WASHINGTON — On Saturday, as the Pope led millions of pilgrims in an evening prayer vigil in Rio, hundreds of young people in Washington flocked to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in the Americas for their own celebration of World Youth Day.
Students filled St. Francis Hall and watched a live stream of the Pope making his way through the crowds in Rio de Javier. They laughed as he interacted with the pilgrims: briefly putting on a sombrero, stopping to kiss babies, and even trading hats with one member of the crowd.
In an opening reflection, Susan Timoney urged young people to follow the Pope’s instruction to “shake things up.” Echoing a previous speech by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, she told the large crowd how to become effective evangelizers in the 21st century.
“People say World Youth Day is about the future of the Church. They are wrong; you are the Church right now,” she said, adding, “Before the Eucharist, there is no big-people table and little-kids table.”
Following the opening reflection, the attendees spread throughout the monastery. One Franciscan priest led the group in Eucharistic adoration in the main church, while others spread throughout the four corners of the church for confession.
In St. Francis Hall, students enjoyed traditional Brazilian cuisine that was served by Brazilian-American volunteers.
Following dinnertime (which promptly ended one hour before Communion), the youths were each given a candle outside of the upper church. To warm up the crowd before Mass, three women led the crowd in spiritual songs, including How Great Is Our God and Lord I Lift Your Name on High.
After all of the candles were lit, light rain began to fall as they made their way down the hill to a garden area dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes on the grounds of the monastery. It was a beautiful sight, as the garden was filled with pilgrims each holding their own light from the pastoral candle.
The crowd gathered around a large circle of flowers in the center of the Lourdes garden as the statue of the Blessed Mother stood above them.
“When you see someone post on Facebook about the Church, you may wonder what people will think if you comment on it, but don’t ignore it. Why don’t we comment, ‘Hallowed be his name!’” said Father Francisco Aguirre. He added that young people have a special place in the Church and urged them to fully evangelize in a world that is not always open to evangelization.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Father Gregory Gresko exposed a piece of John Paul II’s robe from the day that he was shot in 1981. He distributed Blessed John Paul II prayer cards to the crowd and invited them all to touch their cards to the robe so that each of them could possess a third-class relic. Participants formed long lines throughout the garden and eagerly waited for their turn to interact directly with Blessed John Paul II.
Allie Drexler, a rising sophomore at The George Washington University, told the Register, “I really enjoyed being able to join the people in Rio on their pilgrimage while also experiencing a pilgrimage of my own.”
While Drexler and her university group left after the Mass, others stayed and enjoyed samba lessons in St. Francis Hall late into the night.
Register correspondent Christopher Crawford is the director
of pro-life ministry at The George Washington University.