Back to Campus Misericordiae!
We had 7 hours to kill as we sweated our brains out and obtained very creative tan lines from the sun all day, but eventually, the sun DID go down. That's when things became bearable and then eventually pretty chilly. Pope Francis was there leading the vigil ceremony as candles were passed out and the vast numbers of is prayed in solidarity with him. As the Pope was speaking in Italian, we all huddled around radios with the translation to English being broadcasted.
Articulate, humorous, and yet to the point. Pope Francis cautioned about the state of apathy, distraction, and how we are letting the world slip away from ourselves, seeing comforts like screens and things as happiness. To truly follow God is to seek Him. To find the strength to go into the trenches and stand up for the poor and weak, to do what's right. To be that spark, inspiring others whether you mean to or not, resisting the urge to isolate ourselves from our problems, and finally:
'Sell your couches for walking shoes'
That we may rely on the direction shown to us rather than sit in one place in our creature comforts.
Pope Francis spoke empathetically, energetically and with vigor over the loudspeakers. It was so palpable it rippled through the translation, igniting our spirits with fervor!
Candles were passed out to all pilgrims gathered, and we fell to our knees in adoration of our Lord in the Eucharist.
We stayed up the rest of the night, positioned like a happily packed tin of sardines, head to foot everywhere!
Surrounding our group from Richmond were more Polish, French, Irish, British, and Australian Catholics. At one point four of us went out to mingle and bumped into groups from Indonesia, Spain, and India. We even sat with a sister from Mother Teresa's order of the Missionaries of Charity! We traded wristbands, pins, and flags, while sharing testimonies, talking about our home countries and the World Youth Day experience. How incredible to see a sliver of the universal church in such a tangible way!
With more than 2 million people penned in the fields and Pope Francis celebrating, security was extra tight.
Just like back in Krakow, there were heavily armed red beret armed guards, helicopters making passes every 20 minutes, police, snipers posted, and arial drones circling above keeping track of everything going on.
We are very grateful for their vigilance and dedication to help keep us all safe and give us (and our friends and family back home) peace of mind.
Just think about this for a second.... A European city populated with more than 2 million excited young adult Catholics .... coming from all over the world... for an entire week! There were no fights, no violence, no shootings, no attacks. All was seamless, Peace-filled and incredible. Everybody was excited to be there and was united in what Pope Francis called us to: solidarity. Praise be to God!
After the final mass on Sunday morning, they announced World Youth Day 2019 would be in Panama!!!
Following the mass in the fields in the sweltering heat, we packed up and headed out. Our walk back into the city was a long one: all of the trams were shut down, so we walked the full 10 miles back to the center of Krakow.
At first, it was a very painful shuffling of feet, trapped in the same shoulder to shoulder flow of all 2 million people all leaving the grounds. It took an hour to get back onto the main road. It was blistering heat, and in fact, people were passing out and being whisked off in ambulances. So, we took our time walking, singing songs and chatting all the way back to town.
Through ten miles and two very much welcomed rain and thunderstorms, we got back into town.
Showers. Clean clothes. Food.
We went out for a wrap up meeting with Iceberg Media, celebrating a week's worth of wonderful, hard work.
The we finished the night walking through the now emptying city square, which only two short days prior was filled with crowds of pilgrims, music concerts and cheering.
The stars twinkled as lights went out in shop windows and World Youth Day in Krakow came to a close.