Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Going Forth from the Upper Room

Hello Readers,

I'm not sure if anyone is still checking this but just in case I thought I'd write a blog from the States. Pat and all the students arrived safely home last Friday. Since then, I have been fighting off the jet lag and trying to keep myself in good spirits. At times both tasks have been difficult but I feel myself growing each day as I think back to what I experienced over those three weeks in Australia.

Today, I reread the Holy Father's messages to us over the World Youth Day week. Much like the Holy Father said, I grew up knowing much about the Father and the Son but not much about the Holy Spirit. Coming off WYD I can say that has changed. Never before in my life have I felt so on fire with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and so aware of where I am being called. I have had trouble articulating exactly what I experienced in Australia and the changes it has brought about in me. That is where much of my frustration with others has come from lately. However, upon rereading the Holy Father's final message of World Youth Day at the final Mass, I have found a way to sum it up: "Through the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, may this Twenty-third World Youth Day be experienced as a new Upper Room, from which all of us, burning with the fire and love of the Holy Spirit, go forth to proclaim the Risen Christ and to draw every heart to him! Amen." I doubt I speak just for myself in saying that I truly left the racecourse that day and have returned home desiring nothing more than to witness to others the glory of God's love for the world. That coming together of so many Catholic youth from around the world truly was a living example of the gathering of the Apostles and Mary in the Upper Room.

And now, the Holy Father has sent us forth to the ends of the earth to speak of the Good News in all the tongues of the nations. That is ultimately what we are all being commonly called to do. In this, we are truly serving one another through the love of Christ. We must encourage others to take advantage of the graces that can be received through the Sacraments. I have come to realize just how important taking time to just sit with the Body of Our Lord can be in refocusing myself to serve him and others. While talking about Adoration on the trip, someone said, "It is such a gift to be able to sit in front of the Body of Christ. Just as you can find joy in sitting in front of him, he also finds joy in seeing you there." The Father wants us to come to Him. So He sends forth the Holy Spirit to guide us. It is up to us to listen to the call.

As I approach my senior year at Fordham and all the busyness and stress that comes with it I cannot help but be grateful that I had this time in Australia. I pray that I am able to use the graces I received to really go deeper in all that I do in the upcoming school year. I also pray for the wisdom to discern what I am being called to do and what is not the best for me.

Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment on our blogs. Thank you also to Rox and Dave for being the biggest writers. I have read their blogs and I could not have put our experiences in better words myself. The Spirit is truly ablaze within them.

I leave you with a quote from Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, to whom I now have a great devotion. He inspired me so much over the course of the pilgrimage and I know he was helping to guide me to push myself to go "to the top" in all that I did:

“To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living, but existing.”

Peace be with you and God Bless!


Monday, July 21, 2008

The View from Down-Unda....

Hello Everyone! It has been quite the adventure here in Australia, and we are only days away from being back home with all of you. I apologize for my lack of updates as of late, but I hope to make it up to you now with a bit of a lengthy post complete with pictures! We are currently in the Hervey Bay/Fraser Island area (about 4 hours north of Brisbane), enjoying a little bit of some warmer weather and retreating with one another after a very busy World Youth Day week. The following montage will endeavor to summarize the physical and spiritual journey we have taken over the past 3 weeks. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers! Enjoy! -Rox

Here is most of the group during our first full day in Brisbane (see the city center in the background). We paused to take a quick group pic as we hiked up to Mount Coot-tha, a popular lookout over the city of Brisbane.

Vince, Michael, Kristina, and Katy feed kangaroos on the first day of our MAGiS experiments in Queensland, Australia.
God's MAJESTY, fully evident....One of our first views of the Australian Gold Coast....
Steve represented the Americans at a Lamington (Aussie chocolate sponge cake) Eating Contest. He did us proud as he ate 4 Lamingtons in under three minutes, beating out 9 other countries! GO USA!!! :)
Here is the entire Fordham group (from l to r: TOP - Michael, Steve, Kristina, Diana, Joe SJ, Ethan, Vince SJ BOTTOM - Katy, Roxanne, Jason, Pat, and Dave) as we finished our MAGiS experiments and got ready to head back to Sydney for the Ignatian Gathering and WYD Week.

