WYD 2023 – Finding silence and stillness everywhere

It is possible to find silence and stillness, everywhere. Community is crucial for our journey. A contemplative practice helps us to find joy in the world and to cope better with chaos and noise.

These are some of the lessons that the young meditators group of WCCM learned during the World Youth Day 2023 in Portugal (1 to 6 August), in a programme organized by Taynã Malaspina (WCCM Director of Meditation for Young Adults). Laurence Freeman led a pre-event retreat in Leiria, and the whole group then went to Lisbon after a quick visit to Fatima.

WCCM established this temporary young community in an apartment in the central area of Lisbon. The apartment was a home with a daily routine of meditation, meals, talks, dialogues, visits, Contemplative Eucharist, and social time. This community was a microcosm of WCCM: global, diverse in ages and nationalities. We had representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada-Colombia, Finland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, and the UK.

Watch some participants from our group:

(click at CC if you need subtitles)

Lisbon welcomed an immense diversity of Christians – the week was full of singing, dancing, and celebration. It was a challenge and a discovery for our group to find out that it is possible to keep the meditation practice even with all the noise coming from our windows. And even when we meditated in the middle of the crowds during our “flash mob” meditations.

Fr. Laurence speaking at the Chapel of City of Joy was a real sign that contemplation is present in the Church, even if it has been forgotten for many years in the Western Church at least. His talk reminded us that prayer is at the heart of the Church. The presence of the Archbishop of Canberra, Christopher Prowse, and his words about his personal meditation practice and the work with children in Australia just made even clearer the importance of meditation for the future of evangelization.

The peak of the WYD was the evening vigil and final mass with Pope Francis at Parque Tejo. It was also the hottest period of that week, but it did not dampen the energy and joy of millions of young people camping, singing, praying, and sleeping under the stars. Pope Francis spoke at the beginning of the vigil. Then there was a deep silence during the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The WCCM group meditated just before going to sleep (or trying to).

The last day dawned with a glorious sun on the Tejo River. The alarm clock came in the form of electronic music provided by Fr. Guilherme Peixoto. A surprise for many present. He played upbeat songs using words from Pope Francis’ speeches and popular chants from the journey, like La juventud del Papa.

In his homily, Pope Francis made some important recommendations for the young crowd:

“What will we take back with us as we resume our daily lives? I would like to answer this question with three verbs, drawing from the Gospel we have heard: to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid. What will we take back with us? I would respond with these three words: to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid.”

The end of the Sending Mass was also the closure of our temporary contemplative young community in Lisbon. But the general feeling was that it was not an end but the continuation of a beautiful journey and an experience worthy to share with many other young people around the world.

WCCM in World Youth Day 2023
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