On the Sunday of the Papal mass in Downsview I had the good fortune of being blessed not once, but twice. I had the best seat in the house, my house, near the television and followed the incredible events on TV. I marvelled at how the weather changed just in time for the Pope’s arrival, I marvelled at the perseverance of the pilgrims and the huge crowd that had turned out just to be present at the mass. Imagine over 800 thousand people on that huge field!
The stage was beautifully decorated. The aesthetics were simply incredible. Everything lasted much longer than anticipated, but despite no rehearsals due to inclement weather the day before the performances came along great. The big choir, lead by an Ex-Regensburger Domspatz, sounded awe-inspiring. The displays and rituals all went off without a hitch. The classical proceedings of the mass were enhanced and expanded with some additional pageantry for the attending youth to make it an unforgettable event in the lives of those who were present and those that watched from afar.
I was not surprised to hear testimony from a Sikh, who was in tears at the airport on Monday when the Pope was leaving. He felt that this man was capable of bringing to people what was needed most in this world: Peace!
I had witnessed many of the pilgrims walking past my neighbourhood to get to Downsview in the heat of the day before and I should meet a few of them later on Monday at St. Patrick’s church. But prior to that, on Sunday, right after the end of the mass and the last Papal blessing we got into the car and followed a map to where the Danube Swabians hold their annual picnic.
We arrived just before Father Hoeppe was about to give his blessing to a small but eager congregation. Thus there was another mass in another field held.
Tony Baumann, who was present with family and lots of friends, president of the Danube Swabians not just in Toronto drove us around in his car to show off this beautiful estate, which the Danube Swabians aquired way back when in the fifties, filled with lovely cottages of any variety.
Everything seems to grow large and beautiful in this lovely place, that is a community in itself, private, with its own rules. But even in this paradise there is a bit of trouble of the variety we are all familiar with.
Every group has one or two and that is all it takes to upset an entire area. Even the most pious person cannot live in peace if his nasty neighbour does not let him.
We hope the trouble will be handled soon permanently in a way that he old and normal order of the estate is not jeopardized and the power of balance is restored. I would love to own a place there. It is really special and looks like a village in Europe. If that does not deserve preservation!!!!!!
It’s going to be a stretch!
"Wir werden uns ganz schön anstrengen müssen!" That is what the consensus of many of the young pilgrims from Germany, according to an accompanying youth pastor. And we heard first hand from them how they felt about this World Youth Day in Toronto when we met with a few of them in the basement of the St. Patrick’s Church on McCaul Street. They were ready to explore a bit more of the city but accommodated us gladly when we wanted to speak to them about their motivations.
This was a group of young people from the Paderborn diocese. Prior to their Toronto crusade they spent time in Niagra Falls with various families.
As the young pastor later confirmed, the incredible hospitality of Canadians made them forget any hardship the trip might have presented. They felt that our hospitality exceeded any call of duty and made them forget the organizational errors that were on occasion more than just inconvenient. Apparently there were not enough feeding stations on the CNE Grounds for the 200 thousand Pilgrims. One singular station had tremendously long line-ups. It did not happen really that people did not get lunch; they stood so long in line that supper was already being served.
With an incredible openness they made their comments: "I am a convinced catholic because I grew up with it and it gives me what I need for my life. I do not know if I would have chosen Catholicism if I had not been exposed to it from day one on, but it is very possible."
"I came because my mother asked me to. She hoped that I might catch the spark!"
"Did it work?" we wanted to know. " I am not more catholic than before" was the honest answer.
One young man, accompanying personnel, chaperone in other words, admitted to being a "hobby Catholicist", as he put it. For him organized religion is sometimes too rigid in its doctrines.
One young man admitted to being even more resolved than ever before in his choice to become a priest. Another is looking forward to carrying the Pope’s message back home and spreading it actively in the community. This experience of the pilgrimage gave everyone something unforgettable to share with those in need, those that might need a shoulder to lean on, someone to listen, someone who needs to be picked up. For some it was simply a religious adventure, a spiritual confirmation of believe, for others it was an exploratory venture, a venue to meet people of like mind and have discussions about issues that concern everyone, to see something of the world.
No matter what it meant to each one of them, they all were happy that they came, were awed, like us, by the Holy Father, and all realized that everything in this city revolved around them. We told them that we had noticed that bad news was rare during that week and we wished that it would always be like that.
These sincere young people displayed an honesty that was refreshing, and a tolerance that is worth emulating. May the over 4 thousand young people that came from Germany continue on their path to make this world a better place.
In the meantime we will do our best to follow the Pope’s advice and also enjoy life and have some good clean fun. I am sure I will meet many of you on August 24, Alpine Fest Day at the CNE.
Tell your friends, there will be something for everyone!
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