For me, the highlight was the WHOLE experience, from the spiritual journey, learning the true meaning of mercy through the lives of the saints and the extent they went to, to demonstrate their devotion to our Lord, the new friendships made and the wonderful sites we were privileged to see together.
We then journeyed on to participate in World Youth Day. What an amazing event this was! Some images that come to mind are singing and dancing in the rain, a sea of red, blue and yellow ponchos, hundreds of national flags flying, the impressive police presence, caterpillar lines of all of us leaving Blonia Park following the Opening Ceremonies and the Papal Welcome Mass. The vigil experience is something that will stay with me, the challenges we all had to face, how we supported and helped each other. Walking 15kms to Campus Misericordiae with thousands of other pilgrims, with the last 2 or 3kms being over an extremely hard rocky road. Standing in the hot sun, shuffling along and at times not moving for hours, surrounded by thousands of other pilgrims from all over the world. At one point in the midst of this chaos one of our pilgrims, Ailis Macpherson, with her beautiful voice, started singing the song “Hallelujah” and the thousands of people squashed around us joined in singing the chorus with her. Thank you Ailis!
Watching the vigil ceremony, with well over one million candles twinkling in the night, when the Pope called for quiet prayer, the silence of nearly 2 million young people was a very emotional moment; you could literally feel the force for good. The Pope’s message to all the young people present − to look for happiness in being good and doing good − what a powerful life experience that was!
On returning home I carry that message with me and in my everyday simple life I now try to recognise opportunities to show mercy to others as well as myself. I also know, following this amazing life experience, that with prayer and reflection, I can rely on my inner strength to meet the challenges I will face in the future.
The following poem embodies what I believe Brian, Sue, Maryanne, James, Fr Greg, Erin, Bernadette, Jo and Baden did on our journey together. It is an old-fashioned poem written in the early 1900’s by Henry (Hawkeye) Edwards. Hawkeye, as he was known, was a writer and poet who lived in the town of Cundletown on the Manning River. When you are travelling north you will notice that one of the bridges crossing the Manning River is named after him. The poem is called Building Bridges:
BUILDING BRIDGES, by Henry (Hawkeye) Edwards
An old man going the lone highway,
Came at the evening cold and grey,
To a chasm vast, deep and wide,
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him,
He turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man”, said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your time with building here;
You never again will pass this way,
Your journey will end with the closing day,
You have crossed the chasm deep and wide,
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old grey head:
“Good friend in the way I’ve come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today,
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This stream that has been naught to me,
To the fair haired youth might a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim.
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.