The United States Bishops ushered in the preparations for the evening’s vigil with the Holy Father with Mass at “Palacio de Deportes.” Sisters from CMSWR communities directed the English speaking pilgrims to the respective seating areas while bishops and priests from all over the United States greeted and thanked the Sisters for the gift of their life and consecrations. We assured them of our prayers, and they responded that this is a source of ongoing support to them and to the priesthood.
Cardinal George was the main celebrant with Archbishop Dolan as the homilist. Over twenty thousand English speaking pilgrims were present, enthusiastically engaged and seemingly captivated by the homily. It was moving to hear one of the young women address the bishops on behalf of the pilgrims present and thank them for their service to the Church as shepherds. Afterwards the bishops took the time to meet with the pilgrims from their respective dioceses – truly a reflection of the solicitude of the shepherd for his flock.
Following the Mass the Sisters proceeded on foot to “Cuatro Vientos” air field where the pilgrims would gather for their “conversation” with Pope Benedict XVI followed by Exposition and Benediction. The arrival there was arduous as there has been an unexpected heat wave the past several days, but the pilgrims were jubilant and resilient in their anticipation of the Holy Father’s arrival. He was welcomed with loud cheers. During Pope Benedict’s talk, a refreshing and power wind blew in accompanied by rain. This resulted in some technical difficulties, but these did not deter the Holy Father from being with his 2 million youth who ardently waited to hear him speak. After some time of waiting for the storm to pass, our Holy Father proceeded with his talk.
He thanked them for their joy and resistence, reflection of faith that is stronger than the storm. As he prepared the young people for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. He told them that this was the sublime moment of the evening – receiving into our midst our God, the King of kings, in the silence of our hearts. It was a breath taking experience to see so many young people kneeling in complete silence during the Eucharistic exposition. According to the Madrid television, there were some 1.5 million in Cuatro Vientos and several hundreds of thousands outside, lining the streets of Madrid.
The Vigil progressed throughout the night with all-night Eucharistic Adoration, praise and worship, Confessions, conversations with the young people and a little bit of sleep in between. The young people were prayerful and filled with praise. There were thousands of adorers throughout the night and Confessions went on continually.