World Youth Day

By Samuel Goyvaerts

Samuel Goyvaerts is a Belgian university student. He wrote in the September-October issue about playing the part of Magellan in a Filipino celebration in his town.

I won’t forget quickly the experience of going to Cologne last August with 1,300 other young people from Flanders, the Dutch(Flemish)-speaking part of Belgium, for World Youth Day. One, for example, welcomed 100 young people from the Canadian diocese that had hosted its young participants in WYD 2002 in Toronto.

In my diocese we worked on the theme of the Three Kings, reflecting the theme of WYD XX We have come to worship him (Mt 2:2), based on the tradition that the relics of the Magi are in Cologne Cathedral. We walked for three days, ‘following the star that would lead us to the newborn Jesus,’ searching, sharing, praying and celebrating together. We slept in a different place each night. Our group of about 150 included two from Chile, a young man from India, two pilgrims from Israel, two from Brazil and a young woman and priest from Rwanda. We learned a lot about these countries: how it was to be part of the very small minority of Christians in India, for example, living together with Hindus and others. We discovered how difficult it was to reach everybody in the rough Andes Mountains of Chile and teach catechism to youngsters in very small, isolated villages. The pain caused by genocide and child-soldiers in Rwanda was another reality we came in touch with.

After five days of preparation in the five Flemish dioceses we all gathered with in Scherpenheuvel, the most important Marian pilgrimage site in Flanders. Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop of Mechelin-Brussel, celebrated Mass with us. Afterwards there was a youth festival but we left early in the morning.

In Cologne I, with some others, stayed with a German host family. They were very hospitable. So were all the German people were. They helped us find our way around Cologne, telling us what bus or tram to take. They hung out welcome banners and would just start talking with us, asking where we were from and if we needed any help. And not only the German people were so friendly - everybody was. I really felt part of one big family of brothers and sisters who treated everybody equally with the same smile and friendliness. It really was like coming home.

The crowds at Mass also impressed me much. Celebrating your faith with hundreds of thousands of youngsters is impressive, especially when you realized that the motivation of all was the same: Christ. All had come to worship Him!

And we did worship: The opening Mass in the stadium, the Stations of the Cross, the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation, the Vigil with the Pope and the concluding Mass are only the highlights. There was also morning and evening prayer, Taizé ( prayer meetings, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the songs and music we made. You could say that everythingwas worship.

It was a pilgrimage of hope and love, but mostly of faith in the one and only God. All these youngsters came all the way to Cologne to worship Him.

My wish and prayer is that returning home we won’t stop worshiping Him. We have to thank Him every day for the life and the opportunities that He has given us. And even more than that we thank and worship God because He has sent us His only Son Jesus, Yeshua, Savior.

You may write the author at Leuvensestraat 91, VILVOORDE, BELGIUM or email him