PEOPLE asked me before I left for World Youth Day in Cologne if I was excited about going to see the Pope.
I was thrilled at being one of the successful applicants for a Sisters of Charity Scholarship to attend the event, but I was unsure of what to expect.
As it turned out, of the many profound spiritual experiences I encountered during World Youth Day, being chosen as one of 15 young people from Australia to sit on stage with the Pope for the final Mass was one of the most significant.
Initially, a huge sense of being completely unworthy of this opportunity overwhelmed me.
This is because I did not really know this man as others in my pilgrim group knew and loved him.
The only Pope I had every known was John Paul II. Surely there was someone more worthy of this honour?
I had never felt so humbled before and it moved me to tears.
I had come to World Youth Day to search for a sense of personal mission, and I had certainly discovered answers to that over and over during the week.
But this final experience worried me, as I didn’t feel the “holiness” that I thought one should feel before they shared a stage with the Pope.
Well my prayers were answered the night before at the vigil, when I listened to this new Pope speak to the young people of the world – to me – in a range of different languages.
I was struck by how he reacted with love to this crowd of young people, and how they all reacted to him.
They were in awe that he had travelled so far and was making an effort to be in communion with them, and were so obviously grateful of this.
I couldn’t help but feel a deep respect and affection for this man who, above all, was chosen by God.
For the first time I saw him as just a man who loved God, and for the first time I was excited about the prospect of being closer to him.
Despite the freezing cold, I was excited walking on to that stage in the early hours of Sunday morning.
From afar I spotted ABJB (Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane) and I was so relieved to see him, a fellow Queenslander!
He was the one who pointed out that I was the only pilgrim from Queensland on stage and how special that was.
My husband and I had travelled on the Sydney pilgrimage (although we are born and bred Queenslanders!), and since the 15 to represent Australia on stage were taken from the Sydney pilgrimage only, I guess I was only there by mistake!
Being on the same stage as the Pope was incredible. At times I was only 10 metres from him!
I feel so blessed to have been a part of the monumental experience that is this Pope’s first World Youth Day Mass as I am able to share the uniqueness of that experience with people back home.
My favourite part of the Mass was in his homily: “I know that you as young people have great aspirations, that you want to pledge yourselves to build a better world.
“Let others see this, let the world see it, since this is exactly the witness that the world expects from the disciples of Jesus Christ.”
The final Mass on World Youth Day was the first opportunity to speak to who will be the next generation of Catholics to influence the world, and I guess it was the first opportunity where we were really listening.
I want to thank all those family, friends and workmates who prayed for me and supported me in this journey, and to the Sisters of Charity for this wonderful opportunity.
Tammie Addley is president of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) in Brisbane and an occupational therapist at Mt Olivet Hospital, a Sisters of Charity organisation.
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