Along with the celebration of Palm Sunday, today is the day the Church celebrates World Youth Day.  While World Youth Day is celebrated on an international level every two or three years, annually it is to be celebrated on a diocesan level.

At the Holy Father’s Mass this morning at St Peter’s Square, youth from around world played an important role.  The World Youth Day cross was passed from a delegation of Australian youth to a delegation of Spanish youth.  Youth carried the large palm branches in procession, lectored, brought up the gifts, etc.

The Holy Father appears to be wearing the same vestments as last year, and flanked by his Master of Ceremonies and another emcee (an American!), same as last year, it almost seems as if I’m having an out-of-body experience a year later.  

So we begin Holy Week, the most sacred time of the year.  Make it count!

A neat Roman tidbit about Palm Sunday at St. Peter’s:  The obelisk in the middle of St Peter’s Square was moved to its present location in 1586, when it was brought from it’s 1st century location, 275 yard southwest.   It took an entire year to complete the feat, which included large pulleys, horses, levers, and lots of strong men.   The day it was positioned upright in the middle of the square was a tense day — what if something went wrong and the 13th century BC Egyptian obelisk was harmed?  The Holy Father ordered a strict silence while the process took place– anyone who spoke would be executed.  

A soldier from a Bordighera, a northern coastal town near Genoa, saw that the obelisk was slipping.  A sailor by trade, he knew the remedy to the problem– and, risking his very life, yelled, “Water on the ropes!”   It was done, the obelisk saved, and our sailor was rewarded — not with death, but with the honor that his hometown could supply all the palms for the Pope’s Palms Sunday Mass.  The tradition continues to this day.

Have a blessed Holy Week!