Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saint George World Youth Day

Gets international coverage. World Youth Day is just the beginning.

Friday, September 23, 2011

World Youth Day doesn't end.

It carries forward, as reported by Jeremy Longden

Today on my way home I ran into Father Jeremy and Father Sean at Park Street and we talked about our World Youth Day experiences together from when we got on the train until they got off at Newton Center. They both said that they enjoy their experiences in Spain and look forward to going to Rio.

Editors Note: We numbered over 300 pilgrims from the Boston area. Some friends, some family, mostly strangers at the beginning. Now we are all one, watched over by Our Mother.

Here's looking forward to Rio!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Firm In the Faith

Reflection submitted by Sean Longden
World Youth Day has impacted me in several ways since I have come back and gone off to college. It began the day I moved into college, the day after we arrived back in Framingham. I arrive at school and need to move everything, floor to ceiling, in my mom's car into my dorm room. Anyone who has gone and lived at college knows how much stuff you need and number of trips it takes to go up and down until all the items are brought in. I am about to head inside with my first load when a complete stranger comes over and helps me out with bringing everything up with my parents and I. At this moment, I looked up at the sky and smiled and said to myself "Thank you God". I felt like God and Jesus were looking down at me and brought the complete stranger to my aid, and when I was all done with unpacking everything, I said a quick prayer for the stranger, for the good deed he had done for me.

But World Youth Day didn't just impact me in that single instance alone. Everyday at meal time, I say a quick prayer thanking God for what a great gift that has been given me so far that day. No matter how good or bad a particular instance has been for me since WYD, I realize the plan that God created was for some importance in my life. It could be a big event like a new friend in your life, or it could be an argument over opinion on a subject. What matters is that we thank God for that experience to learn and always trust in God and Jesus, no matter the situation or the trouble you are in. By praying, you are showing your love; and in return God and Jesus show their love for us.

It doesn't just end their though with what I got out of World Youth Day. The special green sweatshirts saying "Boston Catholics" has been more useful here at college than actually at World Youth Day. In modern times, people are losing their faith and giving up the founding principles of their religion. It has been become acceptable for complete strangers to sleep around and have no shame in doing so. I go around campus in my green sweatshirt, and see these people, knowing very well what has been going on. I wear that sweat shirt very proudly, being a Catholic. I thank the Lord for giving me the strength to stay away from such temptations. God gave me a special gift, just like everyone else, and I don't plan on ruining the gift. I say a prayer so that I remain strong and stay away from such temptations and not go against my faith.

The final way WYD has impacted me didn't hit me until I saw "The Lion King" in 3D tonight. But how can it take a single movie to realize how WYD impacted me? It didn't take just one movie, but a combination of two movies. The other movie is the football movie "Facing The Giants." The Lion King has the love and compassion of Simba for his father, in which his father dies saving his life. His love for his father makes him feel guilty for the death and runs away from his life, only to come back and be the King of the kingdom that was his fathers. This hit me because we love one another and always try moving forward, but we always leave behind our lives as they were like Simba running away from home. But when he comes back for his spot as King, it is like when we are called back to do what we were sent out by God to do.

The same way goes for "Facing The Giants". The movie starts off with everyone losing faith, having no hope. But after God sends a very faithful christian, Mr. Bridges, the head coach regains his faith and love for God and the Lord. He then passes on his message to all his players. The entire school goes into student led confessions and forgiveness and works a miracle through the unlikeliest person. God's message is demonstrated to all. This relates to WYD in the strength of all in the movie becoming firm in the faith. Everyone grows in their relationship with the Lord.

