Throughout my whole time i was in Poland, Pope John Paul II’s famous quote to the youth:”Do not be afraid” constantly echos to me because my whole journey & adventures in Poland there was one thing that was constantly behind my mind and that was being afraid. From departing Brunei airport to losing my passport in Frankfurt i was afraid. In the same way leaving my Host family in Czeladź adds into my fear when going to Krakow.
Afraid but thanks to JPII’s quote i was prepared and was ready to be with the 3 million youths for WYD.
click these two links below to see vids of how incredible WYD 2016 was!
25 July – Arriving to Krakow, City of Saints
Arriving by train to Krakow there was already a sea of youths where all of us here were called, gathered, and were exited to be here for one another and for WYD.
From here onwards Krakow, The City of Saints felt more like Krakow, City of Youths because there was so many of us! The tram and bus stations were filled with youth, cafe & restaurants were filled with youths. Every church we went to its impossible not to see a teen kneeling and pray. The air was filled with songs, music, and cheers of different languages from youths all over the world. I was able to find Nuns and Priest who were the same age as i am. with all of this happening i was glad to be apart of this mass of youth and exited for the upcoming days.
We went to St. Joseph’s Church to get our Pilgrim kit and to meet with our new host family for our 1 week stay in Krakow. Surprisingly and fortunately for me, i was hosted by a youth in Krakow. My host, Filip S. was kind enough to give me a tour to the whole of Krakow by foot to familiarise myself with the city because everything was in walking distance and teaching me on using the tram. Thanks to Filip i was able to know and navigate myself in Krakow alone.
Pope John Paul II first dialogue was in 1979, when he joked: “When I was here in Kraków in the old days, I was quite a decent person. I never climbed up windows. Now look what’s happened to me.” He continued the talks every time he visited, and Benedict and now Francis are continuing the tradition.
26 July – sanctuary of Divine Mercy & Opening Mass at Krakow Błonia Park
After settling on the first day, we decided to go where Krakow, Poland is known for: The sanctuary of Divine Mercy, where St Faustine Kowolska and the birth of Divine Mercy was.
The height o f the second day was the opening mass of the WYD. that means literally million of youth will be gathered here. even tho i was part of the million i still could not grasp how enormous of an area we’ve occupied and news were reporting although how big the Park was it overflowed will with so many of us.
The walk to Błonia Park was an overwheleming experience in itself. Imagine the whole city building was instructed to shut down and all roads were blocked just for million of youth, literally the roads were jammed packed because of us. even tho it was raining the sounds and cheers of youth was able to beat the sound of the thunder.
the huge size of the park is no joke and we were situated and placed by sectors and our group were able to be in Sector C1 (yellow), which was a very good position where it was right infront of the Alter.
However, stationed at C1, my day was never a normal day. I received and assigned to a ticket, where i will be representing one of the handful youth who will be sitting exactly right next to the altar at the very stage.
I could not contained myself that day. i wasn’t ready to received such assignment, thankfully, “Do not be afraid” still echos in my mind. Today, i would not like to say that out of millions of important people and youth that could represent on the podium, instead i was given the ticket, instead i’d like to say that out of all odds The Vicariateof BD is finally representing.
The stage was huge and th image of Jesus was large it could be seen a 1km away.
One of the privileges of being at the stage was that we were able to see and experience the mass right infront of us. Personally, what made it great was that we were literally next to the Relics of St. Faustina and St John Paul II.
To see the full coverage of the Opening Mass World Youth Day
27 July – CATECHESIS
On the next three days during the midday we went through catechesis in Kościół Sw. Katarzyny (St Catherine’s Church)
Coincidentally we were able to have a short Praise & Worship session with Tony Melendez, the american guitar player & singer who was born without arms.
“You can’t give mercy if you haven’t receive mercy yet. You have to receive mercy first if you want to give mercy”
The Bishop of Kentucky was giving the message of that we are God’s instrument to receive, show, & give mercy. and the first thing that we have to do before giving mercy is to receive mercy. and we can only receive mercy the right way is through the Sacrament of reconciliation.
