World Youth Day began in spirit for me when I boarded a plane in San Francisco July 11 for the last leg of my trip to Sydney and found myself seated in a row with Brazilian members of the Catholic movement Neocatechumenal Way, including a young priest. There were several other priests on the flight as well, along with their groups of teens, one of which were dressed in cowboy hats and red T-shirts identifying them as parishioners of a Texas church.
Upon arriving in Sydney, I would discover that was the norm for World Youth Day; groups typically carried their country's flag and wore national dress. The city's streets were like a living, Vatican-flavored "It's a Small World After All" display, with pilgrims from throughout the globe making processions, chanting praises accompanied by the inevitable acoustic guitar and tambourines. Having spent my college years in Greenwich Village, I usually assume that a distant tambourine means an approaching army of Hare Krishnas; not anymore.
[Jet-lagged ... must get sleep ... to be continued ...]