Sunday, July 27, 2008

WYD through David's Eyes

To add a little to what Gillian wrote about WYD …

While my Wifey was busy taking care of the volunteers at Darling Harbour, I was taking part in a number of different activities of WYD 2008.

Until Wednesday, July 16, I was continuing my same job of issuing purchase orders, processing invoices and appeasing suppliers who are calling to seek payment, but now I was stationed in the WYDMOC (World Youth Day Main Operations Centre). This space was set aside to accommodate one member of each department, as well as reps from Police, public transport, and government, so that any issue arising during WYD could be addressed immediately and efficiently. The room looked like the set of the TV show 24, with desks equipped with computers and phones and 3 large projectors projecting media coverage of WYD onto the walls. It was a bustling place during WYD as issues rolled in and were dealt with, while I just went about my job.

Thursday, July 17

I joined the Ancillary Events team, who was responsible for coordinating the smaller events involving Pope Benedict XVI. The first of the events was the Pope’s visit to the Blessed Mary MacKillop shrine in North Sydney, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. My first encounter with the Holy Father came when he swooped into the shrine amidst cheers from pilgrims lining the streets outside and passed a few metres away from me. It was delightful to see him greet the sisters on his way up the aisle, reaching far into the pews to shake their hands. From this very beginning of his time in Sydney, it was apparent that he was a very humble, gracious man.

Friday, July 18

A very busy day for the Ancillary Events team. Morning was spent greeting Ecumenical and Interfaith leaders and showing them to their seats before the Pope came to meet with them. I was running around between venues so I never had a chance to see either of these events, but the best was yet to come.

I was the lone member of our team - along with a few other WYD people - helping with the Pope’s next event – lunch with 12 young (very fortunate) people. How blessed I was to be in the same room when the Holy Father came in to meet these young people and greet them. His humility undoubtedly helped ease the anxiety of these young people because they came out of the lunch room to present their gifts to the Holy Father much more relaxed than they were before lunch (the best gift was from the young American fellow – a stress ball and a Disneyland hat with Mickey Mouse ears).

They went back for dessert, and just before they emerged again, the Vatican security guards told us to line up outside the door. Knowing what was to follow, I immediately got very nervous – I hadn’t planned for this encounter.

Next thing I knew, Pope Benedict was facing me.

As I took his hand in my hands, I told him where I was from and that I wanted to pass on greetings from Werner Hulsbusch and Francine Baude (friends of my family who are former students and friends of his). His face immediately brightened up, then changed a bit as he expressed that he had heard they were ill. I was struck by a calm and peace that the Holy Father exuded, this man who is good and humble and trying to follow God’s will for His Church. And that was it … my meeting with the leader of our Church.

Later that evening, I took in the first two Stations of the Cross...

... here is Pope Benedict saying the prayer after the First Station - The Last Supper, set in front of St. Mary's Cathedral. They used the non-traditional Stations of the Cross for this WYD - ones that follow Jesus' Passion.

I then went to the last ancillary event of the day, checking in guests for the Pope’s meeting with disadvantaged youth. This turned out to be a very moving event, with a few youth giving powerful testimonies of their incredibly difficult upbringings, then the Pope thanking them for choosing life (rather than following other false gods) and meeting each one individually, while a beautiful choir sang.

Saturday, July 19

I had the pleasure of accompanying the 50 or so Australian Bishops (a delightful bunch) as they prepared for the Dedication of the Altar at St. Mary’s Cathedral by the Pope ...

... here you can see the Bishops vesting in the beautiful crypt of the Cathedral.

Afterward, the Australian Bishops had lunch with the Holy Father next door at Cathedral House where the Pope was residing.

Here is the dining room all set up before the Pope and Bishops arrived (notice the napkins folded into the shape of a bishop's mitre). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be in the room while they were having lunch.

A few little tidbits … As we prepared for the lunch, I spoke with some of the staff at Cathedral House where the Pope is living during WYD – they said he was a very gracious guest, and apparently his breakfasts consisted of a glass of orange juice and two pieces of bread (one with cheese, one with jam) … I also enjoyed speaking with the Pope’s security guards (some of whom have been protecting the Pope for over 25 years), who were very friendly, a big contrast to their stern manner when the Pope is around.

So as you can see, WYD 2008 offered me not only an inside view of the workings of the event, and gave me the chance to participate in some of the larger events, I was also blessed with an up-close view of Pope Benedict XVI and some of the more intimate events in which he was involved. These last five months, and particularly this last week or so, have made for some outstanding memories.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

And the week continued...

