World Youth Day Panama, Day 4

Our day began at 7.00 having breakfast with the Birmingham group in their hotel, ‘Ariana Granada’. Once again I was struck by the young people I met. On my table there was Manny, Naive and Sr Therese: the latter an american nun from the Franciscans of the Renewal Congregation, now based in Middlesborough.  We talked about our faith. I am here as vocations’ director. I saw in Manny and Naive two people who would make excellent religious, but who knows what God has in mind for them; it will probably be marriage. I am hoping that someone from this 300 strong group from England will have a vocation to us. We shall see; it’s all in God’s hands.

From there we made our way to the place for the catechesis. We waited for a bus but in the end some of us decided we would walk the 35 minutes. On the way we saw a cafe, outside there was a water container. We stopped and had a refreshing drink. then the people from the cafe came out and greeted us. We exchanged photos, this happens all the time. Once again I was struck by the kindness of the Panama people.

The place of the catechesis was in a Shoenstatt parish. The Archbishop of Dallas had already started. There must have been five, six hundred people there from America, Australia and GB. I sat on the ground infront of the stage. It was all out in the open, in the sunshine. Afterwards we celebrated mass. I then had to get to the park of reconciliation; the place I’d been to yesterday. When I asked one of the volunteers the best way of getting there, she said she would take me. Yet another example of this peoples’ kindness.

I managed to lose my little union jack flag somewhere; to be honest I was surprised I’d not lost it before. At the park of reconciliation I met a Discalced Carmelite and two nuns from Venezuela. It was interesting to talk to them about life in Venezuela today. Confessions, once again were a wonderful experience. I never feel more like a priest than when I am hearing confession. I started at 1.00 and finished at 4.00. In the end I was really tired, due in great part to being in the sun for so long; I didn’t realise the tiring effect the sun can have on you.

The next event I had to get to was a meeting with the British Consulate at the Radisson hotel with individual members from the UK. In the end I never managed to get there. Feeling tired I decided to risk a taxi ride: we had been warned by the Embassy not to take yellow cabs. I checked the fare and it was reasonable. What I didn’t realise and nor did the driver was the roundabout route we had to take because all roads in the city centre were closed. So we had to take a very long detour. But then at a certain point near the airport we had to stop. The Pope was arriving. We waited there for an hour. So a journey that should have taken 30 minutes ended up taking two and a half hours!  And then, just to make matters worse the driver took me to the wrong Radisson hotel! I am surprised how lacking in knowledge these drivers are of their city.  I’d decided I’d had enough. I went straight back to the apartment, by now $60.00 worse off.

When I got back I made myself a cup of herbal tea to try to settle my stomach, which had been feeling queasy all day long: it must have been the chinese I had last night with Sr Elaine. I wanted to charge my phone only to realise that I had lost it! These things are sent to test us. I fell into bed, didn’t have the will to brush my teeth.

So the Pope is here, and I shall see him soon. Looking forward to that. Looking forward to listening to what he has to say. I am sure he will base much of what he says on the recent Synod of Bishops which was based on Youth, Faith and Vocation. Until tomorrow. God bless.

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