Saturday, July 19, 2008

WYD, Insomnia and the Evening Vigil

Evening Vigil with The Holy Father
Well, I was feeling a little under the weather. That leads to insomnia. At 3:00 a.m. I was restless, at 4 a.m. I was frustrated. At 5 a.m. I gave it up, got up, went downstairs and turned on the tele. And there it was, the Evening Vigil of World Youth Day.

I didn’t get downstairs in time to see the first young person have their candle lit by the Pope and then begin the process of sharing that flame with the enormous crowd. By the time I was downstairs there was an ocean of candles bobbing in the early Australian evening.

Young people from around the world walked up the ziggurat-like ramp to address the crowd and the Holy Father. There was a Dutch woman in traditional dress, a man from Chile, a man from Sri Lanka and a man from Thailand. They all dressed in traditional garb and spoke in their native languages. The young woman from Germany brought a bright smile to the Pope’s face.

After each short address the Pope would speak on one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Then the orchestra, accompanied by a magnificent choir would sing the “Hallelujahs”. The crowd would accompany the choir and the candles would sway back and forth. As the night grew on it became darker. During readings the flames dancing in the crowd looked like a galaxy. During the singing the candles looked like fluorescent algae bobbing and floating on the surface of the ocean. Either way one was aware of a sense of hundred of thousands of individuals, independent and yet connected.

One of the young speakers was a deaf woman who spoke in sign. She talked about how her deafness was a gift, it allowed her to connect with others that society overlooks. I found myself wondering how many times I mistook gifts as burdens. I am a male and I do tend to view whining as my birth right. Occasionally I find the hand I have been dealt a gift but that is honestly the exception to the rule. Perhaps I need to begin to reevaluate this approach.

After the readings and the identification of the gifts of the Holy Spirit the Pope gave his homily. It was on the Holy Spirit. His Holiness stated that we can tell when the Holy Spirit is present by the unity that comes about. The Pope spoke of our willingness to try to go out on our own, to disconnect ourselves or aspects of ourselves from others. This tendency fractures us from the Body. The Holy Spirit brings us together and is Unity. As he spoke the candles bounced and it was clear these individuals were unified. People from all over the world, every race, language group, walk of life were united.

Young people from around the world came up on stage. This select and yet representative group of folks were people who would be Confirmed the following day. Kneeling beside the Holy Father they participated in a period of Eucharistic Adoration. They must have known just how special this moment was in their lives. Then the Pope gave a three part Benediction to the crowd and the service ended.

This was hardly the end of the evening for most of these young folks. Tents were set up for Eucharist Adoration. More tents were set up for Reconciliation. Community, food, laughter and friendship were sure to mark the evening.

However, as it was getting darker in Sydney it was getting lighter in Fort Wayne. So I took my dog to the park and then stopped at Burger King for a little unhealthy breakfast. I smiled knowing that even during my mundane activities I was connected to the youth in Australia just as they were connected to the larger Universal Church and the Body of Christ.

So, insomnia, perhaps it is a gift.

WYD Opening Mass

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