Tuesday evening we got the good news: "If we want, we can celebrate Mass at the Shrine of Mercy tomorrow at 7.30 am". We did not need to think twice about it. It was an unexpected gift on the very day we planned to dedicate it to reflect and celebrate God's mercy in our lives.
Our young people were so happy that they did not mind hearing they would have to be ready at 6.30 am so that we could have some time of personal prayer before Mass and make sure everything was ready. They were also asked to come with their traditional dresses.
I was asked to preside the celebration of the Mass in Spanish and each group was asked to lead one of the hymns in a different language. As usual, our brothers and sisters from Kenya were asked to do the procession with God's Word.
The church was absolutely quiet as ... we were practically the only ones there. Thousands and thousands of young people went through the Shrine during the day but, at that time, it was just us.
After a short break, we met again to reflect on God's mercy and prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation (confession). The photo above shows the area for confessions specially prepared for the WYD. We met nearby and offered the youth the chance to go to any priest available in the area or to come to one of us.
For a couple of hours all of us celebrated this special sacrament with our youth. As I pointed out to them, we could not have been in a better place.
We are particularly blessed as we are living in the geographical heart of the WYD, between the Shrines of Mercy and St John Paul II, having the chapel of St Faustina nearby too. We are, therefore, able to visit them any time. That is why we waited until later to go the Shrine of John Paul II allowing the number of people at the Shrine to go down.
Though the number of people had slowed down and we did not really have to wait to go in, it was not possible to stay there in prayer. We could only walk around it and go out again. By the end of the visit we were able to pray in front of the cassock St John Paul II was wearing the day he was shot in 1981. For some of us, a day we still remember. I was a seminarian at that time.
The day finished (for those who wanted and were not too tired) with a prayer late in the evening at the chapel of St Faustina. This is a very small chapel. Though many people visit it during the day, there is always silence and it is a great place for personal prayer in the midst of crowds of people all over.