We have come to worship him
John Paul II said about the Three Magi, ‘They set out… with courage, taking unknown roads and undertaking a long and hard journey.’ Like the Three Magi we, representatives of young people from all over Poland, set out in August 2005 to the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne to seek Christ. On 3 August, our pilgrims’ community of about 120 people, led by Fr Piotr Pilsniak, began cycling to the meeting with Benedict XVI. Our departure was preceded by Mass presided over by Bishop Adam Smigielski. The cyclists’ pilgrimage was part of the celebrations of the Polish-German Year. Thanks to that initiative we could contact German youth and expressed our desire to live in the unity of the community of nations. Preparing that endeavour I had doubts all the time whether I had taken a right decision. It would be 3,000 km of cycling in rain, heat or wind. But my doubts were soon dispersed after having covered the first stage of the tour. Then I was sure that I had taken a proper decision.
Our way to Cologne was filled with numerous cultural celebrations and meetings with the highest local authorities of German cities. But prayer was the priority in this intense schedule. After 10 days of travelling in rain and two days of rest (in Prague and Schwalbach) we reached Cologne. Among other things we visited the cathedral where we had the chance to pray at the relics of the Three Magi Kings. It is them that are to remind us of strong human desire to hear God and find God in his Son. Our stay in Cologne was an extraordinary experience. We were impressed by the countless crowds of young people from distant parts of the world. All of them were walking along streets, singing, chanting, dancing and enjoying themselves. It was amazing that the language barrier, political feuds or racial differences had no meaning. The young people who came for the World Youth Day were one big family that wanted to testify to their faith. During our stay in Cologne we took part in many services, prayers uttered in various languages, teachings, the Way of the Cross, concerts and festivals. The opening ceremony of the World Youth Day was held on 17 August. During the opening Archbishop Meisner said, ‘Now we have the Youth Meeting in which two Popes will participate. The first one is John Paul I who invited young people and nowadays he will be looking down ‘from on high’. And the second Pope who is in office Benedict XVI…’ Those words were enthusiastically applauded by those gathered in the square. In spite of the absence of our beloved John Paul II we felt his presence at every place. You could also hear young people chant, ‘Giovanni Paulo subito santo!’ at every prayer meeting or when the teachings referred to the thought of John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI referred to him as well. The sight of numerous Poles gathered at the picture of the Holy Father, our fellow countryman, was extremely moving. We used to meet before the cathedral at 9.00 p.m., holding lit candles and singing the Appeal of Jasna Gora, the beloved song of the Pope ‘Barka’ and other songs. That spontaneous prayer was to express our homage to John Paul II, our gratitude for the World Youth Day and his almost 27 year old pontificate. The culmination was the meeting in the vast Marienfeld (Mary’s Field). On 20 August there was a vigil with the Holy Father Benedict XVI. It consisted of two parts: the liturgy of the Vespers and the Eucharistic adoration. After the night spent in the field we greeted the next day with a morning prayer. Then we participated in Mass celebrated by Benedict XVI. Our time in Cologne flew quickly but certainly each of us had the time to reflect on many things, to think about our faith is and who we were as human beings, especially considering the relationships with our neighbours. We left Cologne on 23 August. Our return journey was of unique character; it seemed to me that we got close to one another.
The crowning of our cyclists’ pilgrimage, i.e. welcoming in the market square in Olkusz and thanksgiving Mass in the local basilica, was moving. At such moments you forget your fatigue, discomforts, weaknesses that occurred during the tour sometimes. Extreme emotions were evident. On the one hand, there was joy of returning to your family after an absence of one month and on the other hand, there was immense regret that those wonderful retreats with Lord God on bikes were already over.