On Monday we celebrated our final Mass in Spain before making our way to Lisbon. On our way, we stopped in at Santarem and visited the Holy Miracle Church of St Stephen, which contains the oldest recorded Eucharistic Miracle! Once arriving in Lisbon, we had the afternoon at leisure – most of us took the advantage of finding the closest laundromat.
On Tuesday, we kicked off our World Youth Day celebrations with the Aussie Gathering. Joined by another 3000 Aussies, we heard pilgrim’s testimonies, live music, prayer and talks. Two of our very own pilgrims, Natasha and Bianca were given the opportunity to MC this gathering, as well as Megan being invited to lead a decade of the Rosary. Later in the afternoon, we conquered the crowds and headed towards the official Commissioning Mass. This was the first event where we saw the multitude of pilgrims – the excitement had officially set it!
On Wednesday, we began the day with our first RISE UP session. These sessions were an opportunity for the English-speaking pilgrims to come together for catechesis. We heard from many speakers, celebrated Mass and met many new people. In the afternoon, we had free reign of what we were interested in doing, some heading to the ‘City of Joy’, Youth Festivals, workshops, talks, music, and so much more. Many of our group attended Christopher West’s seminar ‘Theology of the Body’ and others headed to Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Fatima, for Adoration with the JP2 project. Many of us also unexpectedly saw Pope Francis driving throughout the city! You could hearing everyone shouting “esta es la juventud del papa!” meaning ‘this is the youth of the Pope!’ On our walk back towards the accommodation, we stumbled across some street markets. A shop many of us stopped by was Ivory World, a company that helps fight the stigma of mental health and uses profits made to give back to their shoppers by offering a 1-on-1 therapy session for themselves, or to donate it to someone else in need.
Christopher West shared the following quote from St. John Paul II – “The Gospel invites us not to repress erotic desire, but to experience “the fullness of ‘eros’, which implies the upward impulse of the human spirit toward what is true, good, and beautiful, so that what is ‘erotic’ also becomes true, good, and beautiful.”
On Thursday, we began our day again with another RISE UP session. This time, we heard from Archbishop Anthony Fisher who spoke to us about social relationships and the power that the love of Jesus can have in our lives. In the afternoon, more of our pilgrims passed Pope Francis in the city as we made our way to the gathering for the official Welcoming Message from him. After this, many pilgrims headed back to our accommodation for some well needed rest, and others ventured out to the Fr. Rob Galea concert.
“God doesn’t make junk. Every human being is intimately loved by God. And that very love is what brought us into existence and sustains us in existence. If that’s good enough for God, that’s good enough for the Church.” – Archbishop Anthony Fisher
On Friday, we had another RISE UP session with the English speaking pilgrims. Bishop Robert Barron was the guest speaker for this session and spoke about savouring the goodness of the Lord. Another one of our pilgrims, Laurie was given the opportunity to help lead another RISE UP session, in music ministry. Like the previous day, the afternoon involved free time to explore the events made available to us. In the evening, our group headed to ‘The Change’, an ecumenical concert which included Matt Maher, Taya Gaukrodger and Jonathon Roumie. Although a late night, with a sold-out crowd of over 50,000 people, this was incredible!
“If prayer is a friendship with God, think of it as a conversation between friends. The most important part about a friendship, is that you make the time.” – Bishop Robert Barron
On Saturday, we had a later start in preparation for our walk to the ‘Field of Grace’ where we had our sleepout with every single pilgrim – all 1.5 million of them! The temperature managed to exceed 40° so we were sure to stay hydrated and seek shade. Pope Francis arrived as the sun was setting and led us all in Adoration. For the amount of people that were there, it was impressive how quiet it was. We were lucky enough to be allocated a section right near the main stage, which means we were able to view everything that was happening. It was a very surreal and special moment to be allocated this section! We all slept out under the stars this night.
On Sunday, we woke up to the sunrise over the ‘Field of Grace’ and to the sounds of a DJ-ing Priest, Fr. Guilherme Peixoto. Shortly after, Pope Francis arrived and led us all in the Final Mass. After Mass, it was announced that the Jubilee Year of Youth will be held in Rome in 2025, and the next World Youth Day will be held in South Korea in 2027!