August 2005

We’re back!

The flight got back to Montreal right on time, and we left the customs area to cheers and hugs from our families and friends. I am sure a great many stories are now being told to those we left behind about our various World Youth Day experiences. I am also sure that we are all looking forward to a good night of sleep! Many thanks to all my fellow pilgrims who made this such a great experience.

On our way

It is presently 5:15 am here in Brussels. We are gathering our group and our things in order to take the bus to the airport. I can hardly believe this trip is over. There have been so many wonderful moments, along with a few challenges. It was totally worth it. See you at 10:00 am Montreal time!


Mike Gentile and I headed out this morning for the Leuvin Catholic University. We just walked to the train station, hopped on for Louvain, and walked around until we found the faculty of theology. I met Dr. Peter De May, and we chatted ecclesiology and ecumenism for about an hour and a half. A nice exchange between collegues.

In Brussels

We made it! Most of us slept on the bus from Germany, and we arrived in Brussels early this afternoon. We walked around a bit, and then took a bus tour of the city. Brussels is really beautiful — we were hugely impressed. Unfortunately, some members of our group got distracted, so I had to double back for them along with our tour guide, who then proceeded to give us an even more extensive tour of the city! This included a wonderful view of the cathedral, which is an interesting mix of ancient and modern styles. Quite worth it.

Here comes the rain again

This morning we had a chance to sleep in, but some of us came early for some time before the Blessed Sacrament. We prayed morning prayer, and then headed to Cologne.

After establishing our meeting point, some of us headed to the Rhine where I gave (at their request) a catechesis on suffering. We then grabbed a bite to eat, and I headed to a bookstore to buy some German liturgical books. We all met up at our agreed location for our tour of the Cathedral.

And then came the rain. I’m praying our vigil location won’t turn into a mud pit.

Small correction

In my last post I meant to write “giving US lots of time for prayer”, not “giving UP lots of time”. Just one letter of difference, but it changes the meaning completely! It is a correction I’m happy to make, because it really was a great time of prayer.

The best day

Well let me tell you about yesterday.

We got to catechism early, giving up a chance to have lots of morning prayer. The talk was given by the Archbishop of Halifax, and was followed by a big screen live presentation of the Pope’s arrival. Them came mass, and a moment of decision: do we try and make it to Cologne for the Pope’s arrival, knowing how insane the crowds would be? Five of us formed “Team Insanity” and headed out.

At the cathedral

I’m at the square next to the Cologne cathedral. We are awaiting the arrival of the Pope, and the bells are ringing in the background. We can see his progress on a big screen – at the moment he is boarding his boat for a trip up the Rhine. More later!

Morning catechism

This morning we took the train to nearby Leverkusen for the first English catechism session, which was led by the Cardinal archbishop of Washington DC. He was really good I must say, and in general things were better organized. This time I got to concelebrate the mass which followed, and you’d be surprised how prayerful 12,000 people can be. After mass a big chunk of the group headed to Cologne for various events, but I headed back to my host family to meet up with some of my relatives (have I ever mentioned I’m half German?). They found me, and so off to supper!

The opening mass (Tue night)

What do you call a mass with 60,000 people? Par for the course at World Youth Day! There were simultaneous masses in Düsseldorf, Bonn and Köln, with over 200,000 in attendance. As for ours, I was not able to concelebrate, so I prayed from the nosebleed section along with a couple of our pilgrims. It was very nice, but to be honest after 2.5 hours of straight German I was ready to head home. I was a bit nervous because some of our group had become separated, but everyone got home safely. All’s well that ends well.

Update from Fulda

I’m taking a brief break from hearing confessions and I thought I’d drop a note. We had a huge opening outdoor Mass in front of the cathedral – I was one of at least 100 priests. It poured rain, but spirits were high. Afterwards I visited the interior of the cathedral, and to make a long story short I was soon hearing confessions. There is presently a concert going on outside with the Franciscans of the Renewal so business is slow right now, but I really do love hearing confessions. Time to get back at it!

Messages from home

We have recieved several messages from friends at home and well-wishers from as far as British Columbia. Your support has really touched the pilgrims. God bless you!

If the person who sent me the urgent message could offer a few more details, I’d appreciate it, as I have no access to regular internet. Thanks!

Sat 3:15 pm – Tour of the city

The old city was built around a castle, giving everything a very medieval feel. This was an important city during the Reformation (the very first Protestant university was founded here), which in our case meant the city guide made a crack against the Vatican! Very low class, especially given the WYD presence. But the correction I offered made for some good discussions with the pilgrims, who wanted to know the truth of the matter. See, God really can draw straight with crooked lines!

Visiting a saint

I’m presently with the group in Marburg at the church of St. Elizabeth of Thüringen (aka of Hungary) She was a princess who became a Franciscan in the 13th century, and is one of my favourite saints. The church was run by the Teutonic knights for years, and I’m actually in the crypt now. We will be continuing now with a tour of the town.

More on our pub visit

I was chatting with Father Bumblebee this morning (the name our pilgrims call our host pastor) and he told me how pleased he was last night to be able to meet with so many young people from his own parish there! And they were really drawn to him, wondering why he was there with us and asking all kinds of questions. He hopes it has made a good first contact, and he hopes to get some ideas how to continue with youth ministry. I love how being part of the Church means sharing our gifts. Perhaps we do have something to offer Germany!


After a delicious lunch our hosts put our new knowledge of the town to the test with an event called a Stadtrallye, sort of like a scavenger hunt with different themes, such as making candles for the evening mass. We then had coffee and cake, and wrote intercessions for the mass. The pastor has asked me to preach, so preparing that is my task right now. Say a prayer for me and for all of us!

Supper et al

I just came from a delicious supper puton for us by the parish. The pilgrims are a bit tired but are in great spirits. They have quite a program worked out for us the next few days, with a good mix of spiritual and cultural activities. But for now I’m hitting the hay. Stay tuned!


The Mass truly is the moment of unity of the Catholic faith, and we felt it tonight. Our hosts arranged a bilingual service, and the pastor welcomed me as a brother and invited of to concelebrate. I love the unity faith brings. And my German is improving fast!

In Neustadt

We hopped a bus from Brussels to the diocese of Fulda, where we will be spending the first few days. I’m in Neustadt, staying at the home of a parishioner who is also a policeman. Egon and I have recieved a warm welcome.

The plane ride

“Welcome to Air Sardines. We hope you aren’t too tall or your knees might choke you to death!”

You get the picture. But we got to Brussels in one piece, and that’s what matters. The plane was packed with pilgrims, and other passengers were amazed when they learned where all these young people were going and why. A great moment to share the faith!


Audioblogger will let me post voice messages from Germany. Kinda like having a live reporter on site. One drawback is that these messages will not have titles or text until I can edit the posts from within the usual Blogger interface. Still, I think it is pretty cool — another way to keep in touch from World Youth Day.

Off to World Youth Day

I’m off to World Youth Day today. We start our pilgrimmage in the diocese of Fulda, and then transfer to Düsseldorf for the main events. I hope to see some of my family while I am there.

While in Germany I will be able to blog from my cell phone, although I will not be able to edit the posts (so if they have tyops typos you’ll have to put up with them). I’ll also be able to receive text messages through the form found at the top of this page.

Please pray for us!