Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

WYD meetings with the Holy Father

Hello and welcome!

As I explained last week, I attended the World Youth Day events in Lisbon, culminating with a Saturday evening vigil and Sunday Mass at Parque Tejo.

At other World Youth Days, I have always done catechesis for the pilgrims. They were usually in a church, and there would be a couple hundred people, but this time the groups I had were huge, in the thousands. They asked me to give catechesis in Spanish, and since there were 70,000 Spaniards at World Youth Day, plus many people from Latin America,  they needed many large catechesis sessions.

On Friday, I had a catechesis in Spanish at São João de Brito. It was in a huge stadium that the Polish pilgrims were using alongside the Hispanic group. A group of friars was there, so I asked them to sing a little bit while we got things organized. I gave a catechesis, and then we had sort of an open mic, where we passed the microphone around and let people ask questions. It was very interesting, and they asked very good questions.

In my catechesis, I talked about the Eucharist. I referenced the story of the rugby team from Uruguay, whose plane crashed in the Andes. They were missing for three months and were presumed dead, but 19 survived by consuming the flesh of the ones killed in the accident. They said what gave them the courage to do that was Christ’s words, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you do not have life within you.” I talked about the Eucharist allowing us to survive, not just an airplane crash or cancer or a heart attack, but even death because Christ promises life everlasting.

After the Mass, one of the priests who was concelebrating came up to me and said he was from the school the team had attended, a Christian school run by Irish Christian brothers in Montevideo. All the students from that school came up. I was blown away!

There was also a group of young people from Costa Rica helping to organize. It was a wonderful experience, as all of the “Rise Up” sessions were.

After that was the Via Crucis.

On Saturday, we had a Mass for our Boston group in the Church of Our Lady of Fatima. There were a couple of Lithuanian bishops who concelebrated with us and several Boston priests.

After that Mass, I went to the Capuchin Mass. Some of our friars and parishioners from Papua New Guinea were there. Our new archbishop, an Italian Capuchin named Francesco Neri, was just named an archbishop in June. Also, there were the present and previous Capuchin bishops of Saudi Arabia. One of their priests is Father Abishai Vase, who studied at St. John’s Seminary.

At the end of the Mass, I blessed the pilgrims, and the bishop blessed us with the relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis, who is buried in the Capuchin church in Assisi.

That night, we had the vigil with the Holy Father. It was very beautiful. They had some testimonies from young people from different parts of the world.


For me, the most impressive part was the Eucharistic adoration and the profound silence of the people during that period.

The Holy Father was very animated in his talks. He was very interactive with the young people, something they tried to encourage this year. He certainly pointed out the way how to do that.

I was pleased by how well he looked because it was very hot, and he was driving around in the popemobile in the blazing heat, and it didn’t seem to faze him. You could see how energized he was by all the young people.

Sunday, we had the Mass with the Holy Father.


There was an interesting statistic from the Catholic University. They said they had documented young people participating from every country in the world except one. Even North Korea was represented.

Portugal is a country of nine million people, so to have a million and a half visitors in the capital was certainly very noticeable. So often during these World Youth Days, people are kind of in dread, thinking it will be like spring break at Fort Lauderdale when the kids come in and trash the city. Instead, they come filled with joy and faith and are so well-behaved. I am sure that many people were very touched by it.

On Monday, I joined Kiko Arguello, the co-initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way, for a vocational meeting. It was right on the water, and although it was a very hot day, there was a strong breeze, and that made it a wonderful setting.

It was a very impressive day. The patriarch presided. There were three major talks by Kiko, Father Mario, and Ascención.

To me, one of the most impressive parts, which they do every time, is when they bring the statue of the Blessed Mother.

Of course, this year, it was Our Lady of Fatima, followed by hundreds of priests who have graduated from Redemptoris Mater seminaries.

They said there were 75,000 people there, and that when they did the altar call for those considering priesthood or religious life, about 1,500 young men and 2,000 young women came forward. It was very impressive to see such large numbers, and that they could all fit on the stage.

I was encouraged to see Kiko so strong, leading music and speaking. It was a wonderful event.

On my way back to Boston I met pilgrims from St. James in Chinatown and St. Anthony in Everett.

And then, as I arrived at Logan Airport, I had the opportunity to greet some of the parents and parishioners who came to the airport to welcome them.

On Tuesday, once I was back in Boston, I had a visitor, Archbishop Charles Dufour, the retired archbishop of Kingston, Jamaica. He was visiting some of the retired Jesuits who had been missionaries in Jamaica.

He was the rector of their seminary back in 1985 when I was sent there as a visitator for the seminaries in Jamaica. I recounted that when I arrived at the seminary, I was met by armed guards at the door. I said to Archbishop Dufour, “Armed guards? There is nothing to steal.” He said, “Bishop, the gangs came in and at gunpoint took the wristwatches off of the seminarians.” During his visit, he told us that gangs are still a problem today in Jamaica.

He has been a bishop in all three dioceses of Jamaica: Mandeville, Montego Bay, and Kingston. After he retired from Kingston, they made him the administrator of Montego Bay. He’s done a lot of work in the prisons. He’s a very zealous priest and is still working very hard at about 85 years old. I want to be like him when I grow up!

He came with me to the St. Jean Vianney cookout at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary that evening. We had a wonderful gathering, with a great cross-section of young and senior priests. Father Brian Kiely is always so gracious, and Bishop Bill Murphy was visiting that day. We had vespers and then a lovely meal with the priests.


On Thursday, I celebrated the funeral Mass for Mary Travers at Sacred Heart Church in Cambridge. She had worked for 50 years cooking for priests in 20 different rectories, including here at the cathedral, where her son Bobby works. She was also very involved in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. She was like our guardian angel, a lovely, faith-filled woman.

I was happy to be able to celebrate the Mass, and Msgr. Kevin O’Leary preached. There were several people in her family that came from Ireland to join in the celebrations of her life.

Until next week,
Cardinal Seán