Travel to Consistory

This morning, I begin my journey to Rome for the Consistory at which Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., and 16 other bishops will be elevated to the College of Cardinals. For the large group of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who are making our way to Rome this week, their is a mixture of both joy and sadness as we also prepare to send forth Archbishop Tobin to begin his newly-assigned ministry as Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey. But first and foremost, these next few days are days of joy as we gather to witness the new bond that he will have with our Holy Father as one of his closest circle of advisers and as a member of the body who will elect future Bishops of Rome.

The formal ceremony at with the 17 bishops will become Cardinals will be held in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Saturday morning at 11 am Rome time. At that ceremony, each new Cardinal will receive his red biretta (pictured above), a ring, and the name of his new titular church in Rome. That afternoon, there will be a reception for the three new American Cardinals at the Pontifical North American College, followed by a general open house for all new Cardinals at the Vatican, and then a celebratory dinner for Cardinal Tobin and his guests at a restaurant in the city. On Sunday, we will all gather in St. Peter’s Square with many others who have come to Rome for the closing of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica and the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. That evening, Cardinal Tobin will preside at a Mass of Thanksgiving at the mother-church of the Redemptorists, Sant’Alfonso, which houses the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Several of us are then staying in Rome for a couple extra days before heading back to the United States.

I ask your prayers for all of us making the pilgrim journey to Rome this week, and especially for Cardinal-designate Tobin and the other newly-names Cardinals, that they may have the strength, wisdom, and charity to serve the Holy Father and the Church well in their new role.

I hope to blog occasionally from Rome as time and connectivity allows. Also, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, The Criterion, will be blogging from Rome as well at this site:


FAQs on the College of Cardinals

A week ago, I awoke to news that my Archbishop had been named to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis. It has been a very exciting week in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis as we have celebrated the confidence that our Holy Father has placed in Cardinal-designate Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R. Along the way, there have been many questions – because this is the first time that a sitting Archbishop of Indianapolis has been named a Cardinal! So I have gathered some of the many questions that I have heard over the past week here in this post. If you have other questions that I have not addressed here, feel free to ask them in the comments.


Coat of Arms of Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.

Why are they called Cardinals?

Traditionally, the word cardinal has been translated in English as hinge. The College of Cardinals acts as something of a hinge connecting the Pope – the Bishop of Rome – with the rest of the world. There is also a connection to other uses of the word cardinal, at least in English. The members of the College of Cardinals come from all corners of the world – like the cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west), they symbolically link Rome to the entire world. And like the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude), the hinges on which the moral life rests, the College of Cardinals call us from the four corners of the world to turn towards the foundation of our faith, Jesus Christ.

Why do Cardinals wear red?

The official color that Cardinals wear is scarlet, a bright and recognizable shade of red. When new cardinals are given their scarlet biretta (a square hat with three horns on the top), they are reminded that the color scarlet signifies “your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of Holy Roman Church.”

How does the Pope select Cardinals?

The selection of new members of the College of Cardinals is left solely to the current Pope. Traditionally, he has chosen Cardinals from two groups: 1) the heads of the major offices of the Vatican; and 2) diocesan bishops from around the world. Over the last 100 years, as the Church has grown more and more throughout the world, popes have made a concerted effort to name Cardinals from all parts of the world. Often, this was done by identifying the largest and most influential cities in various countries and naming the Archbishops of those cities to be Cardinals (in the United States, that has traditionally meant that there have been Cardinals as Archbishops in places like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, etc.). Pope Francis, however, has named Cardinals from smaller cities and countries around the world as part of his mission to reach out to those on the peripheries -in 2015, he named a bishop from Tonga (a series of islands in the Pacific Ocean with only 15,000 Catholic) as a cardinal, and the newest group of Cardinals includes bishops from Bangladesh, Mauritius, and the Central African Republic. And, of course, Indianapolis. The Holy Father also selects Cardinals based on the individual person – those he thinks would be the best possible advisors, who would be able to be a voice for various groups and cultures within the Church, and who have the right gifts and perspective to vote in a potential conclave to elect a new pope. Bishops named to particular cities or offices do not automatically become Cardinals.