Michael and Ethan help carry the World Youth Day Cross as it arrives at St. Ignatius College, Riverview. At one point, almost every Fordham pilgrim was carrying the cross together....what a powerful moment! Here I am at around midnight trying to finish making our Fordham group banner. Since we forgot to bring our own banner from school, we decided to use a little bit of our ingenuity to make our own! Using two long pieces of canvas cloth that we found and sewed together, and some acrylic paint, we were able to finish our banner and show a bit of our Fordham Pride!

This is the inside of the St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney. Quite beautiful, isn't it?

Diana, Ethan, Pat, and Roxanne wearing our "I Love NY" t-shirts and carrying our completed Fordham WYD banner. We were on our way to Barangaroo for the WYD Opening Mass.

The WYD Opening Mass at Barangaroo with George Cardinal Pell presiding. We were seated about a half mile away from the altar, but luckily, my camera had some amazing zoom! :)

Dave at Bondi Beach, a popular destination in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. A few of us followed the message of "Come to the Water" as we traveled from the city to a concert hosted by the Franciscan Friars.

Everyone and everything (even the clouds!) converged at Barangaroo for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI....

IL PAPA !!!!!!!! Welcome to Sydney, Australia!!!!!

Steve and Diana on our 4k pilgrimage walk to Randwick Racecourse, where the Overnight Vigil with the Pope and the Closing Mass would be held.

The group, setting up camp at Randwick for our Vigil Sleep-Out and Closing Mass ceremonines.

Dawn breaks over all of the sleeping pilgrims at Randwick Racecourse....

....And the sunrise heralds another beautiful grace-filled day from God.

Pope Benedict celebrated a beautiful WYD Closing Mass and announced to the world that the 2011 World Youth Day will take place in Madrid, Spain!

Personally, my favorite message from the Pope's closing remarks was when he said: "What constitutes our faith is not primarily what we DO, but what we RECEIVE." I have received so much from this pilgrimage that it is so difficult to sit here now and try to relay what I am feeling and thinking. All I can say is that I am so very thankful to our leaders (Vince, Joe, and Pat) for guiding us so well on this journey, both physically and spiriually.

I am thankful for all of my group-mates and friends who have helped me to grow and mature so much on this pilgrimage. Thank you all for opening your hearts to me and for sharing your faith with me. It was so very easy to see and experience God everyday in each and every one of your beings.

Thanks to our families and friends back home for your constant support, thoughts, and prayers. Without them, we wouldn't have been able to receive so many of the graces we have experienced here in Australia, so thank you ever so much!

And finally, the greatest thanks are raised up to the Lord, through whom all things are possible. The greatest gift we could ever receive is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and God has so graciously and willingly given His Spirit to us. Thank you, Lord, for your constant presence in our lives, and for your unyielding devotion to our well-beings. I hope that we may take all that we have learned and experienced during this pilgrimage and make it a part of our everyday lives, even through all of the difficulties, struggles, and stresses of the secular world. May the power and strength of the Holy Spirit make us true witnesses of Your Word in all aspects of our humanities, especially as we return to our hometowns and to the larger Fordham community. I ask only that You may grant us the grace to always do Your will and to trust in the guiding power of Your Spirit all the days of our lives. Praise and Reverence to You Always...Amen.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Culmination: Sending Out

Yesterday, we joined almost 200,000 pilgrims at Randwick Race Track for an overnight prayer service and vigil. I will update with more details later (right now I don't have my notebook on me).

The emphasis of yesterday's vigil, as well as Today's World Youth Day Mass was on commissioning. We, the young Catholics of the world, are called to be agents of renewal and change.

The vigil's prayer service explored the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and included testimonials from pilgrims. One spoke in English, one in Polish, one in Spanish, one in French, etc. It culminated in Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Today, the Pope continued to expound on his calling to eliminate relativism and materialism, which has brought about a growing "spiritual desert." How can we do this? Through the power of the Holy Spirit. We're called to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and work through us, to transform our whole person so that we act as instruments, vessels of the Holy Spirit.

I read a Sydney based newspaper today, and it seems that World Youth Day has been positively received by the secular, "tough to please" Sydney crowd. At the very least, it seems that Sydney residents appreciated the "positive energy" that the pilgrims have brought along. On the walk out from the Mass, I encountered many residents waving. Hopefully this WYD will bear fruit that lasts in Australia. Chances are that this is what the Lord has intended all along.

