The Sydney Catholic Youth pilgrims this morning joined pilgrims from Sydney Catholic Schools for Mass; the first time the groups have gathered together in Washington DC.
In the beautiful St Matthew’s Cathedral, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP reflected on the theme for World Youth Day: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38).
He invited the pilgrims to echo Mary’s ‘yes,’ one that demonstrated wholehearted trust in God, not just at a single point, but as something that would mark their whole personality and identity, as it did Mary’s. “If we say a Marian YES, an in-God-I-trust YES, a with-all-my-heart YES, a for-today-and-always YES to God, God will take us as we are – our passions, talents, strengths, but also our struggles, limitations, failings – and turn them all to service,” he said.
Following the Mass, the Sydney Catholic Youth pilgrims visited the Dominican House of Studies, and were treated to a tour of the House by academic dean, Father Thomas Petri OP. Father Petri gave the pilgrims a privileged look at some of the areas of the House not usually open to the public, including the beautiful cloister gardens. He spoke to the pilgrims about prayer and the benefits of praying in community, which gave them some practical tips for their prayer life. “Prayer is hard and sometimes you don’t feel like praying. Community prayer is a way to keep you going at the times you don’t feel like praying,” he said. He said that other orders are very interested in where a person is in their spiritual life, but the Dominicans are somewhat more blunt. “If you don’t feel like it, just do it,” he told them. “Faith isn’t a greeting card.” He encouraged them to stay committed to prayer, even when it was hard.
See related story: WYD pilgrimage 2019: First stop Washington
Father Thomas also spoke of the importance of having friends who are striving to be saints, saying that many of the saints knew and were friends with other saints. “Holiness always runs in packs; friends are holy together.”
Anticipating questions about why the pilgrims were visiting the House, the Archbishop – a Dominican himself – told them that he was simply a little biased! He also said that with more than 65 studying for the priesthood, it was one of the most thriving religious houses in the western world.
A highlight for many of the pilgrims was seeing some books from the House’s rare book collection, including a partially-handwritten Bible from 1480, a fully handwritten copy of the works of St Oliver the Great from 1470 and an Inquisitor’s Manual published in 1668, answering questions about things like whether it was permissible to trade with heretics and, if so, at what times of the day.
The group then travelled to the Bible Museum. Opened in November 2017 after more than seven years in the making, the Bible Museum is an interactive space taking pilgrims through the importance and impact of the Bible. Different exhibits showed the Bible’s influence on art and architecture, literature and music, work, health, science and education, fashion and movies. Displays ran from extracts of texts in ancient languages to screens playing Biblical references in films like Ghostbusters and X-Men. The pilgrims were told that despite the printing press and the spread of Christianity throughout the world, more than a billion people still do not have access to a Bible in their native language.
See related story: Australians make pre-WYD stops at March for Life, Guadalupe
Watch vlogs and live-streamed highlights from WYD Panama at the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney website www.sydneycatholic.org/live.
You can also follow the Sydney pilgrims’ journey through regular posts on the Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and the Archdiocese of Sydney Facebook pages.