What a start to World Youth Day!

Robert gives his impressions on the beginning of WYD Krakow.

World Youth Day pilgrims in the Main Square of Krakow (Photo: WYM)
World Youth Day pilgrims in the Main Square of Krakow (Photo: WYM)

I have just returned from Błonia Park. Wow. What a day. A long day. A joy filled day. A wet day.

I took a picture of the World Youth Day countdown clock, on the side of the Mariacki Basilica, just off the main square. This clock has been there for months, counting down the days until World Youth Day. When I took my picture, it had just turned past the three hour mark…

Westminster pilgrims wrapped themselves up in their WYD-themed ponchos (Photo: WYM)
Westminster pilgrims wrapped themselves up in their WYD-themed ponchos (Photo: WYM)

Then the torrential rain began. It rained and it rained. Suddenly flurries of red, blue and yellow came out of bags and the pilgrims where swaddled in their cagoules courtesy of the forward-thinking WYD preparation people.

We marched through the ever-fuller streets with water pouring from the heavens and I realised that the people around me were still singing and laughing. Not one or two of them… All of them. Like life was a jolly game and this was part of it. One girl later said to me, “You just need to think of the raindrops as blessings.”

We made our way in Błonia Park, all very wet (Photo: WYM)
We made our way in Błonia Park, all very wet (Photo: WYM)

As we were herded into a VERY big field with a sweeping tide of other people, the seemingly endless sea of volunteers were handing out water and plastic bags to sit on when we got to the field. I wanted to make them feel valued so I was careful to sit on the bottle of water too.

As the Mass started, the rain stopped.

The highlight for me was the music. It really did seem a step upmarket from the previous World Youth Days; and the Gloria was brilliant. There were no obscenely long songs… No interminable waits; just two slightly larger-than-life entertainers before the main event. The music was heavily classical; really majestic and incredibly loud.

The rain had stopped and the Mass had begun (Photo: WYM)
The rain had stopped and the Mass had begun (Photo: WYM)

The gospel was Jesus, post resurrection, asking Peter if he really loved him. The bishop who gave the homily said at one point, “This important question he is asking you again today, and it is relevant. Jesus says to you young people, ‘Do you love me?’ And what is your response?” He says it today, “Do you love me?” And what do you reply?

An estimated 500,000 pilgrims were in attendance at Błonia Park (Photo: WYM)
An estimated 500,000 pilgrims were in attendance at Błonia Park (Photo: WYM)

Personally, I think that JC missed his cue on that one because there was a beam of light that hit the altar during the Sanctus, and I totally would have put it there.

Or then again, maybe it was just right. With the final song ringing in our ears and a rather ominous thunderstorm warning appearing on the screen, we hurried away to find food, in a long train that had all the hallmarks of a triumphant army. Trumpets, flags, singing… and more high fives than a casino on a mountain top.

What a great start to World Youth Day.