X. Living up to a challenge
The sun was no longer as oppressive, because the sky became dark. This wasn't the type of dark that occurs when it is 9 pm, however. It was only 6 or 7 in the evening. And the dark was accompanied by a strong wind. The dust and rocks that covered the airfield became live and active, dancing in the air, encircling our faces and sending people to find a way to cover their mouths or eyes. We saw the clouds, we saw the lightening, and we also saw the Pope. There was the Holy Father -- the man who brought us to this spot in the first place -- the man we wanted to see. But across the sky we could see that the vigil was not going to be smooth sailing.
The vigil began, and the first formalities were undertaken. Then the rain began. It poured. The wind made it fall horizontally. We grabbed our ponchos, covered our heads, ensured that our backpacks were covered by the copious amounts of plastic tarp that our Italian friends made sure we had available to us, since we were relegated to a tiny sliver of space for the night.
The vigil had stopped. The Jumbo-trons no longer worked. I wondered for the first time if perhaps we would all be sent home, though the nightmare of evacuating 2 million people couldn't be any better than our current situation.
And then the rain slowed. The Holy Father offered a few brief reflections, much shorter than what he would have liked to have said. It was determined that really only one thing was necessary for the vigil, and that one thing was speedily brought to the stage: Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Suddenly, the crowd of 2 million pilgrims dropped to their knees in silence. In silence. Has it ever been possible to gather 2 million people who speak dozens of different languages and to witness their complete silence, even those who are so far back they cannot see the monstrance? And they knelt. They knelt in puddles of water accumulated on tarps. They knelt in mud. They knelt on rocks. They knelt on ant hills. But they knelt. And I did not hear one complaint.
The time of Adoration didn't seem to last very long. It was then time for Pope Benedict XVI to get his rest for the evening. The emcees told us that we had all prayed for relief from the heat, and that God had given it to us. The rain continued for a while, but not with the same intensity as before.
We found our little spots for napping that night -- spots that now had puddles, or dirt, or piles of ants. Spots that we normally wouldn't find worthy of sleep. But to see the Pope, well, yes, we found it worth it.
After ten posts about insights learned about Catholic youth from last summer's World Youth Day, what can we conclude?
Youth want to be challenged. They can live up to the challenge.
We need to be challenged by youth.
As Pope Benedict XVI said at the end of Saturday night:Dear Young Friends, We have lived together an adventure. Strengthened by your faith in Christ, you have resisted the rain. Before leaving I wish you all good night. Have a good rest. I thank you for the sacrifice that you are making and I have no doubt that you will offer it generously to the Lord. We shall see one another tomorrow, God willing, in the celebration of the Eucharist. I am expecting all of you. I thank you for the fine example that you have given. As happened tonight, you can always, with Christ, endure the trials of life. Do not forget this. I thank you all.