Do you have to be a bishop to be a Cardinal?

Yes – or at least able to be ordained a bishop. Technically, any priest – or even a layman who is free to be ordained a priest – can be named a Cardinal. But before being able to be elevated to the College of Cardinals, anyone who is not already a bishop would need to be ordained a bishop. In reality, virtually all Cardinals named these days is already a bishop.

What are the responsibilities of the College of Cardinals?

Cardinals have one primary responsibility and one secondary responsibility. Their primary responsibility is to elect a new pope following the death or resignation of a pope. Their secondary responsibility is to serve as a body of advisors for the pope – and each pope can determine how and to what extent he uses the College of Cardinals as advisors. Pope Francis has regularly called all the members of the College of Cardinals to Rome to have dialogue and advise him on significant issues facing the Church and the world. Outside of these two responsibilities, the Holy Father often appoints Cardinals as members of Vatican committees and sometimes designates them to serve as his official representative for an event or initiative that he cannot personally be present for.

Is being a Cardinal a full-time position, or is it addition to another role?

Being a Cardinal is not a full-time position in and of itself – it is an additional responsibility given most often to bishops who are either heads of offices at the Vatican or diocesan bishops around the world. Those named to the College of Cardinals continue the responsibilities that they held prior to their elevation.

How many Cardinals are there?

After the upcoming consistory, there will be 228 Cardinals. However, only 121 are under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a potential papal conclave. Church law sets the limit of Cardinal Electors – those under the age of 80 – at 120, although the Holy Father, as the supreme legislator of the Church, can change that number if he so desires. Often, new cardinals are named in order to bring the voting number back up to around 120 after several have passed the age of 80.

What is the ceremony like for creating Cardinals?

The ceremony for elevating bishops to the College of Cardinals is called a Consistory – which is also the name given to any meeting of the College of Cardinals. During a Consistory to create new cardinals, those who have been selected are called forth by the Holy Father, they make a profession of faith, and the Holy Father gives each of them a scarlet biretta and a ring as symbols of their new office. It is not an ordination – those to be created cardinals are already bishops – and it is not a Mass, but rather a ceremony held in the context of a Liturgy of the Word. The following day, the entire College of Cardinals concelebrates at a Mass with the Holy Father. The Consistory for creating the cardinals nominated last week will be held on November 19, 2016, in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

What is the proper form of address for a Cardinal?

In formal correspondence and conversation, cardinals are referred to as Your Eminence. After being elevated to the College of Cardinals, the proper way of referring to a cardinal by name is to place the title Cardinal in between their first and last names. This form of address comes from the tradition in the early Church of referring to people by the name of their town or church, since last names were not common. So, for example, a Cardinal named Matthew who was assigned to the church of St. Paul would be referred to as Matthew Cardinal of St. Paul. Now, when last names are common, the practice continues of putting the title Cardinal immediately after the first name. So, after November 19, we in Indianapolis will refer to Joseph Cardinal Tobin. Or, most formally … His Eminence, Joseph Cardinal Tobin, Archbishop of Indianapolis. Or, informally … Cardinal Tobin.

Why are Cardinals given a titular church in Rome? What responsibilities do they have for this church?

The earliest Cardinals were priests of Rome who were given the responsibility of electing the Bishop of Rome – the Pope. As the Church grew and expanded, it became clear that the College of Cardinals needed to be more representative of the entire Church, not just the churches in Rome, but there always remained a sense that the College of Cardinals have a strong connection to Rome. In the oath of obedience to the Holy Father that new Cardinals make at their elevation, they acknowledge that they now “become members of the Roman clergy.” So the practice arose of assigning each Cardinal to a particular church in the city of Rome – their titular church – of which they are something of a symbolic pastor. This practice goes back at least to the year 499, when 25 Cardinal titular churches were identified in Rome. The Cardinals are not involved in the daily administration or sacramental duties of their titular church, but when in Rome, that is often where they will celebrate Mass, and they often also provide for financial support to maintain their titular churches. We don’t yet know what Cardinal-designate Tobin’s titular church will be – it will be announced at the Consistory on November 19.