Wait - we're not done yet! There's still Saturday and Sunday to talk about! Once I was finished at my check-in point at Darling Harbour (about 2 p.m.) I went back to the hotel to (1) nap and (2) wait for David to be finished with his day's ancillary events. Then we packed up our bags and became pilgrims (but pilgrims who cheat and take the media shuttle to Randwich instead of walk the 5 km). We arrived at "Southern Cross Precinct" just as it was getting dark, stopped to talk to my Workforce team to figure out my shifts, and then did our best to move through the crowd to see the stage as best we could.


The Evening Vigil with the Holy Father was beautiful... this was one of our opportunities to slow down, to walk among pilgrims, and to hear the words and prayers of the Holy Father. I've always loved the evening vigil of WYD, and I loved this one, too. When all was said and done, we turned to go back to the Workforce Tent - and what did we hear over the loudspeakers? Pedro's voice, my Salt + Light coworker. I cringed, knowing what was coming next... my own voice. Worse yet, when we could see the screen, there I was in jumbo-tron size in a 4-year-old S+L production that covers the history of WYD. It wasn't as bad as I remember... the content was good (but the "acting" could have used some work) and in my imagination, the Pope watched it and thought I was both clever and delightful.


After some time in the Workforce Check-in, and David taking a moment to walk to one of the Adoration tents, we made our way to section H8, where our friend Dan was already tucked away in his sleeping bag. We made some room for ourselves and had our own campout at Randwick, falling asleep to the continued cheers of some over-eager pilgrims (their cheers finally stopped at about 4:30 a.m., conveniently the time I had to get up and to my Workforce post).


Once David and Dan and the rest of his group were up, we had the chance to be pilgrims again. We used our VIP passes to get into a section closer to the stage to participate in Mass. Again, beautiful. We were happy to be there, to be attentive, to not worry about work. (But we must apologize to the Pope... because we were very tired we slept... prayerfully... through bits of the homily.) What I most remember and appreciate about the Mass was when 24 young people were confirmed by the Holy Father - he spoke his words to each of them deliberately and intently - "Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" - and looked into their eyes. How lovely to see the Pope make this connection with these young people.


Post Mass, there was a bit of finish-up work to do to get the volunteer checked out of Randwick and on to the shuttle bus. We got on that same bus a few hours later with the aim to get to our hotel, have a quick nap, clean up, and make our way to an Important Meeting - the WYD staff were invited to gather in Chapter Hall near St. Mary's Cathedral to be greeted by the Holy Father. How good to see him close(r) up and to his words of thanks. And, again, so good to see how the Pope interacts with people... he turns to face who is speaking at the podium, he smiles and laughs and reacts to what is said, he is engaged by those around him.


We had a chance to see this again on Monday morning at the Papal Thank You for volunteers. Yup - our volunteers were lucky ducks and had a special event just for them. Our volunteers were also pushy ducks, and there was a lot of scrambling to get near the front to see the Pope as close as possible. It made me really happy, though, to see our casual volunteers escorted to the front of the line - they have given their time not just the past week of WYD, but months beforehand so they deserved the best view.


And after the Thank You, the Pope made his way to the airport and WYD was over. Just like that. So much of our time and energy and planning, all for this one week (which seemed like the fastest week in history). We're perhaps all a bit lost right now - David and I have moved back to our Maroubra house and everyone saunters into work around 10 or 11 a.m. We're planning and attending get-togethers to say our goodbyes and, before we know it, it will be August 1 and we'll be on our way as well. We have lots to fit into these days left and too many people that we want to pack up in our suitcases to bring back to Canada... except I don't think that's allowed.


David still promises to write more about his WYD week. But I think he's the only in the office actually doing work right now!





The Saturday evening vigil... this was as close to the action as we could get. It was so good standing among the pilgrims and the candlelight.


The WYD Kantors.

And after the Vigil was over, Jumbo-tron Gillian met Real-life Gillian.

Some of the lovely ladies in the Workforce Tent... Donnelle, Lisa, Elena, and Florie.


And this is Hannah, Elena, and me wearing bubblewrap on our heads. Of course.

David and Dan waking up after a delightful night at Randwick.


The view from our seats for Mass. The Pope is up on the stage, I promise.




David, after Communion.


David and Gillian with Sr. Mary Rachel. She has been a great friend and we will miss her soooo much.

