After lots of ‘rising and making haste’ in accordance with the World Youth Day theme it was a gift to have a slower and quieter day as was fitting for a Sunday. Our host Fr Pablo de Lima arranged for us to have Mass in the Church of St Thérèse of Lisieux in Viana do Castelo as a group.
Attached to the Church is an Enclosed Carmelite Convent and it was a privilege to be united with the sisters around the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. As they are enclosed, they joined us from behind a wooden grille which separates them from the outside world.
In his homily, Fr Pablo focused on the first reading where King Solomon asks God for the gift of wisdom rather than wealth, power or possessions. He drew parallels between this and our own lives as young people, and called on us to pray for a ‘holy indifference’ (with reference to St Ignatius of Loyola) where we can willingly and joyfully choose God’s will for us with a free heart.
The Carmelite sisters here have chosen to live in a very radical way of obedience as an enclosed order, with no direct contact with the world outside the convent. “Is the Lord asking us something more radical of us in our lives,” asked Fr Pablo.
We were then privileged to spend some time talking to the sisters, whose joy at speaking to us, again through a grille, was quite evident, with Fr Pablo acting as our translator. It was an amazing and unique opportunity to meet with these women who live such a radical and unique vocation.
They answered a wide variety of questions and left us with much to ponder. They told us how, “Prayer is the most important thing, without prayer we are nothing,” an important reminder of keeping Christ at the centre of all we do. It was a poignant meeting and one which left a deep impression on all of us. We had the afternoon free to choose our own activities, which included a trip to a nearby beach.
Later that evening we joined with the rest of the international groups staying in Viana do Castelo as we all prepare to set out for Lisbon on Monday. We look forward to meeting one another there amongst the one million (and counting!) other young Catholics for this great celebration.
Pictured above is our meeting with the Carmelite sisters, through a grille, and below saying farewell to Viana do Castelo at a leaving service.
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