Has there ever been a Cardinal in Indianapolis?

There has never been a residential Cardinal in Indianapolis. To put it another way, no one has been named a Cardinal while serving as Archbishop of Indianapolis. However, there was one former Archbishop of Indianapolis who became a Cardinal – Joseph Cardinal Ritter – but he was only elevated to the College of Cardinals after he had been named and served for several years as Archbishop of St. Louis.

What will people in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis notice that will be different now that they have a Cardinal as Archbishop?

Cardinal-designate Tobin remains the Archbishop of Indianapolis – and in terms of his leadership and shepherding of the Church in central and southern Indiana, not much will change. The most visible change will be that he will now wear a scarlet zucchetto (skull-cap) and a scarlet cassock, rather than the fuchsia worn by bishops. His coat of arms has also changed to reflect his new title (see the top of this post). He will also have to travel to Rome more frequently for meetings of the College of Cardinals and other commissions to which he will be assigned. And if there is a papal conclave any time in the next 16 years (before he turns 80), then-Cardinal Tobin will participate as a voting member. It would probably be safe to say that Cardinal-designate Tobin will have a busier schedule moving forward – although it was busy to begin with – and that we in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will have to share him more with the larger Church. But he is still our Archbishop, and outside of Papal Conclaves and meetings of the College of Cardinals, being our Archbishop is his primary task and ministry.

World Youth Day – Encountering Jesus

The first line of Pope Francis’ homily at the closing Mass of World Youth Day is the one that has stuck with me the most. He said that we were all in Krakow to encounter Jesus. Now, people come to World Youth Day for all different reasons. Some want to see the Pope. Some want to meet new people from all over the world. Some are drawn to the location of a particular World Youth Day – like those to came to Poland in order to walk in the footsteps of people like St. John Paul II, St. Faustina Kowalska, and St. Maximilian Kolbe. Some thrive on adventure and challenge – both of which abound when you gather over a million and a half people in one place. Some want to grow in their faith. Some want to know that they’re not alone as young Catholics. Some want to take a journey with their friends. Some don’t even know why they’re there. But all of us – whatever our initial reasons or motivations – in one way or another journeyed to Krakow to encounter Jesus Christ. That is why we were there. And for myself and the pilgrims I have journeyed with, that encounter with Jesus Christ became real and alive.

The pilgrim walk to the closing Vigil and Mass at World Youth Day 2016.

To be honest, there were parts of the journey that were rough, especially over the weekend. About an 8-mile walk each way to Campus Misericordiae, where the closing Vigil and Mass were held, in strong sun with not enough water. The dehydration that comes from a long walk in the hot sun with not enough water. A chaotic food distribution system, in which some of our pilgrims waited in line for 2 1/2 hours just for the trucks to run out of food bags right before they made it to the front of the line. The inevitable tightness and closeness of a crowd estimated at 1.6 million. A downpour on our walk back to the hotel on Sunday. An almost-lost passport. A cancelled flight. 

