We’re sort of getting into a routine these days. In the morning, we have a quick meeting at “the bench” or somewhere nearby and talk about the options for the day. Then it’s off to morning prayer and catechesis in the church which ends with Mass at about 11 AM. After that, we’re able to do as we like except for formal events for which we reassemble – or try to – somewhere near the venue.
This morning, Rob had been asked to give testimony of his faith life for about five minutes or so after morning prayer, and he did a fine job of it, New Yawk accent and all. He’d prepared it ahead of time and folks in the church seemed to be well engaged. After his presentation, I left for the Brothers house in order to finish up all of the blog work that was left to do. And so I missed the bishop who was doing the catechesis this morning. From what I heard later, I probably made the better decision. Enough said.
Lunch followed for the whole group. There had been a problem getting the food for today from the folks organizing WYD, but the St. Felix Church volunteers brought out the leftovers from the past two days and everyone seemed to get enough food – a sort of modern multiplication of the loaves scene. I met a very nice local family, all of whom were very involved with providing the lunches and we took a couple of pictures together. After lunch
Chris had found a makeshift pole for the American flag that he had bought downtown, but it needed some work to get the flag attached to it. A couple of the trading pins did the trick however. The flag became a good marker in the crowds as the day progressed. Later in the day, when
Then we were off to downtown and the Stations of the Cross scheduled for today. Our tickets were for the “Domain” area – a grassy spot within the botanical gardens near the cathedral, and so we once again got onto a train that began relatively empty but was absolutely packed by the time we reached town, with a South American group – complete with guitar – singing hymns and songs that soon got practically the whole car singing.
It was relatively easy to get into our location. While the others settled into a chosen grassy spot, a couple of us went looking for both some souvenirs and for the WYD stoles that we were supposed to have gotten for the priests in our group liturgies. Now they were desired as free souvenirs for parishes back home. We ended up on the cathedral side of the street where all of the major tents (merchandise, registration, first aid, confession, etc.) were located. The merchandise tent was organized chaos. Lines of people waited outside to get in, and once inside they snapped up items left and right, with lines at the cash register 20-people long. I just got a pullover hat with WYD08 on it and a t-shirt with the stations of the cross printed in Aboriginal style, along with a CD of the music that we’d been hearing throughout the week. Our small group reassembled outside of the merchandise tent (Rob never did find the stoles, having gone off in search of WYD officials) and we tried to get back to the larger group but found the streets blocked off. At first we thought it was because the pope would be going by. But actually the stations had started some time ago and the procession of actors were going to be passing by on their way to the third station. So we stayed there (little choice) and had a pretty good view as they passed by, behind the WYD cross and followed by Cardinal Pell and Bishop Fisher (the organizer of WYD here in Sydney). The actors were surrounded by camera people since the whole thing was being broadcast throughout
During the time we were there, I was able to catch up a little on my blogging, since I'd brought my laptop computer with me. The ground was wet but we didn't seem to mind. The whole thing was captivating.
It was all rather cleverly done as well, utilizing both the great sites of
The actor here in Sydney seems to have wanted to really act out this role, because I noticed that just before he was crucified, one of the soldiers surreptitiously pulled out a small spray bottle (of antiseptic?) from the folds of his costume and sprayed it on the actor’s palms. And it did look like he was really bleeding from his hands and his head. So I think that the 14th station, which we didn’t see completed, probably consisted of having him put into an ambulance instead of the tomb.
I would say that the entire experience was very prayerful and powerful. At the end, when Jesus was being carried off, most of the folks in the grassy area we were in (called "The Domain") stood up and began to leave. A couple of our guys had gone earlier to go pick up our dinner at the food tent – an hour’s job by itself – and they just happened to return at that time. So while Jesus was being carried away on the big screens, we were digging into our dinners, passing plates and bread and plastic bags (already warmed) with some sort of stew. It was an interesting contrast.
At the end of our dinner we moved to the back of the park and made our way to the Sydney Opera House. Along the way, Paul stopped a number of Italian pilgrims, trying to make a trade for one of their blue blanket-like capes. He worked hard at it, hawking several t-shirts from the states, pins, and whatever else he had. But no luck. The Italians knew they’d need those warm capes on Saturday night and they weren’t going to part with it. But Paul is determined to get one at some point during the next couple of days.
At the opera house we found the place to pick up our tickets and then walked around the place, resting here and there and filling up the time watching all the pilgrims wandering around. It was a fine night – a bit cold but not seriously so. It was fascinating to see bright, colorful WYD hanged every couple of minutes. Along with all the other lights of the area, it mprojections on the support towers of the harbor bridge which cade quite a sight.
When the time came, we went into the opera house and to our seats. The eight of us had chosen to buy these tickets for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis much earlier, when the trip was first organized, and we had pretty good tickets for the event. Most of the people in the hall were pilgrims and the concert was grand and impressive. There were a whole bunch of cardinals and bishops in a separate seating section of the hall. At the end of the concert I happened to be at the bottom of the main stairs, waiting for some others, and several cardinals said “Hello, Brother” as they passed me. Of those, I only recognized Sean O’Malley from
Afterwards we made our way to the Circular Quay train station, where we’d just missed a train to
More pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/gvangrie although I’ve run into lots of problems uploading them. I’ll keep working on it as the day moves along.