After Mass with the Cardinal on Saturday morning, we returned to our hotel to rest up before beginning what we knew would be the most challenging – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – 24 hours of the pilgrimage. The summit of the World Youth Day experience always takes place the final weekend, with the long pilgrim walk to the site of the overnight Vigil and morning Missioning Mass with the Pope.
In Lisbon, the walk itself was only around 6-7 miles – not too long by WYD standards – but unfortunately the weather was not ideal, with temperatures predicted to be 95-100 degrees all weekend. We decided to set out a little later in the afternoon so we wouldn’t be out in the heat for as many hours, knowing that meant we’d likely encounter larger crowds while walking and less available space when we arrived.
The site of the event was called “Campo da Graça”, which was located in the Parque Tejo-Trancão. It is difficult to explain the scope of the venue and the magnitude of crowds – estimated to be more than 1.5 million people!
Here’s an image of the site from before the event:
Needless to say, the crowds could be overwhelming and space was at a premium, but our pilgrims, as always, responded with patience, humor, and grace!
Pope Francis addressing us at the Vigil:
An article in the Pilot described the event and the Pope’s words:
After many of the 1.5 million young people gathered in Lisbon’s Tejo Park waited for hours in near 100-degree weather to participate in the World Youth Day vigil with Pope Francis Aug. 5, the pope asked them, “Have you ever been tired?”
Even when tempted to “throw in the towel” or stop along the journey of life, the pope said, the young people must pick themselves up and walk toward joy.
“Joy is not hidden, it’s not kept under key, we have to look for it,” he said, “and that is tiring.”
Yet, Pope Francis urged them to “rise up” when they fall along the path toward joy.
Pope Francis put down the prepared text in his hand and spoke openly with the young people. He urged the young people to look within themselves and find the “roots of joy” that exist within them, roots planted by the people who have touched their lives.
“We come from roots of joy, and we can be roots of joy for others,” the pope said. “Not a joy of the moment, but a joy that gives roots.”
Following the pope’s address, the 1.5 million people in the park fell into silence for eucharistic adoration, hymns of praise and benediction.
Part of our group headed back to the hotel after Adoration. Getting out of the venue was no easier than getting in, but we persevered and made it back to the hotel in a couple of hours.
The rest of our crew spent the night on the field and were present for the Pope’s Missioning Mass in the morning.