These two movies combined demonstrate not just the love of God and Jesus, but the growing and firmness of our relationships with one another, as well as realizing what we were meant to do. Our strong friendships become stronger with our friends, to make us like brothers and sisters to each other. Being firm in the faith doesn't limit you to just God and Jesus. It allows you to also strengthen the relationships with everyone around you. You become closer to your friends through loving who they are as a person. Since I came back from World Youth Day, I have seen my friendships become stronger from the love I have for them as a person. World Youth Day taught me this through the deepening of my faith; and for this I am thankful! Thank You Lord!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Definitely a Pilgrimage

Reflection submitted by Joanne Connolly
As Father Matt and Mrs. Willitts repeatedly told us, “This is a pilgrimage, NOT a vacation.” They had said that during Australia as well, but compared to Spain, Australia pretty much WAS a vacation. Spain was a pilgrimage, and at times, a scary one.

It started right off the bat, with the first flight. I don’t think anyone got sleep, and if they did, it wasn’t much. AirFrance was wonderful to feed us, but did we really need dinner at midnight and breakfast at 3am? I’m willing to bet we didn’t. But this wasn’t really much of a hardship until later. The lack of sleep and proper meals (neither of us had eaten on the flight) caught up to Matty and I, and we had a hard time standing during mass that night. This had happened to me upon arriving to Australia as well and I knew that once we had our Burger King dinner and some sleep, we would be fine; and we were.

Next up was just the following morning in Toledo. During mass with Cardinal Sean, someone from the Boston group hit the floor. It was a not-so-gentle reminder that it was HOT. Drink up, you don’t want to end up like that person…or the many people who went down on the side of the road. Too often, ambulances would part the crowds, or volunteers would dart through people, unconscious body in tow. The heat was dangerous.

Then of course we had the many separations of Patty. First, she and I were blocked off from the rest of our group during opening mass. I don’t know if she went somewhere during the Pope’s welcome, but I had found my way to a jumbotron and latched on to a Pennsylvania group. Then, she and the boys got blocked off once more during Stations of the Cross. Lastly, she ended up with a small group of us that got completely detached from all the other adults on our way to the airfield.

The night spent on the airfield confirmed that this was definitely a pilgrimage. First, we were snubbed by our neighbors who believed we were taking their space. Then Patty and I went to get food and walked in the opposite direction for a while. With limited walking space and a million people, it was tough to get around. Once we got our food, I stopped to eat a chocolate croissant because I joked that I was going to “fall over” if I didn’t. Another ~15 minute walk with a bag of food on each arm, and we were back at our “campsite” on the side of the road. I was exhausted and practically fell to my seat and ate some more, and I was also absolutely miserable. I was hot, I was tired, and I wanted to leave. I started to cry, and after a few minutes, our neighboring Italian-speaker came to see what the problem was.

Joanne laying down among the Italians. Mrs. Willitts (red tshirt) is watching close by.

Of course, whenever anyone asks me what’s wrong, it immediately makes everything worse, and I start sobbing hysterically on this boy from Switzerland whose group didn’t want us invading their space. He played Nurse Giovanni to me and made me lie down on an inflatable bed, while I continued to cry and attract the attention from others in his group (the owner of the bed wasn’t too happy). I had been crying so hard that I found it difficult to form words—my lips wouldn’t move, and my garbled speech made it harder for the non-native English speakers to understand me. When they asked me questions I would point to Mrs. Willitts to answer them, and at one point I’m pretty sure I used ASL to sign my age. One of the things I tried to say was that my arms felt heavy. I had a hard time lifting my arms and legs, my hands were stuck into deformed claw-shapes, and my ankles were titled in at a 45 degree angle. Hence the hand and foot massages that you read about when this all took place: I could not move my limbs by myself. Despite Patty’s demands that they call an ambulance, the volunteers insisted I was fine, and this was merely an anxiety attack. They didn’t know that I had drunk about two liters of water (and I’m small, so that’s a LOT) just on the walk to the airfield, and proceeded to sweat it all out. When I got home, my mom asked me to look up the signs of water intoxication—and there it was. “The early warning signs are often subtle and may be similar to dehydration and include nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation, slurred speech, and confusion. At this point, many athletes drink more water because they think they are dehydrated. Unfortunately, water alone will increase the problem of hyponatremia. At the most extreme an athlete may experience seizures, coma, or death” (http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/hydrationandfluid/a/Hyponatremia.htm). Awesome. I’m so glad people were giving me more water. I didn’t think I would be the one from our group to go down, but I wasn’t surprised that it was.

