ways that make us stop in our tracks (sometimes quite literally!).
Yes, we are all hearing the voice of Christ here in the capital of Divine Mercy.
It is a voice that speaks of joy and love. It speaks of hope and meaning. It speaks of mission and mercy.
Yes, His voice is very beautiful. This is the Good News. Let what is whispered in our ears be shouted from the rooftops. (Mt 10:27)
Here is one of the first places I heard the voice of Christ in 2005, through His servant St John Paul II:
“To all humanity, which today seems so lost and dominated by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, our resurrected Lord gives us His love which forgives, reconciles and reopens the soul to hope.” -John Paul II's last message to the Youth as he was dying