Pope Benedict, in his letter inviting Youth to WYD, challenged us all to bring one person to Christ during our pilgrimage. It hit me the other day that our willingness to venture out to "the great Southland of the Holy Spirit," endure the rigors of travel, as well as the hassles of attending a large-scale event, is in itself an act of witness. How we carry ourselves is a testimony to what we believe, and how serious we are about it. I hope and pray that Fordham's presence here has helped to testify to God's love, greatness, and mercy.

Along the way, as well, I've realized that we have brought each other to know Christ in a deeper way. Many thanks are owed, firstly to the Lord, and next to our leaders, who prepared us so well for this journey. Then, there is thanks to the rest of the team, and to all of our family and friends that donated to make this possible.

This is not the end, however. Sometime between now and the flight back to New York, I'll likely blog again, in a sort of Epilogue to this chapter, because Fordham and WYD aren't over...

Three years from now, Fordham will go to Madrid, Spain for the 26th World Youth Day.

In any case, I hope all is well back home with all of you. Thank you for following along. Hopefully we'll have photos up soon to show you. And of course, I'll go more in depth in this post (I'll signify that there is an update with the proper note) with the content of the Pope's homily today. All I can say right now is that Benedict XVI is pretty amazing.

Now it's time to take all of these things back home, and to share them with all.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Catechesis From Fordham Alum, and Review of Theology of the Body Workshop

Wednesday Catechesis:
Our Catechesis yesterday had a Fordham flare: Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa was our teacher, and he graduated with a BA from Fordham some time ago (1967 I believe). We got a great photo with him; I know Fr. McShane will be pleased. Archbishop Predergast is a simple guy; he's very friendly, and clearly has a strong relationship with the Lord. He communicates at a very personable level.

He shared with us the initiative of four young men whom he met while serving as Bishop in Halifax. These men wanted to start a hostel for young men of faith, and their initiative grew into a whole movement that still continues in Canada today. "The Holy Spirit institutionalizes the charisms of movements." He encouraged us to discover our spirituality, and thus discover Jesus Christ.

He listed four ways in which the Holy Spirit acts:
Power- he cited the tale of the Landowner in Mark, where the Landowner gives his servants a share in his authority to run the estate. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses, to perform deeds, etc.
Presence- the Holy Spirit is Jesus' continued presence in our lives; In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus commissions his disciples to "Go out and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit... Remember that I am with you always, until the end of time."
Paraclete/Protector- Parakletos means many things, but chiefly, it can mean assistant, advocate, protector. The Holy Spirit stands besides us and advocates for us.
Person- In Luke and Acts, the Holy Spirit is personified: it is "power from on high." Its presence is powerful.

He also noted that often, what appears to us as a negative (such as a tough situation, a tragedy, etc) becomes a positive by the power of the Holy Spirit.

One of his final comments, which came during question and answer, was his clarification of what holiness means. "Holiness is being sanctified in the world." This is something worth reflecting on. It's not simply going to Mass and following the 10 Commandments, but doing so while in dialogue with this world.

Christopher West's lecture on the Theology of the Body
He's pretty incredible. This post is long enough as it is, so I'll keep it sweet and simple: Our society has been settling for less than we deserve. We have separated God from our sexuality, and that's not good. The Bible itself shows that human sexuality and God are woven together, and in fact, that sex only finds its full meaning within the context of the Sacrament of Marriage. He's quite dynamic. You'd think you were watching an Evangelical preacher on Sunday morning television.

Thusday Catechesis and Events:
Catechesis from Bishop Greg O. Kelly
To summarize his main point, it is that we as Catholics need to develop our spirituality, and we also need to do so within the context of Church. The Church is a major instrument of receiving God's revelation and the Bread of Life, so we need to find ourselves within the Church.

"Christ is the sacrament of God, and the Church is the sacrament of Christ." This was a reference to Karl Rahner.

Benedict XVI's Arrival at World Youth Day
The Pope arrived via boat-a-cade to Barangaroo, and presided over a prayer service. His Homily addressed relativism and secularism in particular, and he reminded us young people that Christ's Good News is for everyone. To encourage us, he explained that the Apostles were ordinary men; they even denied Jesus. Yet, when empowered by the Holy Spirit, they became "transfixed on the Gospel." He also addressed the need for environmental awareness, sustainability, and true equality and protection of life.

I'm excited to hear him speak more. Today, tomorrow, and Sunday will be really great!

