The pilgrims who have come to see Pope Francis in Lisbon like to go to the vocations fair to see the atmosphere, to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the middle of the dusty Tejo Park and to go out for a cold Sagres after an intense day.
Many were surprised by Father Guilherme Peixoto early morning after pray, before mass, before the last Mass of this WYD. St. Augustine said, in line with the saying that "who sings prays twice", that "who sings praises, not only praises, but also praises with joy; who sings praises, not only sings, but also loves the one who sings to him". Amidst the echo of electronic hallelujahs, chasubles and sleeping bags; after marathon days of to-ing and fro-ing, bisbissing the rosary, with an empty canteen and a burnt neck; how many times and in what ways is that boy or that girl; that friar or that consecrated woman, praying by her very presence?
Of course, there is part of this "Pope's youth" who also like - and very much - to see themselves jumping up and down in front of the big screens, curled up between flags that sometimes act as a cardigan or a portable mural, if not as a helpful mat. Like all sons and daughters of their time, they are drawn to emojis and hashtags. And yet, there remains their recollection, their ability to spend time in prayer in the midst of the noise to prepare for the Eucharist or confession. These young people like to pray, together and separately, for what becomes palpable in communion with God and with the other: that his presence is capable of transcending our mental scabbards; that his love is made eloquent in the small and the silent retreat, also among the crowds that crowd and flow through dusty human rivers - like the tribes of Israel - to listen to a Living Word.
To recognize each other, to listen to each other and to put ourselves together on the way "from love and unity"
The World Youth Day left for the Order some echoes that are in line with what was experienced during the Augustinian Youth Encounter.
Fr. Maxime Villeneuve, of the Province of California, accompanied 32 of the young people during the EJA and the WYD. "It has been a real honour to be in Lisbon and to celebrate with the Pope and the young people the joy of our Catholic faith. It was a powerful, comforting experience, which drives us forward".
Carlos Flores, from Panama, although he currently works in one of our parishes in San Diego, tells us about "the challenge of this reunion". For him it was the fifth edition. "The heat, the walks... Beyond the difficulties, which there have been, we took it on as part of our pilgrimage, of our spiritual journey". "The world is waiting for something more from us Christians", Fr Carlos concluded.
These words, together with the "let us not be afraid" that has been so often repeated in the Edward VII Park during the Stations of the Cross or later in the Vigil, or in the Mass of Sending forth, already resounded during the EJA in the mouths of Father Alejandro and Monsignor Luis Marin.
What can young Catholics fear today: discouragement, frustration, loneliness? This is what the Pope pointed out before a youth thirsty in every way:
"It is repeated in the Bible: `Be not afraid'. These were the last words that Jesus said to the disciples at the moment of the transfiguration: 'Do not be afraid'. (... ) To you, who cultivate big dreams but are sometimes obscured by the fear of not seeing them come true; to you, who sometimes think you will not be able to do it, a little pessimism creeps in at times; to you, young people, tempted at this time by discouragement, by perhaps judging yourselves as failures or by trying to hide your pain disguised as a smile; to you, young people, who want to change the world - and it is good that you want to change the world - and who want to fight for justice and peace; to you, young people, who put desire and creativity into life, but who find that it is not enough; to you, young people, whom the Church and the world need [as] the earth needs rain; to you, young people, who are the present and the future; yes, precisely to you, young people, [Jesus] today says: "Do not be afraid."
Romina, from Chile, present at the Augustinian Youth Encounter and World Youth Day, after the whirlwind of these two weeks, with the sports center of the school of Santa Iria de Azóia practically deserted, tells us about her experience.
"For me it has meant a very strong experience in Christ. To see the presence of God among so many young people, in the day-to-day sacrifice, has been very beautiful and gratifying"."Transmit everything we have lived and make it more visible.That's what we have to do," she says with a smile. "My greatest wish is not to forget everything I have lived, this feeling I have of God's presence in me.I want my memory to be a witness and a fire when I act".
A new opportunity
The Lisbon WYD is a new opportunity, as it has been reflected during the meetings of the EJA groups, for a greater inter-circumscriptional linkage. With the EJA and the WYD of Seoul on the horizon, there is still a long way to go to meet again, to identify ourselves, to recognize ourselves, to listen to each other and to put ourselves on the same level with initiatives and creative proposals of the whole Augustinian reality that can fulfill during this itinerary the desire of Father General to go "from love and unity" to arrive, as the undersecretary for the Synod of Bishops pointed out, to be at the "forefront of the Church".
To discuss in freedom, to make known the charism, uniqueness and historical and spiritual imprint that the Order possesses and that makes it the bearer of a legacy that remains alive and strong to this day, to understand what makes young people vibrate and to share the answers to the questions that the young people have asked the Prior General during these days, are part of the gigantic challenge that remains after the EJA and the WYD.
Now, after the Sending, where the baptized are reminded of our missionary responsibility with what we have seen, heard and learned, it is time to put the talents received, without forgetting our shortcomings, to work as we rise to follow, "with one soul and one heart" the path that God has set before each one of us.