Later on Sunday... we gathered at Chapter Hall to say Hello to the Pope.

The Lovely Hannah and the Charming James. Hannah and I sit next to each other at work... she's one of the first people I met in Australia... and she has become a great friend. You can all meet her when she comes to visit us in Canada.



And here he is... Pope Benedict XVI. And this is what he said to us:
Dear friends, Saint Paul, who devoted his entire life to the service of the Gospel, reminds us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive". Your generosity and sacrifice have been an essential, yet often hidden, ingredient in the success of this World Youth Day. May the spiritual joy, the satisfaction and the fulfilment that we have all experienced in these days, be an unfailing source of blessings in your own lives. May you never doubt the truth of our Lord’s promise that, whenever we give our creativity, energy, resources, and our very selves to him, we will gain them back abundantly!





After our meeting withthe Holy Father, we went off for a meeting with Salt + Light... a meeting with food... yum. There, we also (re)met Wanda Gawronska, the niece of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. David and I met her once before in Pollone, after WYD 2005, when our pilgrim group was invited to the Frassati summer house. She is lovely to talk with (though put me in a wee bit of an uncomfortable situation when she reached with her fork to take some of my chocolate cake... I'm not so much for sharing food but will make an exception for the niece of a Saint-to-be).


Also at dinner... Pedro, from Salt + Light, and Steve Lawrence, from WYD.




And right back to the Pope on Monday morning... this is the Volunteer Thank You, and we were fortunate to be standing in the right place at the right time when Popey drove by.



And here he is later, on stage. This was his last WYD appearance, a chance to say thank you and farewell...
As I bid you a fond farewell, I commend all of you to the loving intercession of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians, I invoke upon you the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit, and I assure you of my continued prayers. God bless the young people of our world and God bless the people of Australia!





And a team photo... David, me, and Popey over David's shoulder.



This is Barry, one of our favourite volunteers. He has worked so hard for WYD and, in addition to that, brought up two lovely daughters who also worked so hard for WYD. Barry was chosen to sit on stage with the Holy Father and, before the Pope arrived, gave a heartfelt speech about WYD volunteers and everyone's tremendous efforts. And we all cried.


Our Super Team of Workforce Volunteers... not everyone is pictured here but it was this fantastic group of people that helped us get all 8000 other volunteers organized. Thank You Super People!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Catching up...

Phewf... what a week this has been. I'm writing now on Saturday, with only 1 day left to go (well... really 2 days... it's 5:30 in the morning here). I'm still sitting at the Workforce Check-in at Darling Harbour but with only 5 volunteers to check in this morning at 4 a.m. this is now the first time I've had to just sit and take a breather. So, until any emergencies come blaring through the radio, I'll take you through our week....

MONDAY, JULY 14
It's here! Time to begin! The clock at St. Mary's still says 1 day to go until the big events, but there are pilgrims flooding the city and volunteers wandering around (some wander right into our office, unexpectedly, from another country, without being accepted as volunteers, wondering where they are staying and what their jobs will be... those are fun to deal with).

Our Monday actually started at the turn of the clock. We were still at the office late Sunday night and, at midnight, decided to walk down to St. Mary's Cathedral where rehearsals for the Stations of the Cross were beginning. We figured we would be busy on Friday and not able to see the real event in action so followed the actors from St. Mary's to the Domain to see the first two stations in the dark and quiet of a sleeping Sydney. Like in Toronto, the procession of the Stations of the Cross will be a huge production with not only road closures but tens of thousands of pilgrims and city-dwellers able to participate in the prayers as it weaves its way through the city. How dramatic and beautiful in the quiet of the night... we can't imagine how much more so with the force of pilgrims praying along its Way on Friday.

After some sleep and a real start to Monday, I headed over to the Convention Center at Darling Harbour for my first day of Workforce Check-in. With only a few volunteers to greet and brief, I had most of my day to set up my work station and prepare for the week ahead. David also did some moving... from his office on College St. to WYDMOC (World Youth Day Main Operation Center... where all the big decisions happen... David likens it to CTU on 24... ?). This is where he will be spending most of his week, with the exception of some exciting events that we'll get to later in the week....