Today: Morning Catechesis, Stations of the Cross with Benedict XVI, Receive the Power Live (featuring Matt Maher, Darlene Zscheck and Hillsong United)


Thursday, July 17, 2008

WYD Closing Mass

If you want to watch the Closing Mass with Pope Benedict, it will be aired on EWTN on Saturday, July 19, at 7:00 EST, 4:00 Pacific Time.

Watch. I guarantee you that his Homily will be of the utmost importance.

Monday, July 14, 2008

WYD Starts Today!!!

Headed to Opening Mass; will update after Mass.

Love you all!

The Opening Mass for WYD was pretty incredible. There was definitely a different feeling with the influx of pilgrims from around the globe.

I really enjoyed the welcoming remarks of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the homily of George Cardianl Pell (Archbishop of Sydney), and the closing remarks of Cardinal Rylko (the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity). Here's a few snippets of their remarks:

P.M. Rudd noted that Christianity has formed Australia in many ways: they contributed schools, hospitals, services for the poor. It is not often that the head of a governing body affirms the contribution of religion to society. He also noted that faith and reason should indeed coexist, and complement each other (which is the crux of Benedict XVI's argument about contemporary thought).

Cardinal Pell's homily was simple and effective; he was neither too general nor too theological. In reflecting on the tale of the Bones in Ezekiel 37, Galatians 5, and Luke 8 (the Parable of the Sower), he emphasized responding to the theme of WYD by being open to the power of the Holy Spirit. He also challenged us to be practicing Catholics who are willing to take the next step and go deeper. "He also admonished us early to bring this home after WYD ends, because "the reality is that next week, we will all go home... When we part, let us never part from our loving God and his Son Jesus." Like the army of bones that came to new life, he encouraged us to become an immense army that will evangelize and serve.

Cardinal Rylko echoed his good friend John Paul II by saying, "You are the springtime of the world and of the Chuch... experiene a new Pentecost, and open the doors of your lives to the Holy Spirit."

Overall, it was a wonderful Mass. The theme song is quite powerful. You should check it out. Tomorrow we have catechesis and different stuff. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.
Thanks for following. Keep up the prayers!


Friday, July 11, 2008

God In All Things....

Hello Friends and Family!

This is Roxanne, reporting in after a wonderful week of MAGiS experiments here in Brisbane. I see that Michael has already done a wonderful job of summarizing our group experience, so I'll try to not be too repetitive.

Vincent SJ, Pat, Michael, Katy, Kristina, I were part of the Queensland 2 group, whose experiment theme was: "Surfing and Spirituality." Needless to say, we were all very excited to embark on this pilgrimage. Throughout the week, we went to see several different beautiful attractions around Brisbane where we sought to experience the glory, magnificence, and love of God in everything around us. Well, let me tell you, God is truly good and we were easily able to see all of His wonderful graces every day that we've been here -- from the kangaroo feedings, to the amazing star-filled nights, and to our daily interactions with all those around us...God was there every step of the way!

The biggest grace we all received, though, was seeing God in one another. Throughout this week, we have all grown in fellowship not only amongst ourselves, but also within the context of the larger Church community. We have met and formed strong bonds with people from all over the world; bonds that are continually being reinforced by our common faith and love for the Almighty. It has been an absolutely amazing experience seeing the vastness and diversity of the Catholic Church, and we can only hope to continue to experience the majesty of God's international congregation over the next couple of weeks.

We ask that you continue to pray for us and for all the youth of the Catholic Church, in general. As Dave mentioned before, the theme of this World Youth Day pilgrimage has centered around the Scripture reading from Acts 1:8 --> "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses..." Keeping this theme in mind, we will continue to endeavor to see the workings of God in everything around us and open our hearts to His abundant love, especially through our interactions with other pilgrims from all over the world. I, personally, will also continue to pray for the courage to listen to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit within me as we begin our time in Sydney. Hopefully, the journey will not conclude in Sydney, but rather, continue long after we've returned home to America.

Please know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers always. Thank you for all of the wonderful comments, emails, and well wishes....they are truly appreciated and they definitely uplift our hearts here in Australia! Above is a picture of most of us (unfortunately Vince didn't come with us into the city that day) at the Sydney Opera House. Within the next week, we will be working to try to put more pictures up for you all to enjoy and to reduce to distance between us. In the meantime, God bless and G'Day!