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By Ma. Teresa Gayondato
Matet Gayondato, from Cebu, is a member of the Teresian Association (www.institucionteresiana.org) and is based in Palermo, Sicily, the large island being ‘kicked’ by the ‘toe’ of Italy.
I feel very privileged that in twenty years of WYD, 1985 to 2005, I’ve participated in three of the world encounters, in Paris in 1997, in Rome in 2000 and the recent one in Cologne, Germany, last August. Those of Denver, Manila and Toronto I joined in spirit, and in a particular involvement from a distance, that in Manila in 1995 when I was based in Milan, Italy.
Beyond the barriers of language
Every WYD has made an impact on many young people, even non-Catholics, all over the world. What I found very creative and responsive to the signs of the times in WYD in Cologne was the innovation called ‘Under Construction Day’ in the different dioceses in Germany before WYD proper. I was with the young people of the Teresian Association from Italy. Our group was hosted by families in two parishes in Munich. During this day dedicated to social action, every group of pilgrims was engaged in an activity. Among these was getting ready the site for the WYD Tree like prepare for the Mass for all the pilgrims in Munich, helping in the kitchen of the parish, organizing games for children and the elderly. The young people really appreciated doing something for others and going beyond the barriers of language. In evaluating the experience, one girl shared that at first she didn’t want to volunteer for the preparation of the games for the elderly but then playing them and receiving a ‘big’ smile had given her much more instead.
Guests are a blessing
What was really touching was the hospitality of our hosts whose warm and generous welcome showed me how the diocese and families desired and made sure that guests really felt at home. They prepared our breakfast, sandwiches for our baon, and even gave us the keys of their homes. Their concrete gestures spoke of guests as a blessing. In fact the Mass guide for Munich Day highlighted ‘WYD 2005 – Guests are a Blessing.’ This reflects the concept in the Old Testament of the pilgrim who drops by a family being considered God’s presence, as God himself visiting his people.
A special song was also composed with the title Gaste sind Segen, ‘Guests are a Blessing.’ Being received as a guest who was a gift made those days of encounter as real as the experience of the first Christian communities in the Acts of the Apostles. Indeed we were all blessed, pilgrims and hosts alike, as the prayer at the back of the Mass guide expressed:
In every glance from friendly eyesspan>
may the Lord light up in you.
In every good word
may His word reach out to you.
In every gesture of friendship
may his loving-kindness be shown to you.
In every piece of bread offered you
may his power be shown to you.
And with every sign of His love
May He bless you.
AlAll came as one
Being a guest in the heart of the European continent reminded me of its past tainted by the horrors of the shoah or Holocaust when the Nazis murdered more than six million Jews – and more than five million others - and the division of Christians into Catholics and Protestants. As Pope Benedict rightly puts it, ‘It is actually consoling to realize that there is darnel in the Church. In this way, despite all our defects, we can still hope to be counted among the disciples of Jesus, who came to call sinners.’ In his ecumenical address he spoke of the concrete steps to bring us closer together through the purification of memory. Indeed the very special and ‘prophetic’ feature of this WYD was the gestures of dialogue and mutual respect between Jews and Christians, Christians and Muslims, Protestants and Catholics. Families and communities of different faiths welcomed the young pilgrims from all over the world into their homes.
The human family
Discovering the Jewish roots of Christianity has been a beautiful experience for me. In an atmosphere of ecumenical spirit and inter-faith dialogue, these efforts toward reconciliation in diversity through WYD can be considered, thanks be to God, a training ground and first-hand experience for our younger generation. The visit to the concentration camp in Dachau, to the European parliament in Brussels, the days in the Archdiocese of Munich, made us realize that we all belong to something much bigger: the human family where violence is transformed into love, and death into life. Pope Benedict affirms that, ‘The Church is like a human family, but at the same time it is also the great family of God, through which He establishes an overarching communion and unity that embraces every continent, culture and nation.’
Path to reconciliation
Moreover, the Holy Father calls and challenges us to direct our gaze not only to the past, but also to look forward to the tasks that await us today and tomorrow for ‘our rich common heritage and our fraternal and more trusting relations call upon us to join in giving an ever more harmonious witness and to work together on the practical level for the defence and promotion of human rights and the sacredness of human life, for family values, for social justice and for peace in the world’ and continue to seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other’s identity.
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