A misty cloud cover descended over the city of Rio on Tuesday, Day 2 of our pilgrimage for World Youth Day.
After meeting up with our Lincoln priests and young pilgrims for a ride across town on the crowded metro, we made our way to the parish Church of Our Lady of Glory, a beautiful classical-style church known as one of the “Imperial Chapels.”
We prayed Morning Prayer together in the piazza outside the church, as we waited all morning for our scheduled time for Mass. The church had excellent acoustics and was just perfect in size for our group of about 70. Our young pilgrims have learned all the Latin parts of the Mass and have beautiful voices.
On the Church’s liturgical calendar for July 23 is the feast of the mother, wife, mystic, founder of a religious order and co-patroness of Europe, St. Bridget of Sweden.
After a hearty lunch at one of the local restaurants, buffet-style, using our WYD lunch passes, we made our way to Corcovado, the huge statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking the Bay of Guanabara. By the time we reached the top of the mountain, by way of a San Francisco-style cable car, loaded with young pilgrims from all over the world, the mountaintop was engulfed in a thick fog.
With the outstretched arms of Christ embracing the world, reaching up into the clouds, one of our young pilgrims remarked, “Do you think this is something like what the apostles saw at the Ascension?”
As we were waiting at the upper station for the cable car to take us down the mountain, we joined a group of pilgrims from Michigan who were praying the Rosary. Since WYDs are always fraught with long lines and long waits, praying the Rosary is the best way to pass the time.
As the crowds backed up, there were nearly 200 people praying the Rosary. I could tell that many were not English speakers. Nonetheless, they knew the Rosary and joined in hushed tones in their native language.
At the end of the Rosary, one of our priests began chanting the traditional Latin hymn (Taizé-style) Adoramus te Domine (We Adore, Lord). It is a simple, repetitive chant that everyone picked up quickly. We sang for nearly 10 minutes before the cable car arrived. Praying in the Church’s mother tongue, calling upon the Holy Spirit, it was a glorious moment.
By the time we made it back into the center part of the city, the welcoming Mass celebrated by Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Rio was well under way. The Copacabana was filled with people as I watched from the back on the Jumbotron.
As we knelt in the sand with other pilgrims at the consecration, it was remarkable to me how the crowd was silenced at the words of institution. Although the Mass was in Portuguese, everyone understood the sacredness of this moment in the Mass. The triple ringing of the sanctuary bells at the elevation of the Host and chalice could be heard reverberating down the beach through the sound system, reminding us that it is the Lord who is the principal protagonist in the drama of World Youth Day.
Allow me to close with the words of Archbishop Tempesta from his homily: “This week Rio has become the center of the Church, its heart both youthful and vibrant. You have come from all over the world to share together in the faith and the joy of being disciples and missionaries in all nations. Everywhere, youthful enthusiasm shows in the faces of young Christians, who wish to unite the testimony of an authentic and Christian life with the social dimension of the Gospel. … We are called to be agents for a new world. I am sure that you will do this in your cities and countries. The world needs young people like you.”