GERMANY, By Maria Fischer •
Cologne on “Sunday, the only 31 July 2016, the day that will never be repeated”, the good-humoured train driver of the Rhein-Sieg Express announced at 12.23 p.m. to help his passengers get over their frustration because of the delay. “If we trust in God we will still catch the connecting train in Siegen.” At that moment those taking part in the pilgrimage on foot with “Trust in God” had been walking for more than an hour through heavy showers of rain through Cologne towards Brühl …
31 July: Cologne police on high alert
Since the early morning Cologne had been on high security alert. The Cathedral Square had more police than tourists, water cannon and ambulances were in readiness, and the streets and metro were closed. It was the day when a mass demonstration against the military coup in Turkey, along with countless protest demonstrations from groups on the political right and left, were expected. So the delayed arrival at the Schoenstatt shrine in Cologne included some experience of high security measures. The sound of hymns could be heard from the Elendskirche, but the entrance was locked, as was the side door to the church. The luggage of the pilgrims had been left in the quadrangle, hence the security measures. Thanks to Whatsapp and an unlocked mobile phone the gate was finally opened, but …
The locked gate, however, was the only thing that Sunday morning that remained of the uneasy feeling forming in the initiators of the project “Trust in God” when the mass demonstration was announced to take place on the long-planned day on which they were to set off on pilgrimage. The pilgrims met joyfully at the shrine in Cologne after strengthening themselves with a good breakfast. God could not have indicated more clearly the topicality of “Trust in GOD” than through the huge police presence on this day in a country still marked by the shocks of the terrorist attacks of the previous weeks. God often speaks through events. Sometimes he shouts.
31 July: Conclusion of World Youth Day
On the threshold of the Elendskirche it is still possible to see five somewhat faded yellow stars, and in the shrine the light with the symbol of the World Youth Day 2005 was still burning. In 2005 this shrine was the “Schoenstatt Centre” in the truest sense of the word for the youth who had come to the World Youth Day in Cologne. You can still see traces of it. At precisely the time the pilgrims gathered there on foot to be sent out on their way, Pope Francis was on the Campus Misericordiae near Cracow, with 1.5 million young people for the Holy Mass sending them out from the 31st World Youth Day. He told them: “Today’s Gospel speaks to us of just such a meeting between Jesus and a man named Zacchaeus, in Jericho (cf. Lk 19:1-10). There Jesus does not simply preach or greet people; as the Evangelist tells us, he passed through the city (v. 1). In other words, Jesus wants to draw near to us personally, to accompany our journey to its end, so that his life and our life can truly meet.”
After an extensive introduction in the Elendskirche, in which fifty years before Fr Kentenich had surprised the Cologne Schoenstatt Family by entering into a “covenant of love with God the Father” on behalf of the whole Schoenstatt Family, the pilgrims set off to do precisely that: to walk through the city in order to carry this covenant with the merciful Father onto the streets and to the people they would meet along the way; to encounter Jesus on the way, and to encounter Jesus in the parishes in which they were to be the guests that week.
31 July: Encounter through trust in God
At the end of the introduction, Fr Joachim Gayko – who had been asked at short notice to do so by Fr Hans Schnocks – blessed the pilgrims individually. On the move with God’s blessing, on the move while trusting in God, this colourful and varied group of pensioners, families, children and individuals, would mingle with one another in the course of their pilgrimage, until at the end they would arrive for Holy Mass in the Original Shrine in Schoenstatt that coming Saturday.
Three years of intensive preparation lay behind the members of the core team and many other teams when they set off briskly at exactly 11 a.m. Fr Gayko also set off quickly to his next appointment. The member of schoenstatt.org, who had only seen him from the church door dared with trust in God to wave to him and greet him, “Are you Fr Gayko?” Almost fifteen years before he had taken his first pastoral steps as a deacon and newly ordained priest in the parish of her brother, and the contact had remained. It was him, and although both were in a hurry to leave Cologne, they spent a few minutes together. The pilgrimage had started.
Fr. Joachim Gayko
More on the contents, ideas and development of “Trust in GOD”: www.gott-vertrauen.net (german)