World Youth Day 2005

Germany - Part 1

These entries were posted live from the trip and are listed chronologically.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos on these pages are by Brandon A. Evans, © The Criterion


Day 6 -- Arrival in Germany

For most of the group, Day 6 of our tour is really just Day 5, Part II. Most of us didn't get very much sleep, nor had we showered or really had much to eat. Once we got to the Bahnhof (train station) in Frankfort, we immediately jumped of the train (before it left again) and got onto motorcoaches that took us to the town of Mainz, which was less than an hour away.

The idea was that we were going to enjoy a cruise up the Rhine River -- a cruise that takes you past small towns, vineyards, great hills and the ruins of German castles. The cruise featured a full indoor dining section that was not only where breakfast was served, but was also the site of our Mass (for the Feast of the Assumption) with Archbishop Buechlein.

Unfortunately, we received two bits of bad news during Mass. The first was that the hosts to be consecrated were forgotten on the bus, and so only the archbishop and concelebrating priests would be able to receive communion. The rest of us were able to make a spiritual communion (asking Christ to come with God's grace into our hearts). The bit of bad news was that Father Clarence Waldon, one of the archbishop's seminary classmates and a popular African-American pastor, passed away. It meant that the archbishop would be returning to the United States for the funeral of his friend and would no longer be a part of our pilgrimage.

Our group surely wishes him well, misses him and prays for the soul of the departed priest.

It was raining a bit during our boat ride, but not quite enough to stop most of the pilgrims from visiting the open top floor of the boat to enjoy the sites. The amazing thing about the German villages that we passed was how much they looked EXACTLY like what I think of when I think of Germany. All the architecture, the arts, the flowers, the hills--all of it was done in fine detail and with great flavor. Even the many train tunnels scattered about the hills had elaborate brickwork on the entries--some of them looked like small churches or castles.

That brings me to another point: something that really surprised me about Germany was how clean it was. The last two times that I have gone overseas I've been to Italy. Rome is lovely, and the art can't be beat, but the town is dirty--very, very dirty. While all the buildings are sturdy (even bathroom stalls are made of stone or brick), they are often rundown. In Germany, so far at least, it's amazing just how clean everything looks--every coat of paint looks new, the streets are clean and shop owners seem to have taken great care in the appearance of their stores.

Germany also strikes me as being far more familiar to an American than Italy does. It can be hard to explain, but in Germany it's a lot easier to find what you're looking for, to tell a department store from other stores, to understand how things works. It's a welcome change, and it helps when you're trying to figure out what signs say (I took four mostly forgotten years of German in high school, but being here I am absolutely stunned at how much of it has come back and what I've been able to piece together with limited knowledge).

After our boat ride the archbishop left our pilgrimage for home and our group split, again, into three groups. Two are staying in hotels in Neuss, and one (my group) is staying at a hotel in Duesseldorf. The latter is a much larger town and both are to the north of Cologne. The major events of World Youth Day (main opening Mass, the pope's arrival, pilgrimage walk) do take place in Cologne, but smaller events (concerts, festivals and catechesis sessions) take place in the outlying cities.

Our day ended with a train ride into Cologne (about a half-hour) for an event with the mayor of Cologne that we ended up missing. Apparently Indianapolis is one of four sister cities of Cologne, and we were invited to a special banquet, but time didn't permit us to make it. Nevertheless, I was able to get a few basic shots of the city.

Enjoy the photos (the last photo in the first section is Archbishop Buechlein and our seminarians).

Photos - Rhine River cruise:




Photos - First views of Cologne:


Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 11:57 p.m. on August 16, 2005 in Duesseldorf, Germany

Day 7 -- Opening Mass

Today was our first full day in Germany (that is, the first full day of being settled in), and what a day! It was the day when our pilgrims were given a full taste of exactly what World Youth Day can be like.

So I'll start with a basic question. Which would win a race: a girl on crutches or a city tram? If you said the tram, you'd be wrong six times over.

Before I explain exactly what I mean by that, let's back up to the start of our day. As will be typical, we started in the morning with breakfast and prayer at the hotel for an hour. We started a little later today before of the sleep issues over the last two days, and afterwards we had a bit of free time. Then we hopped on a city tram that travels from Duesseldorf to Neuss to meet the rest of our group for lunch. What happened at lunch was a warning sign for the rest of the day.

How the meals work at World Youth Day is this: folded into your name badge and official pass for World Youth Day are food tickets. Each day lunch and dinner are provided. Your group is to go pick up a hot lunch at a designated location (in our case, a school yard) and at the same time receive a bagged dinner for later. The lunch is usually a warm pasta dish and the dinner is canned tuna salad, fruit and bread -- believe me, this is better than the canned spam that was given out five years ago in Rome (apparently, the Europeans love canned spam and the like, but finally got enough completes from us Amerikaners that they gave us something different).

The only problem with this was that the lines aren't very organized, and so they became exceedingly long. Also, many Europeans don't have the same concept of a line as we do. An American is usually content to wait in an orderly line as long as it takes. Europeans from certain countries -- especially Italy -- will push their way as close as they can to the front and won't stop until they get there. Communion during Mass in Italy is a mad dash to the front -- all the pews clear at the same time. That, and other factors, caused many groups of pilgrims from our tour to miss lunch yesterday, even after waiting for more than an hour. Many youth and adults were simply eating their dinner right there (the dinner line was shorter and easier to get to the front of).

