A packed tram ride this morning took pilgrims to their first Catechesis session of the World Youth Day events in Krakow – a 7.5 kilometre walk from St John Paul II’s Mercy Centre and Museum to St Faustina’s tomb and the Shrine of Divine Mercy. There pilgrims prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Bus 10 shared the road with a steady stream of pilgrims of different nationalities. Waiting in the queue for the JPII centre beside some from Spain, many took the opportunity to swap tokens including wristbands, flags, pins and koala key chains.
Once inside the JPII Centre the group saw relics including a vial of his blood and the white cassock he was wearing during his attempted assassination in 1981, the blood still visible on it. The robes have taken on new meaning in the Year of Mercy and for pilgrims, seeing that the Pope forgave and asked pardon for the person who tried to assassinate him. Many are also finding it special to visit the Divine Mercy Shrine in this year, and at a World Youth Day held in the birthplace of St John Paul II. The Polish city is also where St Faustina Kowalska helped spread devotion to the Divine Mercy across the globe in the 20th century, adding to the venue’s significance.
Catechesis runs in the mornings for three days (July 27, 28 and 29), with Youth Festival activities including photographic exhibitions, concerts and sporting events on in the afternoons and evenings. A Vocations Fair is also held, where Religious congregations, Catholic schools, universities, religious publishing houses and missionary organisations present their charism and other information about their communities and works. Pilgrims have the opportunity to hear international Bishops speak on the theme of Mercy at other Catechesis sessions.
To walk alongside people from all over the world and to see their devotion to prayer is infectious.
Sydney Catholic Schools’ Archdiocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator, Mark Smith, said the first Catechesis session allowed pilgrims to connect in a physical way to the stories of St John Paul II and St Faustina.
“We’ve heard a lot about the Divine Mercy Chaplet and St Faustina and John Paul II’s devotion to Divine Mercy in preparation for World Youth Day, but to physically see the relics of John Paul II and to spend time in prayer in front of the image of Divine Mercy, to reflect on that powerful message of ‘Jesus I trust in you’ , and to be surrounded by other pilgrims from across the world in that moment of quiet, peaceful prayer – brings home the message of trust and mercy.
“It’s all about giving the students something that is beyond just the intellectual, a physical and a tangible connection. To walk alongside people from all over the world and to see their devotion to prayer is infectious. Being able to see people in different corners receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, there was a real presence of Mercy being lived out amongst the prayer.”
Mr Smith said seeing student pilgrims’ openness to prayer had been the most encouraging.
“I’ve heard students who said daily Mass was something they were worried about before the trip, and thought was a bit over the top, now saying it is becoming the highlight of the day,” he said. “It makes a big difference too that they get to know the bus chaplains. They feel familiar and really a part of the Eucharist.”