With a promise ringing in our ears, with our eyes fixed on a star, and with our gifts in our hands, we set out on our way ... to HIM
The atmosphere of the World Youth Day: Testimonies of faith – joy in life – decision for God
SCHOENSTATT, mkf. "Father Kentenich really loved Mary and young people." This statement made by Father Lothar Penners, Leader of the Schoenstatt Movement in Germany, sunk in. The closing movement of choreography depicted what was experienced that afternoon in the packed Pilgrims’ Church: the Cross – Jesus – moves. Testimonies of faith and joy in life showed in many ways and colours, and bore witness to a profound decision for God that, as Teresa Wieland put it: "makes us totally, radically happy". With a promise ringing in our ears, with our eyes fixed on a star, and with our gifts in our hands – our young people set out that morning on their way to HIM.
Many of the young people looked somewhat tired, because they has spent the night close to the Cross and the icon in keeping with Edith Stein’s motto: "Tired? With HIM?" Fr Duncan McVicar, the MC, saw to it that this tiredness would be soon forgotten. As one of the young people remarked, "If he hadn’t become a Schoenstatt Father, he would definitely have hosted a Prime Time Talk Show!" The atmosphere of the World Youth Day was not merely on the programme, it also broke through during the introductory dance, which with it simple, impressive and memorable choreography put over the message: The Cross motivates. This Cross gets things moving. Those who come close to it and allow it to touch them will be moved, they will be changed, they will move others. As the Cross was erected, all clapped. The figures of the three wise men from the East came alive: people who are not so blunted and numbed, so inwardly old, that they are unable to allow dreams and visions to exist. They are people with a promise ringing in their ears, with their eyes fixed on a star, and with gifts in their hands as they travel on their way to him. ... As the main dancer left the stage and continued her dance in the midst of the audience, it became obvious that those who want to attract youthful hearts to themselves, also want to move something, someone, everyone, here and now. ...
All our longings will be fulfilled, it will turn out well.
He actually did not have the time for the talk he had agreed to give, because he had to phone everyone in the Koblenz telephone book. He had something important to say to those who weren’t present, and who didn’t know what they were missing! After this introduction Fr Ducan had everyone’s attention for the important message he wanted to give to everyone: All our longings will be fulfilled, it will turn out well.
You can’t touch the Cross, without being touched yourself.
You can’t look at her picture, without being looked at yourself.
You change through this encounter.
Fr Duncan put the message of the dance into words and hit the nail on the head: There is no answer to the question about the meaning of life, about our personal calling and mission in life. Jesus gives the answer to those who are prepared to meet him. Just like Jesus we often have to spend a time in the "desert" before we discover our mission in life, we have to give up our wish for pleasure, for power, for delegating our personal responsibility to others, in order to become free for our actual calling.
Invisible beneath the Cross we find Jesus’ message to each one of us: When I say that I love you, I mean it in this way - I give my all for you.
Beneath the picture of the Blessed Mother we find her words: When I say that I love you, I mean it in this way – I will never leave you alone.
"He loves me, because I exist"
It was a premier. Wilfried Roehrig had written a song for the World Youth Day in Cologne: Vonvenite himines, come together you people from all over the world ... It is a song that follows up the way of the Wise Men from the East – the star remained still and caused them to pause; the star shone out where they were to adore and present their gifts, and the star accompanied them on their way back into everyday life.
Very personal and very practical testimonies of faith followed. For many this was the climax of the day. Genuine testimonies from life are not intended to be copied nor are they determined by their usefulness. When someone bears witness they do not look for an example, proof or lesson in order to present their message purposefully and didactically; when they bear witness they look at what God has worked in them. It is up to the Holy Spirit what such a witness works in us personally.
Luise Wolking, who has been separated from her husband for three years, and who has been divorced for a year. Her daughter lay in a coma for weeks after an accident and is still not "as she was before, and probably never will be again". During a course for women who were separated or divorced, she experienced in the shrine "I have finally arrived". During a course she painted a picture of her life story. If you turn it upside down, you see Mary holding her Child – "and the most difficult time of my life is in her heart."
David Braehler told about his exciting way with God during his missionary work in Bolivia – about his experiences of how God repeatedly challenged him to decide in a very personal way each time. "If you want to do something with God, you have to do something wholeheartedly", was his experience. A particularly lasting experience was how a parish in Bolivia co-operating in creating a living Stations of the Cross. "To be Jesus for the people" – an experience that went beyond the actual event, an experience that leaves its mark on life.
"Within two weeks he had turned my life completely upside down", such was the testimony of Teresa Wieland. She reported on the pilgrimage to Compostella with the youth of Europe this summer, in which a hundred strong Schoenstatt group took part. Miserable communal accommodation, bad food, cold, heat, blisters, experiences of one’s limitations, "and it didn’t matter". Then the encounter with Christ: He looked at me. And after that everything changed for me.
Auxiliary Bishop Joerg Peters testified to his own experiences with Mary. For him she is the Mother who takes her Child into her arms and assures him: Everything will be alright. He sees that he has grown up with Mary through praying the Rosary, through contact with a Lourdes grotto, and through "a postcard sized picture of our Lady of Schoenstatt in my mother’s living room". She accompanied him in his service as priest and bishop, and so he could tell us: It will turn out alright.
Halfway through the testimonies all were invited to set out to search for signs of God’s presence in their lives: their own experiences of faith, their own encounters with God ... and to tell each other about them.
On the Way with Cross and Icon ... on the way in Schoenstatt
The common programme ended punctually with an announcement about all the things on offer that afternoon. It was punctual because – well, because Fr Duncan had still not finished making his telephone calls!
The reporter of the "Rheinzeitung" (Rhine Newspaper), who arrived at 1 p.m., discovered that despite the threat of rain – although there was no comparison with the downpour that had greeted them at the Deutsches Eck in Koblenz – there was vibrant life in the Oasis Inschallah ("fast food" outlet?), a choir had spontaneously formed to prepare for Holy Mass, and others were creatively involved in the tent. ... Guided tours through Schoenstatt, "stock taking" (tidy up your life), World Youth Day bus, introduction to Fr Kentenich, Mario Hiriart, Sr Emilie – there was so much on offer during which the friendships struck in the morning could be continued.
A special meeting place was the original shrine. The large number of ribbons knotted into the net at the altar tells of the many visits made there at the place of grace two days before the great Covenant Day, for which so many people all over the world had prepared.
At precisely the same time as a 90 km pilgrimage on foot was being made from Hasenkamp to the shrine in La Loma, Argentina, by 1500 young people, the young people in Schoenstatt were accompanying the Cross and icon to the two youth centres in Schoenstatt – the Marienberg and Sonnenau. These were moments of very personal encounters with Christ and Mary.
Translation: Mary Cole, Manchester, England
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