Adoration at Copacabana Beach. This was probably by far the coolest part! I have never seen such dense concentration of human beings occupying the same space, and not only that…but for a Catholic purpose and reason!
It was a challenge to stake out a spot on the beach, but luckily my group go there early enough to enjoy some sandy space. We were, what I would estimate to be, like 5 or 6 football fields away from the stage or the 2nd to last big screen out of the 25 lined up for the prayer vigil.
I actually didn’t catch the start of Adoration because I was caught up in other distractions (and I don’t think the big TV screens even showed it starting). But I figured it out once I started seeing people kneeling.
The two things that really stick out to me regarding Adoration with Pope Francis on that beach with 3 million others was the profound silence after Pope Francis asked for some moments of sacred silence. Like, seriously. Mountains bowed down and the seas roared, a helicopter buzzed around, but the beach full of pilgrims was silent. And that really was something. I talk about it here in my blog post, The Silence of Millions. The other thing that stood out to me was Matt Maher leading praise and worship during Adoration when he sang, “Lord I Need You.” It was incredibly fitting for the moment since he was singing that song on his knees, and the lyrics expressed everyone’s sentiment before the Blessed Sacrament. How often do Christian singers get to sing to Jesus, literally?
Close papal encounters of the extra-ordinary kind. Our first day in Rio was the Monday before all the events for World Youth Day happened. Apparently Pope Francis decided to arrive early to speak with political dignitaries and stuff like that. I don’t think most people knew he was in town. We didn’t know he was in town.
But then…as we were walking back to our hostel that first night…we saw the beginnings of a motorcade pass by. And then lo and behold! IT WAS POPE FRANCIS IN A NON-POPEMOBILE VEHICLE WAVING AT US AS HE PASSED BY!
…and I totally missed it because I didn’t make it to the street on time to record it with my camera. But I caught some reaction as well as the World Youth Day Cross and Image of Our Lady pass by.
Matt Maher, in concert. Him coming to World Youth Day was a rather last-minute decision/invitation. Even Matt himself posted about him coming like…back in June. Our group leaders purposely tried to figure out when and where he would be for these concerts.
I’m a fan of his music and his hits are a crowd favorite at my parish!
And so, on a dark and rainy Wednesday night after enduring a long bus trip to the venue and enduring a game of “Where’s Matt Maher?!” at the venue, we were finally able to enjoy his musical stylings. Up. Close. And. Nearly. Personal. :-O
What was really cool was pretty much being the only English speakers present when he gave that concert that night along with our hostel-mates and neighboring diocese friends.
Party in the streets! I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome Brazilian people are and much less…how awesome Brazilian Catholics are! They are just so full of joy and fervor! And they were so welcoming to us all!
Our first night (before seeing Pope Francis but after going up to Christ the Redeemer), we found ourselves in a dance party in the streets with a bunch of Brazilians. It involved pretty much any groups of pilgrims that passed by!
This really helped set the tone of the joy that we would experience throughout the rest of the week in encountering our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for World Youth Day!
Praying and singing with England. There were three groups staying the hostel that we stayed in for World Youth Day: us, our friends from a neighboring diocese from back home, and a group from England. Our paths would cross every now and then, but I think one of the best highlight moments with them was being able to pray with them, go to Mass with them, and we totally had one night where we just did nothing but praise and worship.
Seeing my people! I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but I think it’s not too far fetched to think that most Filipinos are Catholic. And so, during my whole time in Rio, I expected to run into a lot of Filipinos. But, that didn’t really happen.
And that’s why I got really, really, really irrationally excited when I found groups of Filipinos randomly throughout Rio. There was that one time I saw a small group of Filipinos, but they were from Libya…which that still counted.
But the coolest encounter I had in seeing my fellow Filipinos was that one time we tried to go to Mass, but ended up going to Adoration with a basilica full of Filipinos! YES!!!