I often struggle with what to write in this monthly Wel-com column but not this month. For this issue there is too much to write about.
The days of 17–20 June brought abundant blessings as the World Youth Day Cross and Icon travelled throughout the archdiocese. There were days with moments I will never forget—words, images, scenes, prayers that will live on in my heart. I know that many others had similar experiences.
We have been richly blessed to have had in our midst the powerful symbols of the Cross and Icon which helped us to pray and reflect on the mystery of the cross, and Mary the Mother entrusted to us. Somehow the words of Jesus, ‘Behold your mother’ (John 19:26) spoken from the cross took on new meaning as that icon stood day after day beside the large, simple, wooden cross. Pope John Paul II had great insight when he entrusted the cross to the youth of the world in 1983, and the icon of Mary in 2003. The Holy Father knew that we needed something to touch, something tangible to put our hands on and reverence, something which would remind us of the love of God made flesh, the incarnated God who was nailed to the cross.
In the few days these gifts were with us and yet in so many places, I watched as hundreds of hands reached out to touch the wood of the cross.
Perhaps some of the things I overheard are the treasures I will ponder in my heart.
As we walked in Nelson to the (geographical) centre of New Zealand in the dark evening and were asked to reflect in silence I heard one young boy say to another who was jostling him:
‘Keep quiet or go away, I want to think about God in my life.’
A mother reached out to touch the cross and said to her daughter, ‘I thought it would be cold, but the cross was so warm’; the daughter’s reply was, ‘Of course it is warm, think of the millions of hands who have touched that cross in prayer’.
Going into the gymnasium at St Bernard’s College, I heard the karanga welcoming these ‘Taonga Tapu’, these ‘sacred treasures’, and experienced something very sacred; I know that many hearts were touched.
As we walked through the streets of Wellington with St Catherine’s and St Patrick’s students I felt very proud of our students and knew that these young people were experiencing something that could not be put into words. They were caught up in the power of the cross. ‘The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save’ (1 Corinthians 1:18).
I sincerely thank those parishes, colleges, schools, organisations and individuals who did so much to welcome the Cross and Icon. My prayer is that the blessings of this journey continue to touch us all as we keep reflecting on the place of the cross and the presence of Mary in our lives. Remember this was not a fleeting visit that we ticked off as having done. We pray with the words of Jesus:
‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let them take up their cross every day and follow me’ (Luke 9:23).
‘Then to the disciple he said, “This is your mother”’ (John 19:27).
Archbishop John A Dew