This whole week of July 22-28 newspaper and television coverage of Pope Francis and the 28th World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has been outstanding.
(I can still see the large statue of Jesus with outstretched arms that is located in this region.) I read in the Corpus Christi Caller of a large group of teenagers of our Dioceses of Corpus Christi leaving the airport on their way to this great adventure, and it bought back wonderful memories when I attended Pope John Paul’s visit to San Antonio.
(Mom had stitched the year on white silk-like handkerchiefs for all of us to wave, and I can still see it so vividly in my mind!)
Three million people attended the Holy Mass at Copacabana beach at the end of this seven-day pilgrimage.
It was conducted so beautifully with outstanding gospel music and the first two Bible readings were read by teenagers, followed by a priest reading the Gospel reading and Pope Francis’ beautiful message in his homily.
“The whole world needs Christ. Go and make disciples of all nations… Go — Be not afraid — Serve!”
Jesus Christ is counting on you — the church is counting on you, and I (Pope Francis) am counting on you!”
The response from the congregation was outstanding with such a positive attitude!
During this time since his arrival on Monday, July 22, Pope Francis was seen walking among the people, kissing babies, shaking hands, taking time to embrace people and give blessings to so many.
His modesty, good nature, gentle smile and kind eyes simply showed the love that radiates from this amazing “shepherd of our flock.”
It showed him riding in his “Pope-mobile” (but he chose to use the one he normally uses that is not bulletproof). People gave him gifts of flowers and flags and t-shirts, and he even caught some in mid-air!
The police security (bodyguards) though stern-looking occasionally had a smile on their face as they jogged alongside. It’s even indicated that Pope Francis’ safety could be in danger when he chooses to walk among the people, but that is the way that he wants it.
There were so many stories of our youth in action. Some arriving a week prior to this event were seen doing so many acts of kindness...doing mission trips in the slumps, conducting catechisms with young children, visiting families to talk, pray and listen to their stories.
Some reported being startled and amazed at the openness of the people in this culture in general who invited them into their homes and poured their hearts out to them — which in the United States is usually hard to really open up and touch someone’s heart upon first meeting them!
Another story, a young Facundo did not have the money to go with his church group so he walked 1,829 miles from Jujay, Argentina, starting on July 1 with $110 dollars in his pocket.
He put his trust in God, would go into churches to pray for more faith, prayed his rosary and repeated: “Our Lady (Virgin Mary) protects me and Jesus accompanies me.”
He hitchhiked, walked with a group of monks also walking to Rio and arrived hungry, with bruised and blistered toes, but he was happy, realizing the message of Pope Francis is right that “Jesus gives you trust and hope, and we should let ourselves be guided by Jesus”, and he’s proud that he did that!
There is so much that I can’t say in one page, but what stays with me is Pope Francis last request for all of us… “(Please) pray for me!” He asked for my prayer and “yours”, and I know we can all do it and remember our youth (who are our future leaders) who attended this 28th World Youth Day!