This latter aspect hit home as some months ago I had been discouraged on coming across the latest conclusions of Professor Stephen Hawking about the creation of the universe, resulting in him renouncing God’s role in it altogether. It ached my soul to read that such an elaborate thinker has not yet had the grace of the insightful encounter and knowledge of the Truth. Moreover, consequent concerns arose regarding the influence such a cosmologist could have on fellow people especially young men and women in their own search for the true meaning of creation and life. I realized about the need of such other elaborate scientists to speak out about their belief in God and that reason does not omit faith but they are interdependent on each other. For this reason, I was greatly grateful when Fr. R. Spitzer, a renowned academic was one of the main speakers during the conference explaining in detail how science and faith meet in the creation of the universe. He gave the 1,000 young men and women attending the conference enough food for thought regarding this matter including references of sites and books for further reading.
After our minds had been satiated with this knowledge, it was our souls’ turn for healing and for our spirits to be refreshed by the Holy Spirit. This all came to pass in the much needed empowering talks by Andrew, Mr. H. Cappello and Mr. S. Martinez and the praying services that followed.
Another aspect which defines Youth Arise Festival and the consequent World Youth Day is the phenomenon of hundreds of young Catholics from all over the world to meet at one place and celebrate together their Faith - so different culturally speaking yet all united in Him. It is a grace that despite Faith being so unpopular in this day and age, where secular Reason reigns, hundreds of young people are still enflamed with this passion for Christ and make all the sacrifices necessary be it financially, physically and other to take the plunge and cross the world for such a pilgrimage. Such was the Chinese contingency who despite risks - which we are luckily unfamiliar with, did not miss such an opportunity to be with the rest of world celebrating God under one leader - the Pope. Yet despite all coming from different nations, the unity amidst was symbolized between such diversity. Such an example was Rex Band, which donated part of its revenue for the cds sold at the conference to invest in bibles to be sent to our fellow brothers and sisters in China, where the Catholic Church under the delegation of the Pope still runs underground. Such was a conference - filled with testimonies whether on stage from several different contingencies or just by the way of presence or deed; a family united in Christ, empowered by The Holy Spirit and embraced by The Holy Father…amidst the echoes of the energetic and enthusiastic chants of His Catholic youth.
These chants were kept ongoing by the worship led by several bands, the Gibs, our amazing SALT, Rex Band, and the new Paddy Kelly amongst others. All these bands with their due efforts, diligence and sacrifice led the audience into songs of praise and worship all throughout the conference.
The climax of all this scenario was the ending mass celebrated by an Italian cardinal accompanied by a Spanish folk choir. This was a special moment indeed as all youths from different nations participated in mass, each offering peace to each other, from one nation to another and also as all under one roof partook in the mystery of Faith - the Holy Eucharist. It was like Heaven on earth, a foreshadowing of what is there awaiting us, a glimpse of Paradise that is of all nations re-united together in Him.
The next opportunity for such an event - WYD is taking place in 2013 in Rio De Janeiro, and presumably Youth Arise will be organised in Brazil as well. Thus, if you would like to experience such a unique atmosphere, you have two years to save up and to learn some Portuguese! God willing…see you there!!
Photos by Fiona Catania