Both of us took a couple of hours in the evening to go to our first WYD event - Fr. Tom was speaking on Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati at St. Mary's Cathedral, with an evening of music and prayer facilitated by members of Catholic Christian Outreach. This was a super event for us for multiple reasons, among them (1) finally a time to sit and be still after weeks of rush, rush, rush, (2) super music, and (3) hurray! Our first time to meet up with our friend Dan Moynihan, from London! The chatting was brief (and hushed... we were in a Church after all) but we know we will have a few more opportunities to be with each other in the coming days.

I'll skip the part about how we had to go back to the office for a few more hours.

Okay... this didn't happen on Monday... this was last week. The Pope chair showed up in the middle of our hallway, as did this group of helpful nuns.
And here's the Pope peeking over David's shoulder, politely reminding us there is one day left to WYD.
Heading to the Stations of the Cross at midnight... we found some Roman soldiers lighting torches.
The Stations will begin with the Last Supper at St. Mary's Cathedral.
And, later, back at the office... Elena, Hannah, Libby, and me finally completed the To Do list (please ignore any writing you see on there... I promise you... we finished it).

TUESDAY, JULY 15
Okay, now WYD is officially here. My commute to the office for a 7 a.m. start is pretty short. Roll out of bed at the Novotel at Darling Harbour, where all of our Workforce Team is staying, and practically right into the Convention Center. David has to walk a bit further to WYDMOC, but we're still both really happy to be closer to the events than we would be in our Maroubra House (it's also warner at the hotel and with a cleaner bathroom. Incidentally.).

So today was the day to fix flaws in our system. Like the fact that we had 70 Catering Crew members arrive for check-in (9 a.m.) before we had allocated anyone to help me to do the check-in (10 a.m.). And the fact that Catering decided they didn't need any crew, so what to do with 70 extra people? AND we had no Information booth on site so pilgrims mosied on in to our Workforce Check-in and asked us a trillion questions in a trillion different languages. So - busy all day long.

David... did more things in WYDMOC. (It's secret stuff... we can't divulge.)

Main event of the day - The Opening Mass with Cardinal Pell. This was taking place at Barangaroo, which is the main WYD site for the week and just a kilometre or two from Darling Harbour. I caught some glimpses on the big screen in the middle of the Harbour but I think David and I are going to need to buy WYD: Unedited, the DVD to see what happened.

Other excitement of the day - a rush request for staff to run the microwaves in Catering Marquis 1 at Darling Harour about half an hour before pilgrims started lining up for food. I had just handed over my shift so went down to join them and, very quickly, found myself standing in front of a bank of about 15 microwaves, all revved up for 5 minutes each, with three pilgrim meals inside. In the fastest moving production line I've ever seen, we cut open the food bags, crammed them in the microwave, set 5 minutes, went on to the next, when 5 minutes were up, placed 4 chicken and 2 veggie in each bag, added plates and cutlery, and handed that over with a another bag of water, rolls, fruit, and Tim Tams. (Yes, the food comes out of a bag and is microwaved... and made with love.) It was madness, but funny, and good to get out of the office for a while.

David tries on his volunteer uniform. Just not quite the right size. Poor long-armed fella.
These banners are all over the city in, apparently, Sydney's largest flag campaign ever. We like the red and blue ones best.
Later that night, after the Opening Mass, there were fireworks over Barangaroo. Neither of us got to Mass, but dashed out of work in time to see the fireworks.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 16
Day number 2 of Workforce Check-in, and things were a lot more organized. Kind of. My team of Pat, Lucita, and Robyn were here early so we looked competant when the first group of volunteers arrived. I also had our "prizes" to hand out, so a day of giving people gifts isn't a bad day. And because all of our days have run together in a blur of no-sleep, I can't remember what else we did that day.

David - WYDMOC (still secret).

A visit to the Vocations Expo to discern my vocation. This is the Basilian booth with Fr. Glen, Miriam (not a Basilian) and Fr. Tom.

We had a chance to run down to St. Mary's Cathedral and Hyde Park, where we had a visit with the WYD cross and icon.


THURSDAY, JULY 17
Now that we're pros at this... I took the day off. After a 7 a.m. start at Check-In, I left everything in the capable hands of Volunteer Rebecca and went to the Sydney Opera House. Today is the day of the Pope's arrival and I will be riding on the upper level of his cruise ship with the pilgrims. Technically, I'm still "working" and making sure no overly-enthusiastic, camera-waving pilgrim falls overboard but am happy there will also be moments to just enjoy and also wave my own camera.