Joanne under the tarp with the Italians.

And then, as if the night couldn’t get any worse, it rained. Tornado-like winds whipped a metal napkin-holder at Matty and turned the jumbotron sideways. It was loud, but the thunder was louder. It was downright frightening, and apparently storms like that are highly unusual in Spain. It rained off and on for probably an hour, so that all of our sleeping gear was wet and cold. A huge orb of light was placed right next to us, and we were on a main road, so sleeping was near impossible. After about an hour and a half of sleep, I was very thankful that Revere was leaving and that I could accompany them in the cool darkness.

Aside from an altercation on the bus ride to Barcelona, the rest of the pilgrimage went by pretty smoothly. And there were bright sides of everything that happened—I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer**. But if there is anyone left who thought that we were on vacation in Spain, I hope this proves to you that we were on a pilgrimage. Nobody died and we didn’t walk across entire countries, but please understand that this was not easy for ANYONE. Although I didn’t even complain when I was water intoxicated—one thing I remember saying was, “This was a good way to pass the time.”

**Aforementioned bright sides in order! No sleep on the AirFrance flight made it extremely easy to fall asleep in the unfamiliar hotel bed. Person who passed out in Toledo was completely fine. Patty always finds a bright side to getting separated; whether it was the truly amazing sign of peace between other groups and us, or watching Stations in her air-conditioned hotel room with the camera’s great views of everything. My little sickness was a great way to make friends and pass the time, and of course something to learn from—don’t only drink water. If you’re sweating it all out, add a sports drink of some sort to replace your sodium and other electrolytes being lost into the atmosphere. The rain took away the heat, and the orb of light was a great marker for when Matty and I separately wandered away to stretch, eat, or use the facilities. Neither of us really slept, but the wandering time we had allowed us to see the sheer magnitude of people that had come to camp out with the Pope. And what a sight that was.

Editors Note: The image above, (taken by Joanne Connolly) is of bodies that reach to the horizon lying shoulder to shoulder (some sleeping, some trying to sleep) at the vigil. It is a humbling experience to be apart of such a gathering in our faith. Thank you St. George Parish for helping us all to experience this wonderful pilgrimage.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Landfall and Running

It has been a week since we returned from World Youth Day. Coming back from being with millions of people back to normal life has been strange for me. At the beginning of the week, I would go outside and would be waiting to hear the chants from various countries being excited to be in Madrid at World Youth Day, forgetting that we are no longer there and it is now a memory.

What I experienced with the other pilgrims is something that will live with me forever! It was exciting to see so many youth, young adults, and adults come together to share our faith. Going to Masses and actually having the youth participate in saying the prayers and singing was something everyone needs to experience! Yes, we at St. George are fortunate to have Masses in which the youth participate through the CFF program but what I experienced was so much more!

Now we are at home where life has turned back to normal. During World Youth Day we prayed together each day at a daily Mass and said the Rosary together many times on bus trips. Unfortunately with our work and school schedules, I can no longer participate in daily Mass. It is sad for me that I cannot go to daily Mass as that helped me to strengthen my faith and kept me closer in touch with Jesus.

For our family, coming home meant that Sean had to return to college Friday. That was less than 24 hours after we arrived on Logan Express in Framingham. We (David, Sean, and I) scrambled to pull together everything Sean needed and go out to buy some new supplies before bringing him to campus. Jeremy went back to his routine of going into work for many scheduled meetings that day.

We spent our first weekend home by going up to our summer house on Sebago Lake in Maine and preparing for the hurricane. We returned home by noon on Sunday to do the same.

On Monday, people at work were excited to see me and asked questions about our pilgrimage. I showed many pictures to them and some told me they followed us through our blog. I hope that I will be able to go to another World Youth Day to experience the enthusiasm by the youth and young adults and help to strengthen my faith even more!