Two Western Washington World Youth Day pilgrims blog about their July 27 experiences
Kayla Arpin, youth pilgrim, Holy Family Parish in Kirkland
I am so blessed to be able to share in the beauty that is happening here in Poland! Today we celebrated the opening mass for World Youth Day with more than 200,000 people. It was a crazy, busy adventure but an incredible and beautiful one.
A few days ago on Sunday, we attended another Mass, this one at the Church of Our Lady of Victory where Infant Jesus of Prague statue resides. There Duluth's Bishop Paul D. Sirba gave a homily focusing on mercy, which fits this Year of Mercy and the theme of World Youth Day. In particular, his message about how mercy means to love when we are hurting, resonated with me and, I believe, many others in that church. That message has stayed in my heart for the past couple days and I see it playing out all around us here at World Youth Day.
A small amount of mercy to someone who is broken, suffering, in pain, or struggling is something truly beautiful and reflective of the love of Christ. Christ gives us mercy when we fail, fall and sin. Without hesitation and out of total love and total joy he gives us his mercy.
Please pray that every World Youth Day pilgrim experiences this mercy and love. Know that I will be praying for all of you, that God's mercy may come into your life and heal you where you are hurting.
Remember that we have only to ask and he will pour out his unending love. He always loves us, even when we feel we are not worth loving. The truth is you are so worth loving.
Jason Applegate, young adult pilgrim, Holy Spirit Parish in Kent
Oh, how blessings and graces fly forth in Poland! Yesterday at dawn in Bazylika Mariacka (St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow), I encountered God's glory and gave thanks for St. John Paul II's role in ridding Poland and other areas of the world of communism.
Later in the morning, I joined the thousands-strong American delegation filling Krakow Arena for Mass. I delighted in the beauty of the sacred music there. The Mass program states the hymns come from "the fruit of a long and ongoing collaboration between Dominican Friars in Poland and their Dominican brethren in the United States." I am blessed to know someone who is a part of this collaboration, Dominican Father Lukasz Misko, who has ministered and served young people in our Seattle Archdiocese. In Seattle, I have been awe-inspired when hearing his arrangements at Blessed Sacrament Parish and the University of Washington's Newman Center. I thought about Father Misko as my fellow Newman Catholics and I sang along with the choir today at the stadium Mass.
In the afternoon, in overflowing rooms, American pilgrims listened intently to two elderly Poles who as young students experienced the pastoral care of then-Father Karol Wojtyla. As I listened to their stories about hiking with their young priest, I recalled fond times on student hiking trips with Father Lukasz to Mount Rainier and the Cascades.
Yet the experience of Poland's and St. John Paul II's fight for religious freedom drew our attention to current Christian persecution. The stadium crowd expressed its heartfelt support of Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, as he told how his people face genocide because of their Christian faith. He told us of his people's need for our prayers, support and own commitment to Christian values in our society.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori echoed the concern and warned about ongoing governmental attacks on the Church's freedoms. Then St. John Paul II biographer George Weigel explained how the late pope's wisdom and example can provide the foundation for our defense of our faith and religious freedom in America. Finally, fellow U.S. pilgrims shocked and brought us to tears as they retold their recent experience of the attacks in Munich. With these intentions in our heart, we sang a prayer of peace and transfiguration. We have St. John Paul II's hope in our souls.
May God continue to bless all the Polish people. May we pilgrims take back the blessings encountered here to our homes, parishes and all people in the Archdiocese of Seattle.