After a busy morning, we broke away from the Richmond Diocese group to check up on the theatre venue in which we're performing The Jeweler's Shop, written by JPII. The theatre is a bit farther away from the center of the WYD experience than we expected, but it's totally worth it at 750 seat capacity. Imagine it: a full size stage with curtains, lighting and the chance to introduce pilgrims to Catholic art. The stage manager even drove out to meet with us and offered to hand make a few of our basic props we would need by Thursday -- humbling, as he doesn't owe us anything nor does he need to accommodate us. The pilgrim spirit is ballooning!
Feeling the need to be grateful, I turned to the stage manager with confidence and said, "Thank you," in Polish, with a sincere smile. And he, along with the present volunteers at the theatre, spat out a few chuckles. It was 3:00 pm and, I later learned, my "Thank you" came out as "Good Morning." I turned a bit red there, but no biggie :-)
Our Man-on-the-Ground-Marcin kicked some butt today. He helped us hook up our actors and video crew with remaining 'artist' passes needed to get us special access for the performance and led us in the quickest routes, guiding us from tram to tram in the city. We are very glad to have him around. Thanks for the recommendation, Hanna!
The day culminated in the opening Mass. It. Was. Incredible. Millions of Catholic youth (Youtz), adults, clergy and religious life of all languages all collected in one place to celebrate the Eucharist and the Mass.
Think of the biggest outdoor concert you've ever imagined. Then, add flags. Everywhere; as far as you can see on all sides if you: flags. The altar and stage looks beautiful in pristine white with hundreds of people on risers on each side for the choir, who sounded like everything you would imagine an army of singing angels in Heaven to sound like. This is also because there was a massive orchestra playing to back them up. This was all very real, very live music, and man, was it incredible!
The MOST unbelievable thing, but totally as should be, was the sun during this Mass. As we initially arrived, it was cloudy and drizzling. The grass was wet, people were asking for garbage bags from volunteers to kneel on as the ground was a bit muddy and trampled on from the multitudes of people.
However, as the Mass progressed close and closer to Communion, a pocket opened up in the clouds JUST enough to directly shine on the altar! IT WAS AWESOME! That combined with the choir and orchestra was simply overwhelming to say the least. Priests came out in force into the crowds to distribute communion to us and as soon as they were finished, like clock work, the clouds closed right back up again. Not a coincidence we think... :-)
Waking back to the city center, the masses charged up from the ceremony chanting, cheering, waving flags, all in support of World Youth Day. Looking around, we notice Polish guards keeping an eye on EVERYTHING. Patrol cars navigating the streets, helicopters continuing in the sky, and even visible sharp shooters stationed on rooftops. They aren't taking any chances and we appreciate their presence, especially after what happened in France today.
We get home and, of course, head out for something to eat (along with the entire population). It. Was. Madness. In the best way possible :-) Rivers of people flooding the streets, still cheering and chanting- restaurants accepting our food vouchers from the festival were slammed and we were forced to go off the beaten path finding a pizza place tucked away in a corner. It took a while but we brought 7 pizzas back to the hotel and sprawled out on the floor with other members of the group, discussing the highs and lows of the day and giving a good wrap up on the day.
Needless to say, the sunlight at the Mass was a consistent highlight. Still incredible.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers and keep sending any personal intentions you may have. We can't believe it's only day one!
PS- The pope arrives on Thursday!