We are making our return journey to England at the moment. My mobile phone network has stopped working which means we have been unable to post anything for the last few days. All this means that I have plenty of opportunity (and few excuses) to write a few words. I'm sure Chloe and Stephen will fill you in on what happened so I'll offer a little reflection on the experience.
It has been an honour and a joy to accompany the group of pilgrims. Over the course of the two weeks the priest chaplains have listened to their experiences, helped them to understand the life that the Lord is calling them to live, discerning vocations, hearing confessions and celebrating the liturgy. Our young people are earnest in their love for the Lord, and have a deep desire to serve Him even though culture, peer pressure, relativism, and so many other things prevent that relationship growing. Jesus's call is always stronger and we give thanks to God for seeing those signs in their lives.
One line from the Gospel that has been in my thoughts these last few days is, 'For the Lord has done great things for me'. Bringing almost 2 million young people from every corner of the world together in prayer around the Holy Father is truly a great thing. There is more to this greatness. This line from the Magnificat, Mary's hymn of joy, proclaims the mercy of God who has truly done great things in her life. In that proclamation she reveals the greatness that the Lord can do in our lives once we open ourselves to receive and accept His mercy and allow that mercy to be a transformative power.
During the days of mission, the main events of World Youth Day and the countless encounters with pilgrims has made me reflect on the 'great things' the Lord has done for me. It has been a real privilege to accompany our group of pilgrims and beautifully renewed and strengthened my own priestly vocation. World Youth Day is a great thing for priests. Our ministry also lets us see the 'great things' the Lord is doing in our young people. He really has done great things as they have encountered His mercy in a powerful way over these days.
The Holy Father commented that World Youth Day was not the end of an encounter but the beginning of something great. Pray for our young people that as they go back to their homes, studies, communities, this experience of the 'great things' the Lord has done, and will do, for them will grow always stronger in their lives. Pray that all of us who took part in this pilgrimage together with those who have taken part from the comfort of their homes will be come the 'protagonists' of a new world.
See you all when we're home! Thanks for journeying with us!