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Pilgrim Walk and Vigil
Pilgrims are at the final vigil in Krakow, having a sleep right now before the final Mass with Pope Francis (where the location for the next World Youth Day will be announced...), Some pictures here of pilgrims on their journey, videos to come! To watch the Mass live broadcast, tune in to:
Below is the text from Bishop Terry Curtin's homily pre-walk...
Our gospel gives us a sorry little story about Herod, John the Baptist and a dancing girl. That John who was called to announce the coming of the Messiah should meet his earthly end like this! And in such a brutal way. But beheadings as we know only too well in these days are not things of the past, and our hearts cringe each time we hear of another killing in this or a similar way.
On 26 July, just five days ago, Fr Jaques Hamel, an 84 year old priest was killed in Saint Etienne du Rouvray, a suburb of Rouen in northern France while celebrating morning Mass. Two young men, aged 17 and 19, inspired by the so-called Islamic State's terrorism, had entered the church and took five people hostage, seriously wounding one and taking Fr Jaques' life. They cut his throat. He was a gentle, humble man, much loved by the locals, who has been quoted as saying that priests never retire, (note that boys!), who sought to do what he could even in his mid-80s.
Some of us have been to Auschwitz and Birkenau, where over a million people were put to death - but where under God's grace saints were made! Dom Christian de Cherge, prior of the Cistercian monastery of Tibhirine in the Altas Mountains of Algeria drew upon that grace when ten years ago Islamic violence came ever closer to them, a violence that eventually led to his death and that of six of his fellow monks by beheading. In his spiritual diary he wrote that he found himself turning more and more to these words of Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jew deported from Holland and who died at Auschwitz.
She wrote, "If peace is to come one day, it could only be true if each of us first makes peace in ourselves, removes every feeling of hatred for any race or people, or takes charge of such feelings and changes them into something else, perhaps in time even into love. Is this too much to ask? Indeed it's the only solution."
If we are to walk this path, and our walk today to Campus Misericordiae is its physical, symbolic expression, then there are choices to be made. As I go about my day I could do everything any other decent person would do, but with a Christ-centred motive. I could be polite to my impolite neighbour not because he or she deserved politeness, but because politeness is my policy. I could bring my sick friend the help they need, not to get good spiritual marks, but because he or she is my friend and I love them. I could say "yes" joyfully because that would allow me to take part in the flow of the world's give and take. I could say yes because yes, whenever possible, is my stance. I could contribute my praise, my prayer, my silence, my stories to the world, knowing that to contribute with love always bears fruit.
St Augustine in his writings uses the phrase, "I happened upon myself." In the course of the journey we happen upon ourselves. Our pilgrimage in these days is part of that discovery.
In my reading I came across this prayer, which you might like to make your own, especially as you camp out under the stars (we hope!) tonight:
"Lord, help me to lie fallow every so often and reassess what or whom I'm working for, living for.
Help me to enjoy the quiet morning and the still-point of the evening; the light of the moon and incessant, slow but steady movement of the universe that fills me with love.
Help me to accept myself the way I am, not giving up the idea of healing and growth, but giving up the idea that I am ever going to reach some future point where I can rest. I can rest here."