The Campus Ministry of the Archdiocese of Manila, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cubao, and the Jesuit Communications Foundation, Inc., together with the Ateneo de Manila University, Tanging Yaman Foundation, and the Episcopal Commission on Youth – Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – spearheaded a World Youth Day 2011 Madrid local celebration here in Manila, which they dubbed “From Madrid to Manila: The World Youth Day 2011 Vigil.”
Almost 12,000 attended the WYD overnight vigil at the Ateneo, which was held from 3:00 pm of August 20 to 6:00 am of August 21 on the Ateneo Grade School grounds. The vigil was held simultaneously with the gathering of thousands of young people and youth ministers from around the world in Madrid, Spain for the 26th World Youth Day, and guided by the theme, “Planted and Built in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith.”
The attendees came from different colleges, universities, and parishes in Metro Manila.
What follows is a reflection piece co-written by two Ateneo de Manila High School students who attended the overnight vigil.
The World Youth Day celebration appeals to millions of youths worldwide and inspires them to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Sadly, not everyone can go to the actual event due to prohibitive travel costs. Thus, the Ateneo de Manila University hosted an overnight vigil entitled, “World Youth Day 2011: From Madrid to Manila” last August 20-21, which aimed to allow thousands of youths to be one with the event in Madrid through an overnight vigil parallel to the actual celebration.
I was one of those who was able to participate in this event. Most would think, however, that I was a fool to go since “hell” week – days full of long tests and deadlines – was to begin the day after the vigil. I could have spent the weekend just studying, resting, and focusing on my academics, which I needed lots of help with. As students, after all, our main priority is to study. Instead, I, together with dozens of Ateneans, chose to stay up one night, all night, without sleep – all for a prayer event. Why? Simply put, World Youth Day only happens every 3 years, and it offers a unique prayer experience. We are given very few chances to experience praying with thousands of others all at the same time. This was the first time I could go to an event of this scale, so I seized the day, Carpe Diem- style, and I didn’t regret it.
Overwhelming would best describe the experience. When the AHS delegation arrived at the Ateneo Grade School grounds at about 3:30 p.m., the first thing we saw was the St. Paul Dance Troupe dancing to religious pop songs. And then, in the next number, everyone was pumping their fists into the air to another song. Who knew that a prayer vigil could be like going to a concert?
But after all that, the serious tone of the program was set with a series of catecheses on the themes of the Local WYD – “Kabataang Pilipino, Nakaugat kay Kristo.” These catecheses were presented using music videos, talks by various guests such as Chris Tiu and Bishop Chito Tagle, dance presentations from the likes of the AHS’ Indak, and a “religious” concerts featuring performances by Jimmy Bondoc, Bukas Palad Music Ministry and Hangad. They were then followed by a taize prayer, wherein everyone silently prayed their intentions to the portrait of our Blessed Mother while music parallel to a mass was sung. Following this was the event highlight- the live telecast of Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the youth which was broadcast at 4:00 a.m. of Sunday, August 21. The vigil was concluded with a mass presided by Bishop Honesto Ongtioco.
Behind all this, the ten to twelve thousand people present was simply inspiring. It gave hope. Who knew that so many would be willing to attend a vigil which sounds boring by today’s modern standards? We see that many of today’s youth are influenced so much by materialism and commercialism in media that it seems difficult to find young people who still keep the faith. But during the vigil, I saw thousands who wanted to grow their faith in Jesus. It was this common desire which kept people awake and united. During the silent prayers, all I could see were the silent yet solemn faces of people talking to God, and hearing everyone sing their hearts out to the songs played by Jimmy Bondoc, Bukas Palad Music Ministry and Hangad, music that made their hearts jump for joy. It was wonderful, living proof that our faith is very much alive.
Seeing, hearing, and experiencing your friends, schoolmates, and thousands of youth at the vigil proves one thing – “When it comes to believing in God, you are not alone.” We aren’t lonely candles where our faith is concerned. There are innumerable other candles like us scattered all over. World Youth Day brings all these candles together to communicate a spark – a message – of hope. Our faith is strong and very much alive, and we youths shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to proclaim our faith because there are countless others like us who also believe and yearn to believe. But for us to find them, we must first show our faith. That is what World Youth Day is all about – seeking and finding Jesus Christ in the presence of the youth.