And today is David's first day on duty at the Papal Ancillary events. Good news: for the rest of the week, he basically gets to follow the Pope around. Bad news: my poor husband does not have the required requested clothing of a white shirt and black pants (just didn't fit into our suitcase). So he was able to borrow some clothes from fellow tall and kind co-worker, Steve Lawrence. Good news: Steve lent David his wedding outfit. Bad news: Fashions have changed since Steve got married, and Steve is a just a little bit shorter than David. That outfit, coupled with David's WYD Staff jacket with sleeves that go just past his elbows didn't really give him any boost of confidence (it's true... he looked like a fourth grader who had just had a growth spurt).

At any rate, clothing aside, today David travelled to Mary McKillop Shrine, where Pope Benedict XVI greeted the Sisters of St. Joseph and stood just a few metres away from David. The meeting was short but beautiful, and the Pope announced that Blessed Mary McKillop will soon be Australia's first Saint.

From there, David (changed clothes and) rushed to Barangaroo to meet up with his cousin Ashley and her friend Matt, where they would all watch the events from the VIP section. Meanwhile, I was on the boat and feeling like a celebrity, what with all the people gathered along the waterfront to wave at me and cheer as the boat went by (it was either me or the Pope, one of the two). I caught a glimpse of him through waving flags as he boarded the boat and, again, as he departed. Glimpse or no glimpse, the experience of enthusiasm and prayer with the pilgrims on the boat was, in a word, super-duper.

And(!) - one of my Salt + Light coworkers, Kris Dmytrenko, also had the opportunity to meet the Holy Father... he talks about this amazing experience here: http://www.saltandlighttv.org/blog/index.php?paged=2 (and Kris looked pretty happy when he was telling me his story later... although I did ask why he didn't think to ask the Holy Father for an exclusive interview with S+L Television).

Boarding the Pope Boat... Salt+ Light is on the boat. That's Wally, Mary Rose, and Sebastien.

What to do while waiting two hours while the Pope's boat is loaded... stand on the top deck and have your picture taken with people in fancy outfits (referring to these pilgrims' national dress, not my volunteer uniform).


To Pope arrives to board and cheering ensued... pilgrims to the left and the white speck to the right is Pope Benedict.

Sailing into Sydney Harbour... city skyline coming into view.


And now rounding the corner of the Sydney Opera House. These are some of the many friends that came out to greet me/the Pope.


And Barangaroo... jam-packed and looking so much better than when it was just cement and fences. It's amazing what a few pilgrims will do to spruce up a place. Estimated number pictured here: over 150,000.

And Pope Benedict departing the boat. He was greeted by Aboriginal elders... both parties seemed excited by this meeting. The Pope really is a smiley guy.

Now a picture of us out of dinner (we invited the Pope but he had made prior arrangements). That's me, David, Ashley, and Matt.


Gillian and David. You can't miss us. We're the pair in the glowing red and blue.


And later, since we were slacking off work anyway, we met up with Dan.


And then went to see Matt Maher. Awesome.


FRIDAY, JULY 18
And, just like that, the week has flown by. We're at our last day of big events here at Darling Harbour. Check-in works like clockwork by now, with the only minor hiccup of 100 unexpected volunteers. What's 100 in the face of 1000?

So my day in the office was good... but not as good as David's. I received a phone call from him at about 2:30-ish, that went something like this:


David: Hi. How are you?
Gillian: Good. How are you? What's going on over there?
David: Good. I just met the Pope.

Unfortunately, I was on the radio with someone else and there were a few dozen people lining up at the doorway and at my desk so I had to go without hearing the full story (I know... bad wife with no priorities). But when I finally got to speak with him, he told me the meeting had happened at Sacred Heart, where Pope Benedict was meeting with disadvantaged youth. The ceremony, David said, was quite moving, and the young people had some amazing stories and overcome some horrendous situations. Following their meeting individually with the Holy Father, David was among staff and volunteers that were moved to the back by the police and, when the Holy Father walked past them, he stopped and shook each one of their hands. I will leave David to tell you the story in much better detail, including what he said to the Pope. But, in the meantime, I am a very excited wife reporting back that David has a new friend and we're adding the Pope to our Christmas card list.

My day ended with saying good-bye to some our week's volunteers, catching a glimpse of the Stations (I missed when they were actually at Darling Harbour but I caught some on the big screen), and avoiding pilgrim food for supper.

To celebrate another day, we were off to the Opera House for an 8 p.m. concert of Beethoven. Beautiful music with the unfortunate effect of serving as lullabies... we both head-bobbed through the entire performance. Nonetheless, we really appreciate any time off that we can take to be pilgrims (or, at least, regular people who don't work 16 hours in a day).