But it was in the midst of these challenges that we encountered Jesus Christ. I’ll always remember sitting with four of my brother priests from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, plus a Dominican serving in the Archdiocese and a priest from the Diocese of Evansville, for the closing Mass, as Pope Francis drove right by our section on his way to Mass, but with our attention focused ever on Jesus Christ. I’ll remember the extraordinary care and compassion that our Polish tour managers – Gosia and Marek – had for us throughout the week, and how excited our entire pilgrim group was when we found Marek in the middle of the entire crowd leaving the closing Mass. I’ll remember the sight of countless candles being held by pilgrims during Eucharistic Adoration as the sun set on Campus Misericordiae. I’ll remember the bishop who spent the night sleeping on the field with his diocesan pilgrims rather than stay at the bishops’ hotel. I’ll remember our Archdiocesan Mass before we set out on our walking pilgrimage on Saturday, celebrated in the crypt of the Ark Church, built under the leadership of St. John Paul II as a visible testament to the power of faith during the long, hard years of communism. I’ll remember the joy and hope of a young adult couple in our group who got engaged to be married outside that same church earlier in the week, and the joy of our pilgrim community as we see in them the gift they are to each other and the gift they will be to the world. I’ll remember the good spirits and attitude of trust in 33 of our pilgrims – including me – who are spending an extra night in Prague because of a flight cancellation; and the extraordinary perseverance and patience of our Czech Airlines ticket agent who diligently spent three hours getting all of us rebooked on flights for the following day. I’ll remember the deep, strong prayer of young adults who are longing to be a beacon of hope in a broken world. I’ll remember that in Krakow, I encountered Jesus Christ – not necessarily in a different way than at home or in my regular ministry, but in a way that will leave a mark on those who made the sacrifices of a pilgrim journey to the City of Saints in Poland. For that encounter, I am grateful beyond measure.

World Youth Day – In the Footsteps of the Saints

Krakow has been called the City of Saints. The number of canonized Saints who are from Krakow or who have lived in this city is more than perhaps any city in the world other than Rome. Yesterday, a group of about 15 of the young adults on pilgrimage with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis visited some of the most significant sites associated with these Saints – from St. John Paul II to St. Maximilian Kolbe to St. Stanislas to St. Kinga and more. Looking back on this day, it has to be one of the most enjoyable and spiritual rewarding days I can remember. There are so many things I could share, but just a few highlights …

We began the day at the place where St. Stanislas, bishop of Krakow, was martyred in the 11th century by the king for refusing to bow to the authority of unjust rulers. We prayed morning prayer while standing at the bottom of a well where the bishop was killed. Providentially, we were able to join Bishop Kevin Rhodes and the pilgrims from the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend for Mass at the church built over the site of the martyrdom. 

In the back of the Franciscan church in Krakow, there is a silver plaque on a pew denoting the place where then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla prayed each day he lived across the street from this church as Archbishop of Krakow. I think I know why he picked this particular pew – while kneeling there, you have a perfect view of an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at a side altar – the same icon of Mary that is present in the future pope’s home parish church in Wadowice. The pilgrims in our group all were able to kneel at that same spot and pray. And there were some powerful encounters with God in prayer.

At the Church of St. Stanislas Kostka in Debniki, we saw the parish where St. John Paul II lived as a young adult while he was attending college across the river at the Jagiellonian University. We also prayed at the tomb of Jan Tyranowski, the young man who was a spiritual mentor to the future pope and helped him discover his priestly vocation. The more I learn about Jan Tyranowski, the more I want to know about him and the more I see him as an inspiration for my own ministry and as an example for young adult Catholics seeking to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Jan Tyranowski guides a young Karol Wojtyla with the rosary.

At the end of the day, several of us visited the Basilica of St. Florian, where a young Fr. Karol Wojtyla served as a college chaplain. There, he began gathering together groups of young people for fellowship and prayer. There, some say, the idea of what would later become World Youth Day began to take shape. And now, a new generation has gathered in this City of Saints to encounter Jesus Christ in the Church, the Sacraments, the Saints, the Holy Father, and one another.

This morning, we will celebrate Mass as a large Archdiocese of Indianapolis pilgrimage group before starting our walking pilgrimage to the site of the closing Vigil and Mass for World Youth Day 2016. I don’t anticipate having good internet connection for a while – we will be sleeping outside tonight and spending a lot of time walking or driving in the coming days – but look for a post at some point about the culmination of this pilgrimage. And continue to pray for us along the way.

