Sorry to have missed updating you the last two days. There is so much I want to write - this Congress has far exceeded my expectations - there will be more in the days to come.
For now I want to tell you about last night`s event: The Eucharistic Procession.
I don`t know if this has happened before here, or anywhere in Canada - not sure if it`s happened to this magnintude anywhere.
Newspapers in Quebec reported from 10,000-20,000 people marching through the streets in Quebec with the Blessed Sacrament. I was there, I think the 20,000 figure is the more acturate. CBC TV reported 25,000 people.
Let me describe: The crowds left the Colisee Pepsi at 7pm. Everyone participating was able to bring a radio with them and tune in to Radio Galilee and listen to the animation for the whole walk. There was music, talks, prayers, even a short homily by Cardinal Jozef Tomko, the Papal delegate for the event.
The procession was led by some over-sized `marionettes` (10-12 feet high) representing some of the Quebec and Canadian Blesseds and Saints: Jean de Brebeuf, Francois de Laval, Marguerite de Bourgoiys, MArgueirte D`Youville and Marie de l`Incarnation among others. Following these were the Bishops and Cardinals (note, there are 250 bishops and 40 Cardinals present), as well as the priests. These were followed by several groups, Knights of Columbus etc and some young people with banners representing other Canadian Saints and Blesseds. Behind them was a flat-bed truck with a large Monstrance and Cardinal Ouellet (Archbishop of Quebec) and Cardinal Tomko. They were kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Behind them were the rest of the marchers - some newspapers reported that about 15,000 left the Colisee and about 5000 joined them along the way. Of course, along the way the streets were lined by people hoping to see the procession. Along some places, as the Blessed Sacrament approached, people on the sides, knelt.
There were two stops along the 5 Km route: St. Francis Church and St. Roch. I was at St. Roch`s. This was on a corner and because some of the Marionettes were to stay there and because Cardinals Ouellet and Tomko went into the Church briefly, some people thought it was the end of the procession. There was a bit of confusion. At one point I felt like it was the marketplace in front of the temple in Jerusalem. At another, I was sure that this was like to have been on the way to Golgotha. Still, all the time, despite the crowds and many distractions, there was a spirit of prayer and reflection.
As the day turned to evening, people lit their candles and continued on their procession (despite the rain that started around the same time) towards the final station, at Agora, in the port of Quebec.
I have never been part of an experience like this. Here is what Deborah Gyapong wrote for Catholic News Service:www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0803287.htm
The last thing I want to share today is what Cardinal Ouellet said to all of us at the end of Mass this morning. Even though he was not the presider (he is the President of this Congress), he rose after the Prayer after Communion and invited all the youth from Service Jeunesse (youth volunteers for the event) to come around the altar (imagine a large circular riser in the middle of a Stadium, the Altar is on the middle of the riser). The youth came and stood around the riser. There are maybe 100 of them. He then thanked them and encouraged us to thank them too. It wasn`t necessary, as soon as he invited them in the congregation rose in applause. He then said that not only was this a sign of gratitude but also an invitation to continue the Eucharistic mission that they`ve begun here this week. Every one applauded. Then, he turned to the crowds and he said to not only us here but to all watching on TV and listening on the radio (and the satellite transmission of this event is available world-wide in English, Spanish and French), "will you, support our youth as they continue on their Eucharistic mission, when they leave here, in World Youth Day in Sydney, in their parishes, workplaces and schools"? The applause was even greater. I don`t know why, but I was moved by this Cardinal`s words in support of our youth.
There is much hope not just for the Church of Quebec but for the Church of Canada. Christ is alive and well and many, many people- many youth have a deep personal relationship with Him.
Outside the Church of St. Roch, while waiting for the procession I spoke to a gentleman, in his borken English and my broken French about the evening`s event. He was not part of the Congress but remembered the a previous local Congress here in Quebec. He said that the Church was in bad state here. I wish he`d been at Mass this morning. I hope that after 20,000 people marched past him last night, he is also feeling a little more hopeful.