Saying goodbye to Niepekelanow was very difficult, for we knew we could have stayed there for days, weeks, or months longer. In truth, I know in my heart that God will call me back to this place one day, and so I wasn’t worried about our early departure. As I said before, these experiences have awakened desires and callings within me that have lain dormant and hidden within my own soul in ways I can’t even begin to articulate. Spiritual Direction will help me through that though, NOT this blog, so God will eventually reveal His Plans for me and all of us on this pilgrimage…just as He reveals them in each of us: through the slow passage of time, even if it’s long after our deaths.
So, we came back home for the afternoon. Spending time with our host families has been few and far between, but we’ve gotten the most out of it when we can. No one took a nap, and the families have absolutely showered us with food and gifts! I believe every single day has brought forth a generous gift from Fr. Stanislaus or the parish families as a whole. From paying for most of our meals to getting us Polish scarves to all our books and credentials, to finally arranging our travel to Krakow starting Sunday evening–they have been merciful beyond expectations. We’re actually starting to call them our Polish parents, for they really have become like family.
Mary Whitfill and I traveled to Rio de Janeiro in 2013 for World Youth Day, spending our Days in the Diocese with a wonderful parish in Sao Paolo, about six hours from Rio. That glorious pilgrimage charged us in different ways, and though we both agreed our experiences in Sao Paolo were strong and intimate, we also agreed that the transition between Sao Paolo and Rio was very difficult, perhaps downright dangerous! So for Fr. Stanislaus to put such effort into ensuring our transit was smooth and direct, we are eternally grateful! It makes sense then that we were blessed with the opportunity to give back to the parish of Corpus Christi through our service in the ministries during their weekly Holy Hour in the parish!
So, around 8:30pm, we arrived at our host parish to practice and prepare for the service. Mary and Hope lit their candles of mercy from the Easter candle. Madeline read the First Reading, with Fermin taking the petition in the English language. Then, Michael played the organ as we sang “Tantum Ergo” and “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” in the choir loft as they closed the beautiful and simple adoration service! But it wasn’t over yet!
The theme for this World Youth Day is inspired from the Jubilee Year of Mercy, from Matthew 5:7. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” And indeed, we obtained the merciful love of God when the Polish version of the THEME SONG at the opening of the service gave way to the choir musicians adapting themselves to our English lyrics for the END, with just one single practice before we went for it! The violin brought us to another heavenly encounter with Christ as we reflected over our own capacity for giving and receiving mercy from others. But the good Lord provides when we are at a loss for words, and our voices felt lifted up to the heights with the Heavenly Hosts of the angels and saints. This was the fullest sense of UNITY IN THE COMMUNITY we had ever encountered, and it was not lost on us!
Our friends in the Polish choir at Corpus Christi brought us their gifts that night, and we brought our passion and zeal. Together, we worshiped Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist in a way far beyond what our idolatrous tendencies back home could ever manifest. The Unity then lies not just in the community at worship, but in the Christ who unites us! He is the reason for our hope, and HE is the way by which we purify our intentions and desires, all with the help of His Blessed Mother of Mercy!
But that, my brothers and sisters back home, is for another day!
In Christ, for Love & Life!
– John Sohl & the WYD 2016 Contingency