Day 5 started a little later – and a lot slower – than previous days!  WYD is definitely a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re very conscious of pacing ourselves with the all the physical activity,  large crowds, and increasing heat.

We again began the morning with Lectio Divina and small groups, and then rushed to join the celebration of Mass in German at a church a few blocks from our hotel.  We were a few minutes late and missed the readings, so we celebrated our own Liturgy of the Word (and song!) at a local park afterward. (Don’t mind the phones – the readings and music are online!)

The big event for us today was the USCCB’s USA National Pilgrim Gathering outdoors at the Parque da Quinta das Conchas here in Lisbon.  Due to the expected crowds, we were warned to arrive early to stake out a space. This should give you an idea of the crowd (it’s hard to even imagine what the crowd of 1 million+ will be like on Saturday and Sunday for the Pope!)

But our crew made the best of the wait!

Mia and Oliver were interviewed by a crew from CBS, which was covering the event!

One of the performers tonight was Tony Melendez, a singer and guitarist who played his guitar for Pope John Paul II in Los Angeles in 1987. Born without arms, he performed a touching song entitled Never Be The Same. When the Pope approached him from the stage to kiss him in appreciation, it seemed to reflect the sentiments of the entire country.

A thalidomide baby, Tony was brought to the Los Angeles area from Nicaragua to be fitted with artificial arms. He wore them until he was ten, when he disposed of them. “I didn’t feel comfortable,” he explains, “I could use my feet so much more.”  In high school he began playing the guitar and writing his own songs, and he became deeply involved in the Catholic Church. “I went when I was a kid because my parents took me. I drifted away as I got a little older. When I was in high school, my brother kept saying ‘come on, you’ve gotta go. It’s great!’ So I went again and made a lot of friends, and wound up changing my life in the process.”

 A few of us met Tony while we were waiting in line (we are getting really good at waiting in line!) in Fatima to see the homes of the young shepherds.  You can read more about Tony here:

In addition to the music, tonight’s event featured a Eucharistic procession.

The keynote address was give by Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and founder of the Catholic ministerial organization Word on Fire.

The Pope arrived in Lisbon today – looking forward to seeing him at the Welcome Ceremony tomorrow night!

Wednesday, 8/2: Day 6 – Germany in the Morning, USA in the Evening!