MANILA, Dec. 17, 2014 — In a gathering held to prepare young people for the papal visit to the Philippines in January 2015, delegates to past World Youth Day (WYD) highlighted Pope Francis’ view that “the Church should be more like a ‘field hospital after battle’ with bishops serving as true pastors and priests spending more time in confessionals, consoling wounded souls”.
In a pre-papal visit recollection organized by the Youth United for the Pope movement on Dec. 13, various “veterans” who participated in WYDs in Cologne, Sydney and Madrid, shared the same view that main factor that made those gatherings with the Pope truly Christ-centered was the focus on the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and of Confession.
Ephraim Alarcio, who participated in the WYDs in Cologne, Sydney, and Madrid, recalled, “All the churches in the city were open. In those churches the Sacred Host was on the altar for adoration. People could enter and pray.”
Church doors wide open
Sydney WYD participants Paul Argamosa remembered, “There was a 24-hour Eucharistic vigil. I was struck by the experience that the place was full of people the whole night while many people lined up for confessions.”
A more recent experience, from the Asian Youth Day (AYD) with Pope Francis in Korea, was shared by Fr. Nathaniel Gentizon, director of the Jaro Parish Youth Ministry.
He said, “I noticed that, although the place was so full of people and the schedule was so hectic, an atmosphere of prayer prevailed.
I can only attribute this to the fact that in each day of the papal visit the people were looking forward to the Holy Eucharist in the Masses that were celebrated and in the churches where the Blessed Sacrament was adored.”
Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” wrote that “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open.”
The Pope further specified, “One con¬crete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if some¬one, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door.”
‘Sacrament of Joy’
Sydney and Madrid WYD attendee Fr. Hermes Fabio, Chaplain of Philippine Science High School Iloilo, attests that what Pope Francis said in the “The Joy of the Gospel” is not idealistic but really feasible, as past WYD experiences show.
The school chaplain recalled, “Early on, WYD organizers doubted the idea of fielding hundreds of priests to hear confessions. But
they agreed and, to their immense surprise, it was a great success! Many young people went to the Sacrament of Joy. From then on, it has been a regular feature of papal events.”
Fr. Gentizon, as he recalls his AYD experience, said, “I was so moved to see many people going to confession. And even if it was raining that day, confessions continued. I even saw a priest ministering to penitents under an umbrella.” (Fr. Mickey Cardenas/CBCPNews)