Posted November 27, 2013 in MH Resteigne, Belgium:
World Youth Day Brazil

by Cristina Coutinho

"And come among us, Mary of God, Lady of Peace… And come praying for us, Mother of Jesus."

This is a verse from a song well-known in Brazil, a song sung at the World Youth Day Mass celebrated by the archbishop of Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday, July 23rd .To see and hear a multitude of young people singing in full voice, praying and begging for the presence of the Mother of God made my heart vibrate with joy.

I could feel the presence of Our Lady praying for us and anointing us with her peace—she, the Lady of Peace. And on the next day, the pope went to the Shrine of Nossa Senhora Aparecida asking her intercession.

After this, for me, the whole unfolding of the World Youth Day journey was marked by the quiet, firm, strong presence of Our Lady. She passed among us like a breeze of peace, which was not surprising, for where Mary is, there is the Holy Spirit.

I saw Pope Francis three times, twice in a car and once in the pope-mobile. All three times I had the impression that he wanted to jump out and embrace each one of us. He truly has the heart of a pastor, and he is fearless.

The interaction between the pilgrims and the residents of Rio de Janeiro was very beautiful. Copacabana is a beach, a vacation spot, so the people who live there are familiar with crowds causing disturbances and leaving piles of garbage, especially during the celebration of the New Year.

But during World Youth Days, despite the great multitude of young people on the beach, these residents awoke to a clean district. (Yes, the pilgrims collected their own garbage.)

The street vendors, too, were surprised. They had been prepared to sell the usual alcoholic beverages, but they soon changed to flags of various kinds and rainwear.

During the vigil of the closing Mass, some of the people who lived next to the beach came down from their tall edifices with thermoses of coffee for the pilgrims. And some of them even opened their doors so that we could use the bathrooms.

It rained a lot in Rio during those days, especially the day I visited the Vocations Fair. At this fair in the park Quinta da Boa Vista (Park with the Beautiful View) many, many religious and lay communities had booths, and despite the rain, an unending flow of pilgrims visited their stands.

There were also open-air confessionals, and even in the rain, many pilgrims went to confession. (It was the first time I had ever gone to confession under an umbrella.)

There was also a tent for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and in this tent, filled with young people, an impressive silence reigned. Present in a special way in this tent were the Missionaries of Charity, all with very young faces.

In the mornings, bishops from all over the world gave catechetical instruction in various parishes.

I decided to go to the catechesis nearest where I was staying and thus found myself in the parish of Our Lady of Hope with a group of French youth from the dioceses of Toulon and Versailles. I attended catecheses given by the Cardinal of Kinshasa in the Congo and by a Bishop of Burundi.

One morning session especially left its mark on me: the invitation to embrace the cross without fear. In that parish also, I touched the universality of the Church, and a feeling of joy overcame me.

Transportation was one of the difficulties of World Youth Day. Though it wasn’t easy to get to Copacabana, leaving from there was even more difficult. The whole area was closed to buses and cars, so the only access was on foot or by subway, which people entered in waves.

The sight of all those people at the metro entrance made me opt to walk kilometers and more kilometers; and since I don’t know the city well, I didn’t always take the shortest route.

Now I am back in MH Belgium, but the journey continues. Many seeds were sown in many hearts, and we are praying earnestly that the fruits be abundant.


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