World Youth Day – Papal Arrival

We don’t see coronation processions much these days. But when cities like Krakow were built, the layout of the city was designed based on the fact that it was a royal city and that kings and queens would be crowned there. Most of these ancient European royal cities have what is called a Royal Way or Coronation Way – the path that a new monarch would follow in procession to his or her coronation, most often in the city’s cathedral. In Krakow, the Royal Way begins on the north end of town, at Florianska Gate, so called because of the nearby church of St. Florian, the patron of firefighters, and in more recent history, the church where a young Fr. Karol Wojtyla ministered as a college chaplain. It led to the Main Square of the city – Rynek Glowny – dominated on one corner by a huge church dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. And the Royal Way ended at the other end of the old city of Krakow on Wawel Hill at the Cathedral built over the tomb of the patron of the city and the nation, St. Stanislas. 

These days, Krakow’s Royal Way is one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares for the many tourists who visit this city to enjoy its historic atmosphere, beautiful churches, sumptuous culture, and hearty food. The streets are lined with restaurants and cafes, souvenir shops and bars, churches and plazas. But no more royal processions. Today, however, I think I may have glimpsed some of what a coronation day  might have been like in Krakow of old. The official welcoming ceremony of Pope Francis to World Youth Day was held tonight in Blonia Park, on the outskirts of the Old Town of Krakow. While I didn’t actually go to the welcoming ceremony myself – many in our group were there, however – I did spend the afternoon and evening wandering through the Old Town, watching as hundreds of thousands of people made their way to the park to see the Pope.

And the most amazing thing to me is that these joyful, rambunctous crowds of young people were parading down Krakow’s Royal Way to see a humble servant of God. Not a king, but a minister of the gospel. Not a coronation, but a witness to love. Not a moment of national pride, but someone who can bring together all the nations. Not a hereditary ruler, but the earthly leader of those who follow the King of Kings. 

Tomorrow, the man so many came to see will lead the same crowds in meditations on redemptive suffering in the Way of the Cross. On Saturday, he will lead millions in Eucharistic Adoration. And on Sunday, he will preside at Mass, bringing Jesus Christ to the world once more in Word and Sacrament. This is the Royal Way of Krakow – of Poland – of World Youth Day 2016. The Royal Way of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, who shows us the way to follow him.

World Youth Day – Images from Krakow

18,000 young people in an arena for Mass. A Catholic bishop from Iraq calling on the entire Church to ensure that the Middle East does not become a land without Christians. Music led by people who have become friends during my summer ministry work over the past few years. A young adult woman from Indianapois interviewing bishops onstage at the US pilgrims gathering. So many people in line for the Sacrament of Reconciliation that priests (including me) were asked to sacrifice concelebrating Mass so that we could hear confessions. Almost as many people outside the arena for a Holy Hour as were inside when the doors were shut because the building had reached capacity – the same building that hosted 18,000 earlier in the day for Mass. Throngs of people from all over the world filling the streets of Old Town Krakow chanting, singing, and waving flags. Pierogi for lunch. Pierogi, pork, and beets for dinner. Gelato for dessert. An electric atmosphere at the catechetical site when video was shown of Pope Francis landing in Poland. Our Polish guides filled with national pride as they went to see Pope Francis appear at the window of the Archbishop’s Palace where St. John Paul II used to greet pilgrims. An adoration chapel so full that people had to wait in line to get in. Running into friends from all over the United States while in Krakow. Having a conversation with another vocation director who was standing on the sidewalk as the tram I was in was stopped at a station. Meeting pilgrims from Ireland, India, Australia, Colombia, Latvia, Nigeria, England, Indonesia, Spain, and so many other places. What a day it has been!

