WYD Officially Begins in Rio

Well, we got after it today.  Breakfast was incredible.  Lots of pastries, meats, strong coffee with hot milk, breads and butter, and fresh fruit.  Yes, that was at the hotel that’s “hosting” me until Monday.  I was hungry and ate lots along with Erik, my compadre in food crime.  I headed to meet my group at their hotel which is about a half mile away on foot.  From there, we headed to the metro then into Carioca metro station to see the cathedral.  Let me tell you about busy.  The metro station was hopping with groups from all over the country singing songs, carrying flags, and generally just having a grand time.  The walk from the metro to the cathedral was again teeming with pilgrims from all over the world!  Some of our group had never been on a metro, so that part was great for some.  Enroute the cathedral, I ran into Father Jose Lucero SDB!  It was great to see Father as his community hosted me when I was in LA in the spring.  Small world!  It was fun to watch the people from all over, so amazing!  From there we walked past the American consulate then to Vivo Rio which is a complex that will host our catechesis the next few days.  Our next stop took us on the metro to the church near the Gloria metro stop.  There we broke into small groups to briefly share then take a look at the church.  We ran into a group from Nebraska, and they had several priests AND their bishop with them.  What a great testimony from him!  We ate lunch, and I made sure to try some of the Brazilian bbq as they cut various pieces of meat off the stake.  We were given a debit card with 15 Reals per meal (about $7.50) for lunch and dinner over the next 4 days and then dinner on Sunday night.  The metro back to Copacabana was crazy as the car was so packed.  Just when we didn’t think we could fit anyone else in the car…we did.  Of course the trip was accompanied by singing and chanting.  I think the Brazilian group was singing a version of Father Abraham which sounds so much better in Portugese.  A break at the hotel followed, then we split into small groups and headed to the opening mass on Copacabana Beach.  We ended up on the beach close enough to see the altar but not close enough to make things out so we followed on one of the big screens laid out on the beach.  Of course we were with thousands of our closest friends, so that was different.  Like any big gig, it took awhile to start, and I thought it was more concert than anything else.  Then, the rains came to mix things up a bit.  Yet, the Mass is powerful, and it unfolded as it always does in such a beautiful way.  The first reading was from Samuel, and it was about God calling Samuel in the night.  The song “here I am, Lord…is it I, Lord? …” (sing along, please) is taken from this reading.  This reading ALWAYS gets me….always.  It seems to be directed at me, apparently regardless of my location…including the sands of Copacabana Beach.  I’m not sure of the rest of the readings since “here I am, Lord” was resonating through me (along with the raindrops).  The Eucharist was powerful in that it was so quiet and reverent during those precious moment.  It was a wonderful was to close a wonderful day.  Bed soon, beat.  Early day tomorrow as we have catechesis back at Vivo Rio followed by Mass.  Should be another fine day in Rio!