Some happy volunteers at the end of their week. They really do look happy. That makes me happy.

SATURDAY, JULY 19
And here we are! It's now today and pilgrims are making their way to Randwick via the Harbour Bridge and Darling Habour. Apparently almost 3,000 have gone through in the last two hours. After I'm finished up here, I will meet David (who is hanging out with the Pope today, again) and we'll make our own way to Randwick. We'll pack to be overnight pilgrims but may chicken out in the end and just come back to Novotel for a few hours of sleep. I'm still working in Workforce Check-In but hopefully David has a chance to pilgrim with Dan or hang out with S+Lers.

We're tired but we are so happy. This has been a great experience for us - challenging and life-giving in all the right places. We'll tell you more in the days to come....

Friday, July 11, 2008

Our Poor, Abandoned Blog

Ladies and Gentleman, we have entered Operational Time. And while we would like to write entertaining stories about the wheelchair basketball game we ended last Sunday, the Pilgrim Send-off at our Parish, the random placement of the Pope’s chair in the hallway of our office, the growing number of pilgrims seen around St. Mary's Cathedral, and the many nuns from around the U.S. who have swept in to save the day… this may all just have to wait until after July 20. We’re pulling all-nighters to get our work complete and cherish our few moments of sleep. Pilgrims are arriving and Sydney is gettin’ ready… our friend Dan just arrived with his group and we’re expecting the Salt + Light crew to pull in on Sunday. World Youth Day – here we come!!

(Please, please, please pray for us in this week… we know there will be many wonderful, marvelous experiences if we can just live in the moment, patiently deal with each situation, and not freak out… so please pray for no freaking out.)

See what no sleep can do to you ... 2:02 am, the last ones in the office, along with a few of Gillian's Workforce colleagues. All for Your Glory, Lord.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Volunteer School

That’s what I attended this morning. While David went off to the office to work, I gathered with my Workforce Team and 400 of my closest Crowd Marshal friends at Randwick racecourse (ie. Vigil Site) to go through the training for what exactly is going to happen during World Youth Day. It’s good/funny to meet these volunteers who we have been interviewing/scheduling/calling over the past few months... as I greeted them at the door and took their names, my head was filled with things like, “Oh yeah, writes his emails all in cap locks” or “uses comics sands font.” This is how I know these people: by their emails. So, now they have faces to go with their fonts.



It was a good morning and our volunteers seem quite happy to be getting some solid information. AND we got to wear our uniforms for the first time so it was like a fashion show. (Unfortunately, I’m sporting the “three-quarter length sleeve style” due to my long, monkey-like arms… can’t imagine the short-sleeved version on David.)


(p.s. Hannah and I don't have jaundice)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

It’s July 4th, so while fireworks are exploding in the United States of America, we celebrated a different sort of Independence Day in the Catholic Church in Australia. Today is the feast day of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who died this day in 1925. Now, his relics have made their way across oceans to St. Benedict’s Church on Notre Dame University Campus for World Youth Day, and we joined hundreds of people there tonight to celebrate Mass.

Frassati died a young man, just 24. He was adventurous, strong, God-centred, and, as we heard last night, considered “dreamy” by the ladies. From a wealthy family, he gave his time and money to the poor in a quiet way – the poor did not know he was rich; the rich did not know he lived his life for the poor. And in his care and concern for the sick and homeless, Frassati became sick himself, contracting the polio which would lead to his death. But it was not a man who died young that we celebrated last night, but a man who was, in a very faithful way, independent. He did not allow the ideas and thoughts of those around him to become his own, but lived a life contrary to what was expected of his wealthy and powerful family. He gathered strength from and was motivated by the source of God alone and is honoured by young people around the world who long to have the faith of Frassati.

What a privilege, then, to celebrate the courage and determination and faithful independence of this young man in his very presence.


(And in the category of “Isn’t it Funny Who You Will Run Into While Praying With Frassati,” look who we met up with!! It’s Liz Flynn, from England, who worked on staff for World Youth Day in Toronto. Lovely then, lovely now, Liz is a member of the Marian Community of Reconciliation and just arrived today. She will be hanging out in the Vocations Expo during WYD, representing her community. What a fun surprise to see her in the pew beside us, to turn to her, and without a word from either of us, to smile, laugh, and hug a not-forgotten friend from six years ago.)