Celebrating the Opening Mass at WYD Krakow

Anel reflects on a packed first day in Krakow, as World Youth Day officially begins.

Wet Westminster pilgrims on the way to Błonia Park for the Opening Mass of World Youth Day Krakow (Photo: WYM)
Wet Westminster pilgrims on the way to Błonia Park for the Opening Mass of World Youth Day Krakow (Photo: WYM)

And this is just the beginning!

The first official day of WYD has finished. It has been brilliant; all the comments I get from my group are “It’s very well organised”, “I am loving it!”, “This is a unique moment” and “I’m so glad I came”. I think that like me, some of us had our doubts on how the pilgrimage was going to go. For some this is their first World Youth Day, for others this might be the second one, but what is true to all is that every WYD is different and they all come at different times in our lives.

Taking a selfie (Photo: WYM)
Taking a selfie (Photo: WYM)

We started by saying morning prayer. In my opinion, it was a moment where we finally connected and felt we were not just the group we had to hang around with, but the little, temporary family we have been assigned; that group we will care for and stick to until we go back to our long term families.

We had breakfast and free time during the morning and early afternoon. The group took the opportunity to head to the youth festival and wander around, be amazed by the many young Catholics wandering the streets and greeting each other, smiling and chanting, living the life to the full.

Pilgrims from around the world in the Main Square of Krakow (Photo: WYM)
Pilgrims from around the world in the Main Square of Krakow (Photo: WYM)

Then it was time to head towards the Opening Mass. We had some delays but, in the end, the group was back together and we started walking towards Błonia Park. Waving our union flags and chanting, we “marched” towards our area, where we would join the rest of Westminster group. We got some showers and there were puddles on the ground, but we kept going on, nothing would stop us from reaching our destination.

In our ponchos, we waved the flag to make sure everyone knew where to meet up for the Opening Mass (Photo: WYM)
In our ponchos, we waved the flag to make sure everyone knew where to meet up for the Opening Mass (Photo: WYM)

Mass was incredibly touching, seeing so many flags and so many people from so many different countries joining in a rite we all know make us all feel part of One Church. We are part of that body who has Christ as its head. Some of the girls were touched by different moments during Mass, but the one that stood out the most was the sign of Peace and Communion. We were lucky to have the priest next to us giving communion and watching all the faithful approaching with such respect and love to God was moving.

Oh, that energised us for the rest of the evening, we felt we had more energy than ever and stayed at the exit/entrance of the park greeting pilgrims from the different countries. At some point, it was not just an exchange of bracelets, but taking photos, cheering other countries and hugging, we even made little hymns for every flag we saw pass by. What a day!

The altar in Błonia Park (Photo: WYM)
The altar in Błonia Park (Photo: WYM)

I will not bother you more with our adventures, but will finish by mentioning the three questions the Cardinal gave us in his homily, just like Jesus asked Peter how much he loved him three times, the Cardinal asked us three questions: Who are we? Where are we coming from? What do we take from WYD? He did not mean what is our name or which country we come from but rather, how do we feel, how is Jesus calling us, what are the circumstances surrounding us and how are these great moments (WYD) going to define or make a change in our lives once we go back to our daily routines. How do we apply all these teachings Jesus gave us.

Pilgrims celebrate the end of the Opening Mass (Photo: WYM)
Pilgrims celebrate the end of the Opening Mass (Photo: WYM)

Thus, I leave you with the same questions, how do we put in practice on a day-to-day basis what we are learning here today, can we take that sense of care and friendship to our schools, offices and parishes? For now, let’s rest and be ready for more tomorrow. After all, our help comes in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.