World Youth Day

 lightening at Cuatro Vientos

If you are looking for a miracle as grandiose as the pillar of fire, as big as the divided red sea, and as awesome as the burning bush, then World Youth Day Youth Vigil in Cuatro vientos is not for you. Last night 1.4 Million people witness some moments of miracle, ordeinary to some, but extraordinary to those who saw it along the way that not even a surprise thunderstorm or a powerful wind cannot stop the program to continue. It was a test of faith and prayer. The pilgrims arrived there as early as noon. From noon till the afternoon before the Pope left the nunicature to visit the disabled young people, the sun rose so hight that it emitted 41°C, probably the hottest of all world Youth Days. Pilgrims were suffering from heat, firefighters were left and right spraying pilgrims with fire hose just so they can cool off from the severe heat of the day. Bottled water were distributed but came to a halt when supply decreased. Many pilgrims were asking for water either for drinking and shower. But the enormous crowd was too much to attend to. Until at around 7pm (Madrid time) clouds gradually hovered over Cuatro Vientos and covered the sun to the relief of many.

Then Pope Benedict XVI began his journey towards Instituto San Jose where he met the young people with disabilities. He arrived at the institution 30 minutes late. At that exact same moment, dark clouds began to appear over Cuatro Vientos. Pilgrims started twitting on twitter their fear of the rain because most of them were not prepared and only brought sleeping bags. Pope Benedict then arrived at Cuatro vientos, already delayed as scheduled.

The program proceeded as planned: Choir sang glorious hymns, Pope meets Spanish Prince, Pope waved to crowds, crowds shouts affection back to pope, Pilgrim cross and icon processioned at the stage, Spanish Cardinal addresses Pope, 5 young people from all over the world asks Pope some questions (one of them is a Filipino) and then it was Pope Benedict’s turn to deliver his message.

Miracle or not?

Then suddenly just a few seconds after Pope Benedict greeted the crowd “My dear young friends”, the sky began to open and drizzle people underneath its massive clouds. The drizzle soon became rain which progressed into a thunderstorm. The rain was so sudden and so powerful that the Pope’s garb and his paper where his speech was written was so drenched and soaked with water. The Pope was consulted by his aide. Pope Benedict decided to stay at his seat. He was determined to continue and wait as long as he can, only if the rain would stop.

5 minutes, 10 and even 15 minutes passed, the rain was still pouring heavily. The wind was still angry. But it did not stop almost 1.4 million young people from clapping, shouting affection to the Pope and singing songs of hope and joy just so the Pope could have the courage to continue his speech. Even the volunteers, young people and international delegates seating at the side of the massive stage joined the crowd in the field in chants and songs. Most of them wearing formal suits and traditional national clothes, but they were also standing in ovation, clapping, chanting, smiling and enjoying the moment as their smiles and joys drown the melancholy of the weather.

Until a voice was heard over the microphone. It was the masters of ceremonies. He was asking young people to pray so that rain would stop. Pilgrims began to chant, more louder than before, others were standing still praying in the silence of their hearts, while most of them, expressed their prayer through songs and looking up to the dark sky as if begging God to hear their plea. The faith and prayer of these young people, who were subjected to ridicule, mockery and torment days leading to this event, was so powerful that if the Prophet Elijah was there at Cuatro Vientos, he will surely bite the dust out of these young people’s courage and faith. Even as I write this down, emotion fills my heart. I can’t explain the faith and the joy that I saw last night. It was so powerful that even a natural disaster cannot destroy the firm foundation in these young people. If only protesters would attack them last night, surely the Catholic Church will have the biggest and largest canonization of saints in the future.

It was a never before seen public display of faith. I was thinking last night, this is probably what the early Christians look like during the persecution of Nero when they are led to the lions to feast on their flesh. They are all smiling and joyful, chanting songs, full of hope and faith despite the sufferings they are facing. It’s not easy to to be heated for hours then dreched in cool water: it breaks the strength of a material. But even though the young people were subjected to the extremities of hot and cold, their faith never broke.

The Pope was the literal symbol of Hope for the young people last night, one reason why they stayed unflinching under the rain. The Pope stayed with the young people even at the middle of the storm. It was remarkable to see, the Pastor and the Sheep braving the storm–One-together- Young People and the Pope TOGETHER!

Then the miracle happened. And I thought the resilience of the young people was already the Miracle God wants the world to see.

Just seconds after the emcee asked the people to pray, the rain weakened. Then it stopped completely. Even the wind did not budge nor blow a whisper. It was calm. It was inexplicable. Call it random, call it chance, but for the 1.4 million people there, it was a miracle.

The Pope continued his speech, this time with an impromptu and cutting most of his homily:

“Young people, thank you for your joy! Thank you for your resistance! Your strength is greater than the rain! The Lord, with the rain, sends us many blessings. Also in this, you are an example.”

As the pilgrims responded with more cheers, so does Pope Benedict’s affection and admiration for the solid resolute of the young people to stay and be still amid obstacles, resounded over the microphone. Prophetically, Isaiah said the same thing:

“Yet just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down And do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, Giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it.Yes, in joy you shall go forth, in peace you shall be brought home; Mountains and hills shall break out in song before you, all trees of the field shall clap their hands. “ (Isaiah 55:10-12)

Omitting most of his homily and only reading his greetings in different languages the Pope continued:

“with all of our adventures,” will be an “unforgettable experience” in your lives. “Guard the flame which God has lit in your hearts tonight. Never let it go out, renew it each day, share it with your contemporaries who live in darkness and who are seeking a light for their way,”

The program continued without any rain nor wind, even during the adoration of the blessed sacrament was rain-less. It was also amazing, if not a miracle, that at the right time when benediction was already starting, not a single soul was making noise. Everyone was still and silent. everyone was calm. not even a sound of breath was heard.

How 1.4 million simultaneous keep quiet without anyone asking them to is trully beyond me. Only God can silence the heart of people.

The atmosphere was so sacred that many pilgrims, looking and gazing at Jesus in front laid on a gigantic 2 meter high monstrance from Toledo cant help themselves but cry.

Then the benediction ended. The Pope concluded hi vigil with the youth with these words:

“Dear young people, together we have experienced an adventure. Firm in the faith in Christ, you have resisted the rain. Before leaving I want to tell all of you good night. Rest well. Thank you for the sacrifice you are making. And which I don’t doubt you will offer generously to the Lord. We’ll see each other tomorrow, God willing. I await you all. I thank you all for the marvelous example that you’ve given. Just like tonight, with Christ you will always be able to take on the tests of life. Don’t forget that. Thank you to all!”

Then just as he left, the rain poured again. As if the rain just gave way to Our Lord’s presence in the Holy Eucharist.

If there is one thing that God wants to test in these young people in the rain that poured last night, it is the Pilgrims resilence and conviction to take to heart the message of world youth day 2011. Because last night, 1.4 Million pilgrims have just proven to the lord and to the world, that when they stood there despite the winds and rain, they mean just one thing: “Rooted and Built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith.”

If this is not a miracle, I don’t know what this is.

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