Day 2 Updates from WYD Kraków
The Time for Mercy is Now
A full day of events at the Mercy Centre at Tauron Arena Kraków included catechesis with Cardinal Seán O’Malley, widely attended School of Mercy sessions, an eye opening religious freedom panel and a night of praise and worship that saw the arena reach full capacity at over 18,000, and 10,000 more outside following events via stadium speakers.
Shaun Garrison & Band’s musical opening had thousands of pilgrims singing and dancing their way to their seats to attend the morning’s catechesis sessions. “Your life is a gift, you are a gift,” said Sister Bethany Madonna, S.V., as she took the stage. She spoke to the crowd about the three elements of freedom: “Our identity, our ability to choose, and the fact that God created us.”
The Freedom to Do What is Right
For his catechesis on the theme of freedom, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, spoke about the Christian ‘vocation to discipleship.’ He explained that happiness is “more than just ‘having fun’, and seeking one fun experience after another. Happiness is the byproduct or the fruit of a life well-lived. It is found through genuine freedom, which is the freedom to do what is right.”
Cardinal O’ Malley invited the youth to focus on the ‘vocation to discipleship.’ “We learn this first vocation as we learn a language, [in the context of] a worshiping community. We engage ourselves fully in the mission of the Church as disciples of Jesus, serving the poor […] Our second vocation, specifically to discern a call to marriage, priesthood, [and] religious life is only possible if we learn the first vocation and how to respond to this most fundamental vocation.”
Freedom and vocation were themes also discussed by Chastity Project Founder Jason Evert, and his wife, Crystalina. They began by sharing video footage of the moment they announced their newest pregnancy to their six children. “They cheered and cheered and were so full of the good news, all they could do is proclaim it,” said Jason.
Their words of good news of life and the virtue of chastity drew loud applause from the crowd. The couple was very open about their difficulty striving for perfection, which meant “rejecting the false notions of the world. Men and women must reject the concept of viewing people as objects to be used. What they need to understand is the purpose for which God created them [… In this lies true freedom. And it is to this freedom that God invites us.”
The Time for Mercy is Now
“School of Mercy talks [throughout the arena] were overflowing,” shared Brandon Riddle, a College Knight from George Mason University.
“I went to Jacqueline Isaac’s talk on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. The stories she told of persecuted Christians and of efforts to have this tragedy declared ‘genocide’ were mind blowing. People were in tears. Jacqueline made herself available to all attendees and answered questions. I really hope that growing awareness of this genocide can help to unify Christians and stop this violence.”
Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv, Ukraine hosted another School of Mercy session. A former personal secretary of St. John Paul II, Archbishop Mokrzycki held a standing-room-only session even after it was moved to a larger space due to overflow attendance..
“I was touched and moved,” said Archbishop Mokrzycki, “that the youth are still so attentive to the words of John Paul II.”
The archbishop, whose country has been torn apart by war, was asked by a pilgrim why he – like Pope John Paul II – considered religion the answer to war. “Where there is God, there is love,” he responded.
In the arena’s adoration chapel, with the Blessed Sacrament exposed beneath a large image of the Divine Mercy, Sister Gaudia Skass of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy captivated the pilgrims.
“The time for mercy is now,” she explained, “Why? Because today we see everything but hope ... The only thing that saves mankind is mercy.” Drawing upon the words of St. John Paul II, Sister Gaudia added, “Mercy is needed so all will come to justice in the splendor of truth.”
Panel on Religious Freedom
The afternoon’s main stage panel on religious freedom featured Archbishop William Lori, George Weigel, Jacqueline Isaac and Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, who received repeated standing ovations in a show of support for those fighting for the cause of religious freedom throughout the world.
A theme underlying the panel was emphasized by Archbishop Lori in his homily earlier that day and again during a theology on tap session with George Weigel held in Kraków’s main square district on Monday evening: Catholics can run as victors in the race before us.
Archbishop Lori said, “We would rather use this gift of freedom to evangelize and serve the poor. But sometimes we don't get to choose our battles, and this is one of those times.”
“Why do we care?” Archbishop Lori asked the English-speaking pilgrims, for whom the battle for religious freedom is often far removed from their everyday lives. “What should our response be in the face of the secular view of religious liberty, where liberty is considered the ‘right’ to discriminate?” To a standing ovation, the archbishop insisted, “We can't go along with that point of view. Without religious freedom, life becomes a hard place, where no one and nothing stands.”
In a private interview following the panel, Archbishop Warda shared that his suffering people in Erbil “will be so moved to learn of this tremendous support, and they will be encouraged in hope knowing that so many youth around the world care about them, and care that they continue to be allowed to practice their faith in the place where Jesus himself lived, in the place where his language is still spoken.”
Night of Mercy Youth Festival
Pilgrims from Australia, New Zealand, India, the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, France, Greece and others arrived in droves to attend Wednesday’s Night of Mercy Youth Festival.
Waving high their national flags, more than 18, 000 youth filled the arena to full capacity. Pilgrims were cheering, singing and smiling – even the estimated 10, 000 who could not make it inside the arena – all thrilled to be part of the celebration of faith and mercy.
The centerpiece of the evening was the Eucharistic procession and adoration led by Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles.
Visibly moved by the packed arena, Bishop Barron picked up on the chants of the crowds: “We do want God! We want God. Not just for ourselves; we want God for the world. We are meant to be salt and light. Go forth in the power of Jesus Christ. Don’t rest! Go forth and transform the world.”
The bishop’s talk, the prayerful music performed by Matt Maher and Audrey Assad and the witness by Life Teen’s Joel Stepanek left the crowd laughing, crying, contemplating, praying, singing, and lining up for confession. Among the many priests hearing confessions in the quieter corners of the stadium was Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who surprised pilgrims fortunate to find themselves in his queue.
From the loud eruptions of praise, to the quietest moments of prayer when the whole stadium fell silent in adoration, the evening event was centered on the contemplation of God’s endless mercy.