Mood changes at WYD as pope, youth reflect on suffering in Way of Cross
MADRID — The mood at World Youth Day changed dramatically late Aug. 19 as Pope Benedict XVI and hundreds of thousands of young people turned their thoughts to suffering.
Pictured: Young people carry the World Youth Day cross during the Way of the Cross led by Pope Benedict XVI in Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid Aug. 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The vividly painted, graphic statues that illustrated each station of Jesus' passion and death were accompanied by meditations focused on individuals, groups and nations enduring serious suffering today.
Many young people – even those blocks away, watching on Jumbotrons – read along in special prayer books included in pilgrim backpacks.
Ryan Titzer, a 17-year-old parishioner of St. Timothy Parish in Chantilly, Va., described the "pasos" as "3-D Stations of the Cross."
"They show such reality in the way they depicted the scenes," he said. "I had to get a picture of every single one to show my parents, just because they were incredible looking."
"It's different then seeing a painting or a picture of him," he added. "You could see the pain on Jesus' face, and it just made it more real."
One of Titzer's fellow pilgrims, Bayleigh Aschenbrenner, 16, said the only thought in her head was, "It's unimaginable that he went through all that for us."
"It's very humbling," she said, and it gave her a greater appreciation for Jesus' passion. "Being a more visual person, it's definitely clicked a whole lot more."
Many of the young people sacrificed their time and comfort by arriving hours early and standing in the hot sun to stake out a place near the papal platform in Plaza de Cibeles or in front of one of the station-statues set up along a main street leading to the plaza.
The meditations included prayers for the defense of human life, for peace in the Holy Land and other areas where there is conflict, for the victims of natural disasters, for the unemployed, for those who suffer racial discrimination or religious persecution, for those with alcohol or drug addictions, and for the victims of sexual abuse.
A cross was carried from one station-statue to another by young people from countries or situations where there is suffering. They included Iraqis, immigrants, recovering drug addicts, unemployed and people from Rwanda and Burundi.
A local woman, tissue in hand, leaned out of her shutter-flanked balcony to watch the progress of the cross.
The "paso" depicting the ninth station, Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments, included a prayer for victims of sexual abuse.
A few days earlier, Jenny McGuire, 18, of the Irish Diocese of Ferns, said years of revelations of clerical abuse of children had caused most Irish Catholics to lose faith in the institution of the Church rather than their faith in God.
"It's not that they don't believe in Jesus or that they don't have faith in Jesus," she said, "but it's the institution of the church and the priests that they're losing faith in. It's not that they're completely nonreligious. There still is strong faith in Ireland."
Seamus Sutton of County Wexford, Ireland, agreed, adding that World Youth Day, including the Way of the Cross, was a healing opportunity for pilgrims.
"I see this as a reconciliation with the church and with how these people are serving God and what I'm following," he said.
Lauren O'Reilley, also from County Wexford, said that the abuse allegations have been especially hard on the Irish priests "that are so good."
"People in Ireland are losing their faith, especially young people," she said. "It's nice to see all of us coming together to see that people still have faith."
In his remarks at the end of the service, Pope Benedict acknowledged that everyone knows suffering, but he urged the young people to focus on Christ's suffering out of love for all humanity and to imitate that love by committing themselves to alleviate the suffering of others.
Pope Benedict said meditating on Christ's passion and death should lead Christians to ask, "What can we do for him?"
"Christ's passion urges us to take upon our own shoulders the sufferings of the world, in the certainty that God is not distant or far removed from man and his troubles," because Christ became human himself, enduring suffering and death, the pope told the young people.
The pope prayed that Christ's love would "increase your joy and encourage you to go in search of those less fortunate. You are open to the idea of sharing your lives with others, so be sure not to pass by on the other side" of the road "in the face of human suffering, for it is here that God expects you to give of your very best: your capacity for love and compassion."
"The different forms of suffering that have unfolded before our eyes in the course of this Way of the Cross are the Lord's ways of summoning us to spend our lives, following in his footsteps and becoming signs of his consolation and salvation," the pope said.
The harsh wood of the cross, he said, is a sign of the self-giving love that will give eternal life to all who ask.
"The cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving love," the pope said. The cross "teaches us to love what God loves and in the way that he loves. This is the good news that gives hope to the world."
— Cindy Wooden and Gretchen R. Crowe, Catholic News Service
Father Shawn O'Neal: In this debate, remember Church teaching on human rightsAs a means to develop a comprehensive plan to reform our nation's current immigration system, a group of senators has introduced legislation formally called the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013."...
Father Matthew Buettner: Radical ChristianityRecently, the Boston Marathon came to an abrupt end when two bombs exploded near the finish line. Three young people died in the explosion, including an 8-year-old boy who received his first Holy Communion just 11 months ago. Along with these...
The Poor Clares: Joy and sacrificeSt. Paul was a man passionate with zeal and consumed by love for God and desire for the salvation of souls. His actions and words were geared toward one purpose: the claiming of souls from the dominion of the devil, and the deceit used by him...
Brian Williams:The honest 411 on Vatican III recently had the opportunity to take a class about the Second Vatican Council offered through a diocesan adult education program. While much was covered within a relatively short span of four classes, one subject occupied much of our time...
William L. Esser IV: Love and 'gay marriage'It's always best to get your disclaimer on the table early, so here is mine: I'm a lawyer, I love my Catholic faith, and I love my country. So it should come as no surprise that I have been following the recent "gay marriage" cases before the...
Peggy Bowes: Be the stranger"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." — Blanche DeBois, "A Streetcar Named Desire" I was quietly praying the rosary, holding a "Pray to Stop Abortion" sign outside Planned Parenthood in Winston-Salem, when a delivery truck...
Deacon James Toner: On Christian RealismWe Catholics often find ourselves trying to chart a wise and balanced course between justice and mercy, between solemnity and a touch of appropriate humor, between the classical and the contemporary. So it is with the law of love and the fact...
LETTERS FROM OUR READERS
Warrior saints are found throughout historyRegarding the April 26 letter criticizing St. Nicholas of Flue, I am disgusted that an American would insinuate that a soldier who distinguishes himself or herself in combat is not following...
Who would be worthy?In a letter in the April 26 Catholic News Herald, St. Nicholas of Flue was referred to as someone who "did not follow those teachings" of Christ because he defended the faith with his sword and...
St. Peregrine is a model to followI greatly admire the saints. The stories of youthful saints speak powerfully to me and never fail to captivate me; since I am 15, I can relate particularly to them. When I read the article about...
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy