August 16 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

7-GLASGOW-WYD-2013

Viva Brasil!

— AIDAN COOK travelled to World Youth Day in Rio with Fr John Keenan and a group from Glasgow University

Arriving in town at 11pm at night, we were not expecting much of a welcome. But as our bus pulled up in front of the church, the waiting crowd burst into song and dance, jumping around as madly as if Brazil had just won the World Cup. These were the complete strangers who would be welcoming us into their homes for the next week.

We were in Bom Jardim for the Semana Missionária, a week spent in one of Brazil’s dioceses ahead of the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in Rio. Set in the mountains three hours north-west of Rio.

We were there to discover a little of the real Brazil, and to share experiences and faith with our young hosts.

The first morning, we had our very own little carnival, complete with samba band, streamers and mad little hats. Our hosts’ joy and enthusiasm were contagious and it was not long before we were all dancing away together, hardly stopping the rest of our stay.

The testimony of a young Brazilian man who had turned his life around gave us a glimpse into some of the troubles and harsh realities facing the nation’s youth. This, and other discussions while we were there, showed a darker side of Brazilian society and culture.

We were also taken to visit a nearby project welcoming young families and keeping track of the children’s development in order to cut infant mortality.

In our few days in the town, we were hosted with such generosity and love that we simply did not want to leave. And so came about something that none of us had thought possible: we travelled to Rio with a heavy heart, already homesick for Bom Jardim.

Thankfully, our reception by the volunteers in Rio could not have been more welcoming, and they really did make our time there much happier and memorable. But we will also remember Rio for long bus journeys (we were two hours out from the centre), cold wet weather (the worst in years), lack of sleep, and cold showers. It wasn’t all fun and games!

Copacabana beach made a great venue for the large events. Following the Pope along the beach towards the main stage and sanctuary, there was a real sense of journey and pilgrimage. The experience of millions of young Catholics coming together to share their Faith was overwhelming.

When the planned venue flooded and the final vigil and Mass were moved to Copacabana, confusion reigned but in the end everything came together remarkably well. The sight of Rio’s iconic beach flooded by a sea of young, faithful Catholics was certainly more imposing then the original field would have been.

Mass with so many people posed the usual problems, such as the reverent distribution of Holy Communion, and the use of big screens still needs refining. Afterwards, exhausted after a couple of intensive, sleepless weeks, we sneaked off to spend a few days of R&R at the beach before flying back. It was wonderful to be able to soak in a bit of Brazilian culture and scenery, and simply to catch up on sleep.

After 15 days—beautiful, joyful days—we left Brazil, all hoping to return. It will take time to absorb everything that happened but one thing is sure: that, in some way, we have all been changed by the faith, hope and love we found and received. Viva Brasil!

 

—Mr Cook’s report was published in full in the special SCO WYD2013 section in this week’s print edition of the SCO, in parishes from August 16

 

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