What gave a huge impression on me on that day was a catechesis made by The Bishop of Miami, where he was talking about we should no be afraid of doing the works of mercy. This struck me because after that he was resonating and talking about JPII’s “Do not be afraid” quote. God’s knows our thoughts and that day He know what i needed to heard. The talk later reaffirms on my fears and limitations i kept myself during the WYD and hearing “Do not be afraid” was the strength i need to carry through.
28 July – Papal Welcome
Today’s the day the Pope himself came to Krakow. The thought of being in the same place and area with the successor of St Peter seems just too real for me and the likely chance to get a glimpse of Pope Francis was actually possible.
Since the Pope himself arrived in Poland, maximum security was in checked. there was more police and army men insight. which gave me a thought. “with so many people in one place with an important international religious leader, things could go bad”.
Before the Pope came, news broke out an Islamic State-inspired assassins slit the throat of a Catholic priest and seriously wounded a woman in a church in Normandy, France, and were themselves killed by French security forces. (the news here) and there was rumors on potential bombing attack during WYD that some pilgrims did went home early.
Of course hearing such news, breaks my heart. Was i really afraid? yes. Fear got a hold of me while i walk to Błonia Park. While praying for safety “Do not be Afraid” was the answer and still ringing in my mind. I took courage, if any bad were to happen that day. i was ready as Christ was ready for the cross. Fortunately, such bad news did not come to reality on that day.
Personally, one of the highlights during of the papal welcoming was the opportunity to represent and to be represented. It was the time where everyone was eager to meet Pope Francis and all the flags of the world you could ever imagine was high up in every size in every number to painting your face of your country’s flag to wearing one’s national costume.
To represent, we chose to use our cultural costume. when the Pope arrived to the park via Popemobile, it was able to stop awhile in each sector to greet all the pilgrims and it stop the quite long in our part of the sector. When the popemobile came and saw the Holy Father, immediately i took off the blue parka i wore to kept me warm and wore only my “baju Burung” which leave little to no imagination of my whole upper body exposed to the cold. I didn’t care, at that moment i wanted to showcase my cultural identity and the fact he did notice even just a brief moment felt so amazing. and to able to represent my heritage was a great honor.
To be represented was the best part of that day was when Pope Francis was greeted by a group of youth representative speaking in different languages. Surprisingly a youth from Philippines was giving the first welcoming speech in english. The moment she took the opportunity and said “Dear Holy father, MABUHAI” the sea of crowds cheered and i knew those cheering were those of the pilgrims from The Philippines and Filipino pilgrims from different countries. we cheered as well with other South East Asian countries cheered as well, to hear such familiar word was enough to shed tears of joy. Although i am not filipino but as a SEA asian i was proud to be one and to be represented to the whole world felt great.
29 July – Way of the cross
The way of the cross was in Błonia Park and this time we got used to the route to get there no complication on getting lost what so ever. the day was sunny and a great time to be outside.
The way of the cross was phenomenal where all of each of the stations were depicted by a short skit and was related to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy i really recommend to see the full video coverage if it here: WYD Way of the cross
throughout the week in Krakow, Poland we went to St, Mary Basilica at Krakow’s market square.
I’ve soon realized the churches in Poland are uniquely different from churches from diffrent parts of the world. Unlike churches in Italy and Frances, where the churches are adorned outside and inside. All the churches i’ve seen in Poland has a red brick wall exterior however the true beauty lies inside. Just like the Catholic Faith the true beauty is seen when one comes inside of the Church.
30th July – Pilgrimage to Vigil site, WYD Concert, & Vigil night with Pope Francis.
As i’ve said about the first week in Poland, a pilgrimage would’ve not be a pilgramage if you do not walk the far distance and everyday when we were in Krakow, we walk at least 5km per day to get where we have to. Walking to Campus Misericordiae was the longest walk of 15km (20km if you got lost in the crowd) and walking with millions of pilgrims to the same site would be a series of events.
