Storm clouds gathered at the World Youth Day vigil just as it was starting. (Photo from World Youth Day Madrid)

At WYD vigil, pope encourages young people to use prayer to find their life’s vocation

By  Gretchen R. Crowe, Catholic News Service
  • August 20, 2011

MADRID - Hours after firefighters doused overheated pilgrims with much-needed jets of water, the heavens added to their efforts by driving rain and wind onto the more than 1 million young Catholics camping at Cuatro Vientos airbase Saturday night for the World Youth Day vigil.

But the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the pilgrims, who sang and chanted all the louder for Pope Benedict XVI, who entered the airbase to cheers and applause. The pope, however, skipped the longer speech he had prepared in favor of short addresses to pilgrims in Spanish, French, English, German, Italian, Portuguese and Polish.

In the different languages, he told the young people to be proud of the gift of their faith they should “gather with others to deepen it, be faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist, the mystery of faith par excellence.”

Pope Benedict asked that the youths, during the eucharistic adoration that followed, to “raise our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ” so he “may he pour out his Spirit upon us and upon the whole church, that we may be a beacon of freedom, reconciliation and peace for the whole world.”

He encouraged them to seek out their life’s vocation and to “persevere in it with joy and fidelity, knowing that he never abandons you or betrays you.”

“Guard the flame which God has lit in your hearts tonight. Never let it go out, renew it each day, share it with your contemporaries who live in darkness and who are seeking a light for their way,” he said. “This vigil will remain as an unforgettable experience in your lives.”

{iframe width="100%" height="125px"}{/iframe}Unforgettable it will be, as the pilgrims began arriving in the morning — some on foot, some via Metro, some by bus — to the airbase baking in the Spanish desert. Using sleeping bags and tarps they staked their claims for sleeping space. Throughout the day, firefighters hosed off grateful crowds, and pilgrims clamored for drinking water. As the sun lowered in the sky, anticipation began to build for the arrival of the pope, who entered Cuatro Vientos in his popemobile to shouts of joy and welcome.

The storm arrived shortly after the pope did and caused a temporary pause in the proceedings. Once the skies cleared, however, eucharistic adoration continued as planned and pilgrims dropped to their knees in reverence in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

A deep silence followed, during which pilgrims prayed quietly, either standing or kneeling on the ground. Cheers erupted again for the Holy Father as he left the stage.

“It’s really crazy being here right now, (seeing) all the youth supporting the pope,” said Melissa Emmel, from Madison, Wis. “You don’t realize all the people that are in the church until you come and see something like this.”

Emmel said she’d love to know what the pope was thinking, looking out at a crowd like this. But this much she is sure of: “He knows that it’s not for him, but that it’s for Jesus Christ and that people love Jesus Christ and want to be in the church and to get to heaven.”

Rachel Leghezza, 17, from the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., said the experience was “unworldly.”

“You have these little connections with people from other countries where you just kind of click and you  realize that you’re all here for the same reason, to rejoice and celebrate being Catholic,” she said. “Seeing over a million people in unison celebrating God is … something to be seen.”

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