World Youth Day – Opening Masss

It’s happened before at World Youth Day. In the hours preceeding the Opening Mass yesterday evening, it started raining. At times a slow, steady mist. At other times, a heavy downpour. But wet and enough to bring out all of the blue, red, and yellow ponchos that were distributed in the pilgrim packs. But just before Mass began in Blonia Park, the rain stopped and the sky settled. By the time the Eucharistic Prayer began, the sun was out, shining on the altar. And shortly after Mass finished, the sun went back behind the clouds, the rains came again – although fairly gentle at that point, and the night continued on. It’s happened before at World Youth Day – that the rains have parted for Mass. Not always – but not unprecedented.20160726_172821.jpg

Our pilgrims are now part of hundreds of thousands who continue to gather in Krakow from all over the world. The opening Mass was our first opportunity to gather with the universal church in one unified prayer. But we had encountered other pilgrims since we arrived in Krakow. Yesterday morning, the college and young adult group from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis made our Pilgrimage of Divine Mercy to the Shrine of St. John Paul II and the Shrine of St. Faustina Kowalska in Lagiewniki, on the southern edge of Krakow. We were able to pray in the place where the Divine Mercy devotion has its origin and heart. From there, some of us explored parts of the Old Town of Krakow on our way to the site of the Opening Mass. One stop I made was to the Dominican Church of the Holy Trinity, where the relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati are being housed for veneration this week. I was able to pray in front of the relics of this patron of World Youth Day. I said a particular prayer for all of our pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Saint Meinrad Archabbey, and also for young people who are discerning their vocation.

Today, we begin three days of catechesis divided by language group. We have been assinged to a large English-language site at the Tauron Arena in Krakow that is being organized by the Knights of Columbus and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Pray for us as we continue to walk the pilgrim path of mercy.

World Youth Day – Wadowice

The best pilgrimages and journeys are marked by the joy of the unexpected. We had a very basic plan for today – travel from Prague to Krakow with a brief stop in Wadowice. We didn’t know coming in when or where we would have Mass today. We didn’t know what we would be able to do in Wadowice or how much time we would have. But as we prepare to head to bed in our hotel in Krakow, we look back on a day of extraordinary, unexpected blessings.

Thanks to the good work of our tour manager, we began the day celebrating a group Mass for the Feast of St. James, patron of pilgrims, at the Church of St. Wenceslas, just two blocks from our hotel. This was probably our only opportunity to celebrate Mass just with our group, and how fitting that it be on the feast of the patron of pilgrims. After Mass, we set out on our buses for Wadowice, the home town of St. John Paul II. 

Basilica of the Presentation of Mary, Wadowice

The original plan was just to visit the town briefly, pray in the church where St. John Paul was baptized, and see the house that he lived in from the outside. But, again thanks to the good work of our guide, we were able to procure tickets to the St. John Paul II Museum in the building where the pope’s family lived right across from the parish church. The museum preserves the family apartment where he was born and lived until he was in his teens, plus several other exhibits in neighboring apartments that chronicle his life and ministry. It was a truly moving experience to walk through the story of this great man’s life beautifully told in the building where he lived. Because so many people wanted to visit this museum this week, we had to wait about 2 hours until there were tickets available – so that gave us time to explore the city, eat dinner, enjoy the famous Pope’s Cake – kremovka – and visit the Basilica of the Presentation of Mary. St. John Paul’s home parish church contains the baptismal font where he was baptized and an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help that he often prayed in front of. Many in our group said a prayer for Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis in front of this icon, because he, too, has a special devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

When St. John Paul II first returned to his native Wadowice after being elected pope, he went first to this parish church and venerated the font where he was baptized. He recognized the day of his baptism as the most important day of his life. We, too, venerated this font to remember the disciple of Christ who was called and chosen by God in baptism and lived out that baptism as a disciple for the world, shining as a light to lead others to the God who loves us all. Pope Francis has often asked people to celebrate the day of their baptism and even make a pilgrimage to the font where they were baptized to recall that important day in each of our lives. In doing so, we are also following the example of this Saint who was Poland’s gift to the world.

World Youth Day 1 – Prague

The 64 members of our college and young adult pilgrimage group from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis all arrived safely in Prague last night – the first stop on our way to Krakow for World Youth Day. We spent today touring this beautiful city of hundreds of spires and towers, certainly one of the jewels of Europe. It was a day of a lot of walking to try to see as much as possible – Prague really can’t be seen in a day, but we did out best to hit the highlights! Among the stops were the Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, the Municipal House, Charles Bridge, St. Nicholas Church, the Prague Castle, and St. Vitus Cathedral. 