The Vigil was to start at 7:30pm but we decided to walk at 9am to Campus. Thinking it was way to early to begin the pilgrimage but while walking the 15km i was very wrong, some pilgrims has already started the journey way early then we were. Which i’ve discovered was a good thing, everyone wanted to get good spots and avoid getting stuck (or lost) in a sea of people.
During the night, the WYD Concert began before a few hours the vigil starts. It was left with just the 3 youngest member in the group: Mon, Andrzej and i to keep an eye on the tent.
The concert was the greatest Praise and Worship by all means. From the famous Cristina Scuccia the Italian Num who sang and won in The Voice Italia to TGD, Kuba Badach singing”Błogosław duszo moja Pana” and other notable Christian singers in one place.
Watch the full World Youth Day Concert here.
The adoration after the WYD concert was an amazing experience in itself. the tabernacle infront of the center stage was the biggest tabernacle that i’ve saw my whole life.
What touches me the most was after the Adoration was when all the candle light was lit and everyone went quite. To think of 3 million people, it is impossible to make all of us to be quite. NO. wrong. That night, 3 million people was still silence all you could hear was wind blowing nothing else. Why all of a sudden of quite? Because we knew Christ was in our mist and all we could do was adore Him.
Pope Francis gave an amazing message to the millions of youth who attended the night’s vigil in correspond to the recent terrors the world is experiencing “We refuse to be terrorized.” He said “Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its name is family.”
“We celebrate the fact that coming from different cultures, we have come together to pray. Let our best word, our best argument, be our unity in prayer,” he said. That was what we did in WYD despite the potential terror attack we could have experience we all came as one in prayer.
Personally, what made my WYD experience amazing was the songs they sang where most of the songs were mostly Polish. The words and lyrics in Polish are amazing especial the song “Jesteśmy piękni” thanks to Andrezje where he translates the song for me.
Thanks to Andrezje, i still sing “Jesteśmy piękni” as a prayer and still learning other polish songs that was sang in WYD.
31st July – Final & Closing Mass for WYD
It was so cold during the night i constantly wake up 5 time throughout the night. My feet were freezing even with socks and shoes on, water condenses to my pants and freezes my legs and the two layer of shirt and two jacket was not able to sufficient warm throughout the night and having no hair on top of my head doesn’t help.
Then a thought came to my mind “The homeless experience this cold everyday” which finally made me why Shelter the homeless is in the works of mercy. After the realization, every cold wake i had i don’t care about the cold because i’m just experiencing this a short while but pray to those who are homeless who are experiancing this constantly.
Finally the closing celebration began at 10:30am and there’s it was a sunny day. (too sunny)
During the homily of the final mass Pope Francis said this: “People may laugh at you because you believe in the gentle and unassuming power of mercy. But do not be afraid. Think of the motto of these days: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7).” Again “Do not be afraid” echos even in the final mass.
Personally the highlight of the final day of WYD was when all of us sang the WYD official theme song “Błogosławieni miłosierni” aka “Blessed the Merciful”. the song was sang in all language and when it finally say the last chorus in Polish every one of every country sang the song as an anthem in Polish and you could hear the sea of voice singing in unison.
Finally after Mass has ended and the WYD 2016 is officially comes to a close, Pope Francis announces the next host of World Youth Day in 2019: PANAMA
With everything comes to an end our adventure in Poland goes as well. We went back to Czeladź the next day and the day after that we went to the airport and began our journey back home to Brunei.
The journey back to Brunei was not as exciting at the journey to Poland because i was still tired after what have happened. Also i was emotionally absent throughout the 34 hours going back home to Brunei because i heart and mind was still in thinking of the host families that welcomed me into their homes, the youth I’ve met and encounter in WYD, the churches i’ve visited and the sites i’ve seen and the wonderful Polish food i ate everyday. However i was glad i was able to experience WYD and experiencing it in Krakow, Poland made it even more special.
If you were to ask me if i would go through the long 33 hour journey back to Poland again, without a doubt i would say yes and this time I’m no longer afraid.