They put meaning to the words "Faith is young and joyful"
It began in the old stone church of San Lorenzo in Piscibus. The WYD cross appeared on the shoulders of youth. A sea of young and joyful faces emerged, candles in hands, and they took to the streets to process through central Rome, bearing their precious cross proudly forward.
Everyone they passed stopped in awe to watch this great tide of young people walking by with an immense wooden cross, singing at the tops of their voices “Jesus Christ you are my life!” to which some of the people in the restaurants sang back “You are my life, alleluia!”
Then on to the famous Piazza Navona, they entered into a vision of pure splendor. Within the spectacular setting of Bernini’s fountain, softly lit lanterns, cobbled stone ground and the beautiful Church of St. Agnes, the WYD cross was lifted up high for all to see.
They progressed into the church, still in song, and the cross was put to the left of the altar. After two testimonies of faith were given, the Priest invited all people to come up to the cross and spend an intimate moment with it, to kiss it, touch it, kneel before, pray before it … This was the cross that John Paul II gave to the youth of the world more than thirty years ago, as a gift with a mission: that each and every young person might put Christ at the centre of their lives, and thus bring Him to the lives of everyone they encountered.
Some of the youth were stationed outside with lanterns in hand, to welcome people into the Church.
It was a truly moving scene: neverending waves of people, young and old, families, couples, consecrated, priests, constantly streaming into the Church and up to that great piece of wood. People were crying, smiling, praying on their knees before the cross, the symbol of the infinite love of Christ for humanity that unites us all in Him.
This was a moment of real prayer, of communion with the Lord in silent reverence.
After the adoration of the cross, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for a time of Eucharistic Adoration. The Church remained in darkness and yet was illuminated by the glinting golden monstrance with Jesus at its heart, and all the candles at the foot of the altar that the people brought to His feet as a symbol of their hope and prayer.
The young people from the Emmanuel School of Mission sang gently, bringing us into a deeper meditation and appreciation of His beauty.
It was an intense yet peaceful time of prayer, allowing each one to enter into an intimate meeting with Christ.
Towards the end of the evening the priest took the monstrance and passed each bench, blessing every person with the Real presence of Christ: Jesus walked among the faithful, laying His mercy upon them.
It was an overwhelming experience where time seemed to dissolve, and all that was visible was His heavenly body enshrined in an illuminated case of gold.
The final blessing was made and the mass of people, youth and passers-by alike, slowly made their way out of the Church, faces still captivated by the sheer beauty of the prayer and most of all by the presence of Him.
Check out more photos of the evening at Aleteia’s Flickr account here
Sabrina Fusco contributed to this article