The other day I decided to unearth the red and beige bag that lays at the bottom of my closet. The occasion was the fifth anniversary of Toronto's World Youth Day. The bag: the official Toronto WYD backpack. The contents: worn pamphlets, tattered maps, and torn flyers I enthusiastically collected between July 23rd and July 28th, 2002.
Two things caught my attention --the "Pilgrim Guide" and the "Young People at Prayer" booklet. As I flipped through the prayer book, I was brought back to the base of Queen's Park in Toronto, and recalled praying the Our Father, 'Hail Mary' and 'Glory Be' in English, Latin, Spanish, and Italian for the Stations of the Cross. I remember the procession of the Way of the Cross somberly crawl past us. The visibly moved crowd reached for palm branches from the actors, as if they were reaching for authentic relics from Christ's Passion. And long after the powerful 14 stations, brilliantly directed by Montreal priest Father Robert Gendreau, 'Adoramus Te Domine' played in my mind accompanied by striking images from the evening's events.
Flipping through other pages of the prayer book, I was reminded of the Saturday evening Vespers and John Michael Talbot's rendition of the Magnificat, 'Holy is His Name.' I picture him now on stage playing and singing, and the field washed with candlelight. I can even hear the the people around me softly singing "And holy, holy, holy is His name."
For me, World Youth Day 2002 was the culmination of a series of events that marked a rediscovery of my faith. I saw first hand that the Catholic faith was alive -- it was burning in young people, who love their faith, their Church, and their God. Suddenly, I did not feel so alone. Suddenly, this salt felt that he was regaining his flavour, and this light, that he was starting to burn stronger.
I was moved many times that week. I remember Duc in Altum Park, and a grace filled confession to a priest from New Zealand. After receiving absolution I raced across the CNE grounds and fell to my knees in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I remember the World Youth Alliance's Culture of Life Cafe and series of talks, the Vocation Pavillion, a Rosary in several languages at De La Salle College, praise and worship, packed streetcars, late nights, early mornings, and days that left you exhausted, but wanting more. Then of
course there was the closing Mass with John Paul II -- a vicious rainstorm, but a clear sky for the beginning of Mass. And how could I forget those firm words from our Holy Father: "Do not be afraid!" Words that pierced me, and still give me goosebumps today.
Yes, my WYD2002 back pack sits at the bottom of the my closet collecting dust, but that does not mean I have dismissed the experience. The contents of that bag may bring back many fond memories, but it is my heart that has been touched and will forever hold the treasures of that unforgettable week.