We joined the English language noon Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Victory, which houses the miraculous original statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. To our delight, Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth, Minnesota, was presiding at that Mass, which included World Youth Day pilgrims from the United States, the Philippines, India, and other places. This was our first real preview of World Youth Day – the church was so packed full of people that most of our pilgrims were sitting on the floor or on the steps of the sanctuary. Following Mass, we were able to spend time in prayer in front of this miraculous and well-known statue of the Infant Jesus. Chances are there might be a repilca of this statue in a church near you!

Infant Jesus of Prague at Church of Our Lady of Victory

This afternoon, we learned about and prayed at the tombs of the most notable of Prague’s canonized Saints – especially St. Wenceslas and St. John Nepomucene – who are both buried at St. Vitus Cathedral, along with the namesake of the Cathedral, St. Vitus, who was a martyr from Sicily. St. Wenceslas is the same Good King Wenceslas from the Christmas carol – he was a generous and faithful count of Bohemia a thousand years ago who was killed by his jealous brother. St. John Nepomucene is known as the Martyr of the Confessional because he refused to break the seal of confession on order of the king, who wanted to know the secrets his wife had confessed to St. John. The king had him tortured and killed and then thrown off the Charles Bridge in Prague.

Tomb of St. Wenceslas at St. Vitus Cathedral

We are now back at our hotel for a bit of rest before dinner, then I imagine many in the group will head back into the city for the evening. Tomorrow morning, we depart Prague and head toward Krakow, with a stop in Wadowice, Poland, the home town of St. John Paul II.

On the Pilgrim Journey to Krakow

As I lay awake during our first night sleeping on a hard, marble classroom floor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2013, I thought to myself: “I’m never doing this again.” A couple nights later, my thoughts changed to: “I’d do this again if we can stay in a hotel.” By the end of that week, my mind was made up: “If I ever get a chance, I’m definitely doing this again.” This happens again next week – the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day, an international gathering of young people with the Holy Father for prayer, catechesis, and fellowship.

Krakow Main Square

Krakow Main Square

Rio was my first experience of World Youth Day, and it came with many challenges and sacrifices – not just the marble classroom floor that we slept on for a week or the cold showers in toilet stalls, but also the vast crowds and limited services, the disorganization and lack of good communication that are probably inevitable when you gather 3.5 million people in one place.

But then there were all the extraordinary graces and moments of encounter with God and fellow seekers. The powerful silence of 3.5 million people in prayer during Eucharistic Adoration. The solidarity of joining with and meeting young disciples of Jesus Christ from all over the world. The joy of life shared by so many young people. The community of faith that is formed and sustained by Word and Sacrament. The challenge to once more take up our mission to spread the good news in a world of brokenness and chaos. The exuberant hospitality of the Brazilian people, certainly some of the most kind-hearted people I have encountered.

One of our pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis called it a “beautiful disaster.” And here we are, headed there again – to World Youth Day, that is, but in a different locale. This time, the young Church will gather in Krakow, Poland, City of Saints – St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Stanislas, St. John Cantius, St. Hedwig, and so many more. This time, the pilgrimage group from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is more than 170 strong – much larger than the 35 people we had with us in Rio. And as much as these days make me reflect back on my last World Youth Day, I also know that each experience stands on its own. Krakow is not Rio. 2016 is not 2013. But Jesus is the same, and people from all over the world are journeying to Krakow to encounter him in the Sacraments, in the Word, and in the Church gathered together in a way that is unparalleled at any other events.

One of the groups from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is leaving today, with a stop in Rome first before heading to Krakow. The group I am traveling with leaves on Friday with a stop in Prague and then Wadowice, Poland, the home town of St. John Paul II. Pray for safe travels, and I hope to post updates as I can throughout the pilgrimage!