By about 2 p.m., we were ready to leave to go to one of the three opening Masses for World Youth Day (more like World Youth Week). We were set to go to a stadium in Duesseldorf when we got word that the mayor of Cologne had personally gotten us 30 tickets in VIP seating for the main opening Mass in Cologne with Cardinal Joachim Meisner. I was allowed to go with the select group and so we left right away. I thought that it would be great (apparently I had forgotten the lessons that I learned five years ago for World Youth Day 2000 in Rome).

We took a train from Neuss to Cologne (about a half-hour) and everything was fine. It was a little crowded, but no big deal. We got into the Cologne Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and things started getting thicker. Still, we were moving. We all filed unto an escalator and started our descent to the subway. And then we hit it: the crowd. Rarely in someone's life will they have to be a subway as crowded as this one. It was surely the better part of an hour that we were almost in the same place, locked into a hallway with a grower number of people and the humidity rising. Add the that the struggle of trying to stay totally connected as a group. Amazing, after a wait that seem like forever, we all shoved our way into a subway car without losing one person.

When we got off two stops later, we were still miles away from the Rhine Energie Stadium where tens of thousands of people were gathering for Mass. In addition, it was nearly 5 p.m., which was when Mass started. It had been three hours since we left Neuss. We had two options: walk to the stadium, which would take longer than an hour, or ride the city tram. After four or five trams went by too full to be boarding, we were able to squeeze on one, though not before cutting part of our group apart -- the miracle run was over.

The tram was barely moving faster than those walking, and kept getting stopped at traffic lights and behind other trams. It was about that time that we started keeping track of a girl on two crutches that had passed us more than once. By the time our endless tram ride reached it's destination, that girl had passed us six times. Several smark alecks had also -- kindly, though -- taken to waving at us each time they passed.

But, I report with great joy, when the tram actually hit our stop and we got out, we had beat the girl on crutches. So there, I feel better about myself.

We got to the opening Mass just in time for the closing. Communion was underway and Cardinal Meisner was just about ready to read the closing prayers. I stayed about a half hour -- long enough to get some great pictures of the youth, the cardinal and German President Horst Koehler.

Then, after four hours of travel to get there, myself and a few youth headed back for the three hour journey home -- and this time we didn't take the train. We walked and we beat it, but what a walk! Some of the youth stayed for a massive festival that was going on in a nearby field. Those youth didn't make it bad home until nearly 2 a.m.

Of the pilgrims that went to the Duesseldorf Mass, only about 30 of the 145 actually made it.

All didn't end so badly, though. I managed to get some pretty nice candy at the Cologne Hauptbahnhof and picked up a newspaper that had the headline "Generation Benedikt" and featured a picture of the pontiff riding in a car looking down over the top of his shades. Pretty cool!

So enjoy the pictures below, especially those of the opening Mass -- it took seven hours of hard travel to get those photos! But at least I have something to help me treasure the memories.

Photos - Lunch and Opening Mass:








Photos - Now for something completely different:


Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 7:20 p.m. on August 17, 2005 in Duesseldorf, Germany


Day 8 -- Catechesis

The pilgrims of the archdiocese had the first of two catechesis sessions today. The session, meant to both celebrate our faith in Christ as well as to instruct us in some aspect of it, took place in the morning hours at Christ the King Parish in Neuss.

After an hour or so of praise and worship songs, the main speaker made his presentation -- kind of a long homily, focusing in particular on the them of searching for the light of Christ in our lives.

The theme, like so many things at this World Youth Day, is derived from the story of the Magi seeking the infant Jesus and following his star. In case you're wondering how this World Youth Day chose the Magi as its theme, the simplest answer is that the remains of the Magi are buried in the Cathedral in Cologne -- the city is well known for having housed the relics for centuries. And especially since the Magi were themselves pilgrims, the theme is a perfect fit.

Our speaker was Filipino Bishop Tirona, who was introduced as youthful and energetic -- and was.

In between joking with the youth and offering them warm parables, he warned them to be generous in their youth and thankful especially for the vigor and energy of youth that is a gift from God.

Youth today, he said, are lost and confused, and need the light of Christ. Often, he said, we feed the body and the mind but neglect the heart and spirit. Turning to Christ, the bishop said, helps us to remember that we are all children of God, and will remain so forever.

In the end, he said, God will judge us based on how much we have loved. Love today, he said, is poisoned and distorted by an absence of true, selfless sacrifice. Just as the star of the Magi can be compared to the light of Christ, it can also be seen as a powerful sign of hope in our world today, he said.

After the presentation we all celebrated Mass with Bishop Tirona, along with two other bishops and many priests. Several of our own archdiocese pilgrims -- seminarians I believe -- got to serve at the altar during Mass as well.

The rest of the afternoon was our free day. There is a wonderful street in Neuss -- Further Strasse -- that contains shop after shop of vendors selling everything kind of thing imaginable. As usual for me, I bought some candy before heading back to Duesseldorf for some rest and then a nice dinner at an outdoor German restaurant.

The photos from today are posted below. I have not forgot about my promise of videos from this pilgrimage. Several short digital clips have already been taken, and as soon as I can organize them I will post them.

On Thursday at about noon Indianapolis time, our pilgrims will be on the streets of Cologne hoping to get a glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI as he drives by in the popemobile. Please say a prayer for us all that we can have this great opportunity!

Until tomorrow, auf wiedersehen!

Photos - Catechesis:






Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 8:20 a.m. on August 18, 2005 in Duesseldorf, Germany

Before the trip: Pre-Blog

Italy: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Germany: Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13

(Archive Page 1 | Archive Page 2 | Archive Page 3)

After the trip: Post-Blog



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