As dawn broke on Friday morning, young religious sisters from all over the world made their way to greet Pope Benedict XVI at El Escorial in the Sierra de Guadarama mountain range west of Madrid. The magnificent complex constructed in only twenty years in the late 16th century was the seat of Spanish Catholicism during Philip II´s reign. The site, containing a royal palace, monastery, basilica, library, school and tombs of the Spanish Kings was chosen as the location for the gathering of young religious, a special event added for the first time for this World Youth Day.
Over 1,500 young Sisters attended the gathering with the Vicar of Christ and the scene in the Courtyard of the Kings was a glimpse of the heavenly Jerusalem. Our young sisters talked, laughed and cried with cloistered Spanish Carmelites who had been granted special permission to leave the convent. We were offered an incredible snapshot of the renewal of religious life as hundreds of the Daughters of Mary of the Heart of Jesus, founded in Spain in 1998 and now numbering almost 400 filed in and flanked one side of the courtyard all waving Spanish flags. Then the veritable army of the Sisters of the Communion of Jesus arrived in their denim habits – the 203 member strong brand new contemplative order founded by Mother Veronica, originally of the Poor Clares of Lerma. The Little Sisters of the Lamb from France formed the official choir for the event and sang beautiful polyphonic arrangements of sacred music and offered spiritual reflections. The atmosphere was one of a joyful family awaiting the arrival of their Father. We prayed, sang and cheered in different languages for over two hours, the favourite chants which rhymed in Spanish being: We Are the Pope´s youth! We are the Daughters of the Church! This is Consecrated Life!
The Holy Father greeted us and thanked us for giving our youth to Christ as two of the patrons of WYD, St. Rose of Lima and St. Rafael Arnaiz did. He reminded us that consecrated life is born from listening to the Word of God and taking up the gospel as a way of life following Christ in poverty, chastity and obedience. He ended by saying that the Church needs the fidelity of our youth which must be “rooted and built up in Christ,” the WYD theme from Colossians 2:7. The gathering ended by joining our Holy Father in praying the Our Father. It was a family reunion that we will never forget!
By Sr. John Mary, SV
By Sr. John Mary, SV