Esta es la juventud del papa!

“We are the youth of the pope!

That was the chant, in Spanish, all throughout the airfield where Pope Benedict XVI joined us in a prayer vigil on Saturday night and Mass on Sunday morning to bring World Youth Day 2011 to a close.  We endured rain and wind, powerful enough that demolished the tent chapels arranged around the field, delayed adoration, and ruined the hosts that would be used for Mass the next morning.  Despite that, though, we were again being living witnesses to what it means to be Catholic, to be the universal Church.  The 1 million people, the multitude of languages, praying together as the Body of Christ, drove home that point as nothing else could.

– John Smestad Jr.

World Youth Day 2011: Attempt 1 and Day 1

Hello again, everyone.  Or should I say, “Hola!”  We are finally in Madrid, Spain, after several difficulties.  We were supposed to have arrived in Spain on August 15th, however, due to a mechanical error on the plane, we never actually left New Orleans.  We spent a wonderful day in the New Orleans airport learning patience and trust at the hands of the Lord.  On the upside, however, we were able to celebrate a beautiful liturgy in honor of Our Lady on the feast of the Assumption.

Having arrived in Madrid on August 16th, we were able to join the other millions of youth from around the world to celebrate the opening Mass of World Youth Day.  All I can say is that it was a wonderful witness to the universality of the Catholic Church and the youthfulness of our faith!  It was an amazing experience to look out on the sea of people and not be able to see the sidewalk for what seemed like miles in all directions.  Although it was a bit distracting at times due to the large number of people present and the constant pushing that took place due to people moving from one place to another during the Mass, the Lord was glorified none the less.  And at the end of the Mass, a relic of the blood of Blessed John Paul II was placed on the altar before all the pilgrims present.

One thing I am coming to learn from this experience is that the Lord is very generous with his graces when we ask for it.  Grace is a gift from the Lord, and salvation is the greatest gift of all.  Everything we do from the moment we reach the age of reason to the moment we take our last breath should be aimed at reaching our heavenly reward—at glorifying the Lord, and at loving His people because He loves us.  If we give ourselves completely to God, and I mean completely and unreservedly, He will bless us abundantly, more than we could ever imagine, just perhaps not in the way we might have expected.

Yesterday’s adventures, although not planned out like we would have liked, resulted in our meeting a young man from North Carolina who was traveling alone to Madrid, Spain.  He had just recently graduated from high school and was meeting the rest of his diocese in Madrid.  At the age of 18, I imagine that he was a little nervous to be traveling solo in a foreign country, but having met up with him, we were able to “adopt” him for part of the trip and help him along his way.  As it turns out, he plans to enter the seminary once he finishes his undergraduate studies.  Truly, God is gracious to those who are generous with themselves and with their time.  May we never shy away from sharing our faith with others and may we always seek to give glory and praise to the Lord in all we do!  Please pray for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, for as you know, we need holy and devoted priest to lead the Catholic Church into the culture of tomorrow.  Remain close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

In Christ,

Deacon Kurt

P.S. Here a few pictures from the airport in New Orleans.  One is of the entire group waiting while we found out that we did not have a flight on our first attempt.  Another is a picture of all the seminarians and the one priest who are on the trip.  And the third image is an image of several members of the group patiently praying and going along with whatever God has in store–the motto of our trip thus far.