Catechesis in the Arena, by an Arena.
Today was an onslaught of awesome speakers and growth opportunities. Fueling up on the cocoa puffs once more, we left the hotel and headed for the tram for the day's events at the Tauron Arena, dubbed the Mercy Centre from WYD for the week! Today was for all English speaking countries present to go and learn of faith abroad, learn different perspectives, have mass, and more- we also had Marcin, our hired fixer, take the film crew around Krakow today to film the historical sites visited by JPII In his lifetime as the crew wasn't with us two days ago when we visited his hometown of Wadowice. They've said they got numerous shots for the theatre company!
We walked into the stadium and it's HUUUUGE. Seats 18K people. The first half of the morning was focused on relationships and vocations, finding peace in God first, and then discerning from there. The initial presenter was a super cool nun addressing vocations, and she was awesome, cracking jokes about typical high school and college stereotypes and still hitting home on the points. Next came the rock stars, Jason and Crystalina Evert with their talks on chastity, freeing the mind of unhealthy habits such as pornography, dating fixer uppers, and the party life- all of the emptiness of the world that we try to consume to fill a void that only God can do. For those of you who aren't familiar with them, they're a pretty big deal power couple- they have 7 kids, have written numerous books, and are fantastic speakers, Jason addressing the male audience, and Crystalina the women. The session culminated in mass led by the cardinal of Boston- the guy had an excellent homily, and related to rising to the occasion for our faith and supporting our fellow Christians being persecuted in the middle east.
Next, we all split up. Dispersed from the massive stadium and went to different talks in the building- Christine and I started with a talk on how to better your discussions on faith with others and what are some good ways to bring up topics or how to keep a cool head, leading by showing the faith rather than just talking about it..The woman was brilliant and a correspondent for religious current events, focusing on Catholicism in specific. Oh, and we did this while loading up on more pierogies for lunch. They're everywhere and it's wonderful. If we lived here, we'd have a problem...
By the way, there are still people EVERYWHERE. going throughout the building there were different English speaking countries with their flags high fiving, shouting, 'Heeeeyyy'... It wasn't so bad. You could sort out the English, Scottish, Australian, Irish, South Africa, and more- also, there were kids in their late teens and early twenties picking up information packets from seminarians and sisters on pursuing religious life vocations...super cool. They were all so excited when they were talking. The religious life here have a peace about them that you can't help but want to stop and hang out with them a bit.
We found a few moments to explore a bit- they converted a side stadium room into very nice prayer room for Adoration, confessions from...probably 50 priests to choose from, and then first relics from saints like JPII, Faustina, and the man, Macimillan Kolbe. A first class relic is... Well..something biological from deceased person now saint, displayed from polished golden cases and available for veneration. This can be bone fragments, hair, teeth, anything. It sounds a bit weird, I know. It's not though, and to any non Catholics, we aren't worshipping these people pieces... We are respecting the remains of people we know to be saints and are asking them to pray FOR us in intercession to God based on what they did in their lives to make them saints. They are thought of as going up to bat for you to help. Think of it as an extra letter going to your destination for you and written by somebody who spent their life becoming a pro at your subject matter and content!
Back into the stadium seating- this time for a reality check and a pretty intense call to action, having the archbishop of Iraq speak on the persecution of Christians bring recognized by the United States officially a genocide and what we can do to keep our faith alive in response to the terror around the world. Iraq actually has 300 in attendance at World Youth Day this year- think about that- there is very real and mortal danger in their home country for merely being a Christian and here they are coming to an event like this. Their spirit is incredibly impressive and their support for their cardinal is unreal.
Following up was the bishop of Baltimore, who helped get that recognition passed as well as discussed the importance of being involved in politics on any level to protect religious freedom FIRST, as it is the defining line and precursor for laws to come. As religious freedom is a hot topic these days, and very different from freedom to worship, he urged us to fight apathy and show our law makers what we want and need as the future of our communities and country.
Next was a very passionate woman who helps victims of ISIS recover from trauma once rescued, especially women and girls who are imprisoned and and brutally abused as sex slaves- yeah. You read that right. She has personal stories from these girls who have had their lives turned upside down by this terror organization where dreams of going to school and getting married now only consist of locating whatever living family they have left and rescuing them as well. She challenged us as well to become active to fight the evils abroad and to support those affected, also how to stand up against terror and fear. This includes assuming these things will never happen to us...
After the speakers concluded, it we grabbed more chow.
Dinner was from the Snack Shack equivalent in Poland. What we purchased with our WYD vouchers were called polish casseroles which just made me think of an open faced hot pocket. I'm not sure exactly how much culture we actually experienced there...
Upon returning to our stadium seats, the night was now geared towards the USA in specific, but of course the other English speaking counties could stay as well.
And they did. Because it was flippin' awesome!
The two emcees started everything off, focusing on the 14 regions of the Catholic United States. There were two opening acts, one guy being an incredible guitar player and singer- but here's what makes him even more incredible- he has NO ARMS AND PLAYS GUITAR WITH HIS FEET!!! He tunes the guitar to an e-chord and then uses his big toe for bar chords and strums with the other- next up was AUDREY ASSAD and MATT MAHER as they did their own songs, duets, and then called us down to listen to Joel Stepanek from LifeTeen discussing how God is never done with us- how He incessantly waits for us to let him into our hearts honestly and for real and not just to be part of a temporary fun time such this festival our another mountain top experience... A laying relationship. This had the perfect transition for one of the most amazing displays of Eucharistic Adoration I've ever seen.
Matt Maher lead music ministry for the procession- which is sweet, because Christine and I do that for LifeTeen at our church, and cover his music, so it was incredible to witness him serve for Adoration live! Jordan,Jessica, Skye, Kolby, and Christopher, y'all would've lost it.
Now- guess who shows up to be on the altar after leading the procession of the Eucharist?
Bishop Robert Barron. STACKED. NIGHT.
Yup. He discussed the beauty and significance of Christ dying on the cross for us and what that meant in terms of the most undesirable way to die in those days but how He had to deliberately take on... all of it. All of our sins. He then talked about genuine mercy and what that looks like, how that is the solution to the unrest and true forgiveness.
We continued Adoration for another 20 minutes or so until it wrapped up.
As soon as the Eucharist was carried out of sight, we all took a deep breath, just awe struck at the ceremony. Then, Matt Maher just goes, 'Alright, now are you guys ready to party?!'
And that's when we turned it up to 11.
It was CRAZY! People singing out, flags waving, fog machines, lights- of man. Just a great show and a way to end the night.
So we thought. Turns out, another 2000 people were outside the stadium from the rest of WYD's non English speaking nations who wanted to see the ceremony and concert but all the seats filled up- they all stayed nevertheless. It was great until all of the trams back into town looked like over-packed sausages with faces of people up against the windows, arms bent in strange directions- I kid you not, it looked like a comical scene from a cartoon movie.
So- we walked the three miles home which permitted some more great conversations about the day. It was excellent.
Big day tomorrow. Early rehearsal for Richmond Catholic Theatre, our FIRST PERFORMANCE of the Jewellers Shop, AND the Pope makes his fiat appearance at WYD! Stuff is gonna get nuts!
Please continue keep us in your prayers! Thanks for reading these posts as well. It's been fun debriefing at the end of each day.