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And it begins

Day 4, but it's only day 1 really!

Today marks the official start to World Youth Day!

Sleeping in! It was a 7:00 am wake up and we met a breakfast spread of salmon, sausage, salted crackers, cheese, meats, breads, and vegetables. Despite the hardship of so many choices, I sided with cocoa puffs to charge the brain batteries for the day.

As today is the first official day of the festival, Iceberg Media arrived on site to begin the Richmond Catholic Theatre documentary! Also to arrive was our fixer, Marcin, a local Pole on whom we depend as our 'man on the ground' to help us with logistics and challenges. This allows us to dedicate as much focus as possible on the pilgrimage. Both forces have already proven excellent to the theatre company and we are flying a solid game plan for a well-documented WYD.

We began the sunny morning trying out the public tram system and then walking the rest of the mile or so to the John Paul II Center. This place looks like a boxy layer cake fortress on the outside, but on the inside it is COVERED in stunning mosaics depicting key Bible stories with pieces of medium ranging from glassy black obsidian rock to gold leaf paint. The last supper was the most captivating to me as it shows Judas most isolated, a bag of silver behind his back and his head lowered to hide his head... Jesus is still reaching out to him even in the image.

There was the clothing worn by John Paul II in the attempted assassination during which the bullet went into his body yet miraculously avoided his organs. This is the same trial for which the future saint would later forgive his would-be assassin as his first act after recovering from the shooting. That photograph and reminder of the merciful man in the clothes he wore that day taught me to offer mercy to all.

From the JPII Center, we walked past the Divine Mercy shrine and NEXT TO that shrine is the church where St. Faustina had THE vision of Jesus with the blue and red emitting from His heart!!! She went on to paint the vision, which is now a common visual icon in the Catholic faith, accompanying the Divine Mercy chaplet.

The wait to get inside was crazy long. From 9:00 am to 10:00 am, the temperature spiked, but had little effect as we had all accepted sweaty-ness and un-deoderized European armpits at this point. The lines were packed with the different groups and flags waving, some we are used to seeing- France, Italy, Syria, Germany, and then others like Zimbabwe. The wavers of the Zimbabwean flag took everybody to the cleaners with their spirit, singing and dancing. Couldn't touch those guys...

Inside, we were BLOWN AWAY by the intricacies, arched ceilings, and bright turquoise paint, but were sadly rushed through to keep the crowds moving. I infer that with the population in full swing, the armed guard, police, and volunteers didn't want crowds in the same place for too long...helicopters are still circling. They're also still very nice to all the pilgrims.

Keep an eye out for a post about the first Mass of WYD and the gorgeous theatre we're graced in which to perform!

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