The Rome event reviewed by Chris Padget.

World Youth Day, Rome

We arrived in Rome, Italy, on 10th August. The whole trip was initially negotiated by our record company Pamplin Music and Gaylord Entertainment, which primarily was Word Records, and the Italian hosts. Scarecrow And Tinmen were selected to be part of a show that would be hosted by Word, which would take place on the 17th in the Piazza De Papolo on a stage they had provided. We also had a friend who gave up his slot on the 19th, offering to sing with us our song "You Are My Son", during the vigil event in which two million people would be present. So we were prepared as much as possible by packing tons of stage clothes, cameras, phone cards, film and whatever else we could shove in our suitcases, and with passports in hand we began the journey of a lifetime. The first thing that was a surprise on arrival was the carts to put our luggage on were free. In the States they were a couple of bucks. It was like a plethora of helpful mini carts were there for us to utilize; I knew we'd love the country. The elevator at the airport was unusually small and it was a bit odd trying to find where we were to head in order to leave the airport, since none of us spoke any Italian. We had rented a mini van for the 10 days we would be in Rome and the vehicle was a gas. It was so tiny for a mini van . truly it was mini. In fact, all of the vehicles were seemingly premature automotives; the smart car was great! We had grabbed a map of the city which in all reality was practically useless. I have to say that Rome is so unique in that when driving we always needed a fulltime driver to watch and weave through the chaotic traffic, and another fulltime navigator trying to keep a bead on where we were and were not. It was exhausting at times to realise we'd successfully gotten lost again even though we'd been following the map as close as we could. The first evening we had dinner by our hotel and the food was wonderful. The wine was carbonated which was interesting, and whenever we ordered water we needed to specify if we didn't want any gas in it. We, of course, had a bit of jet lag, but we put in a good evening of looking about, even that first night. There was a beautiful castle we visited which had fair booths and vendors surrounding it, where men and women sang opera and you could hear at different areas piano men singing tunes to small crowds. Since we were there so long we spent a lot of the first week site seeing. Around the 15th August Rome became more and more infested with people. By that time we'd already visited the Catacombs, countless churches, the Coliseum, St Peter's Basilica, the Trevi Fountain and most of the major sites. This was helpful because from the 16th on we ended up playing at a few more events than we'd initially expected. Our friend Bruce Deaton, who opened his slot up for us on the vigil day, the 19th, was also able to include us in assisting him with worship during Mass following the American Catechetical session at St Paul, outside the wall. This was where St Paul's tomb is as well as St Timothy or Titus. There were about 7000 kids there and funnily enough we knew some of them because our band had done quite a few diocesan youth rallies over the last few years and there were kids present there from those events. After doing that show a lady invited us to come and play at a hotel with a bunch of Catholic artists and that was an unexpected blessing. We met a lot of people there we'd known and some new folks too who really fell in love with our music and ministry. On the 18th we practised at the Tor Vergata for the vigil which would be held on the 19th. The stage was enormous and final preparations were being added with landscaping and the like. There had already been installed countless fountains for the masses to drink from, as well as a magnificent amount of port'o'potties. So we practised and actually ended up getting to be the band with another artist that day named Tom Booth, who has played before at World Youth Days (Denver), and had the privilege of writing a song for and singing to Mother Theresa before she died. On the 19th we arrived pretty early and there was already a sea of people present. Most had spent the night out in the fields after walking six, seven miles to get there - there was no driving up and parking. The day was hot and you could see water trucks spraying the masses to keep people cooled down. The event went all day long . we played at 12.45pm with Tom Booth and then our slot with Bruce Deaton was at 3pm. At 5pm things stopped for a few hours until the Holy Father arrived, and then the fun really began. I say fun because that is what happened. It was cooling off by then and people had been waiting all day for the vigil to begin and when the moment arrived for the event to get fully underway with the Pope's arrival it was breathtaking. There were 117 different countries present and two million young people celebrating their faith after sleeping out in the dirt all night long, having walked miles on end. There was no complaining though, and to see this sea of kids celebrating their faith and enjoying their place in it all was an amazing privilege to be part of. The man next to me was from Italy, next to him was a man from Chili. In front of us were people from the Ivory Coast, and just in front of them people from Cambodia I think it was. Behind us were folks from France. This was not a rock concert nor a time of social or political division. This was not a moment of fashion statements nor intellectual arrogance. This was a tangible moment of historical unity. To see this many kids together cheering the message and the messenger, rejoicing in the challenge to be modern saints, embrace suffering by the power of Christ's resurrection, and to have been in the crowd; it was overwhelming. One of the opening ceremonies had pictures (icons) of the apostles projected onto the wall of the stage. The announcers (four of them, each speaking in a different language - English, Italian, French and Spanish) would tell the story of where these apostles missionised, their martyrdom was told too and it was pretty impressive as a whole. But what really moved me was to see individuals with bowls of fire walk up to the stage . each a representative from the country where the apostle had missionised 2000 years ago, and in essence stand beneath the icon saying thank you from a nation who'd been the recipient of that man's obedience to Christ's call to go into the world and make disciples. It made me cry to see in essence a physical representative from that country having been visited so long ago, in reality saying thank you for a nation. WOW! When I went to the Catacombs it was very moving as well in that I saw the beginnings of our faith, and walked through the tunnels which had been tombs and meeting places for the early believers. To see scratched in tomb stones requests from these early believers to St Peter and Paul to pray for them (though they'd passed on earlier), it was beautiful to see how connected we were then and now to this history of serving and dedication to Christ. I was challenged in my faith, wondering if I'd been as brave as these early followers were.

In Rome everywhere you turn there is something historical. There is so much to see and experience, especially as a Catholic. And for all Christians this is part of our faith and to see it and drink it in one cannot ignore such visible proclamation of all that Christ did during that time. The churches there were pretty much all beautiful. During this time services were held in tons of churches in various languages. We went to an Italian mass, and one day happened in on a service which was for the French. The music that was sung by the choir and the people was overwhelming. One of the guys in our party said that it was the most beautiful thing he'd ever heard. We sat in a seamless union, music which reflected an awesome God. A perfect rhythm between the participants and the ministers (choir and clergy). We celebrated with these believers though we didn't know most of what they spoke or even sang. It was wonderful.

One thing that happened was we ran out of money too soon. So we ended up swapping our CDs and product for pizza. It was a beautiful thing to bring up one evening to the guys a couple pizzas after having had only one meal the whole day . it was practically a spiritual experience. We ended up okay in the end, but that was a bit of a challenge for a time. Once we were overseas our cell phones didn't work and the only way we could contact home was to have them call our hotels at certain times (six hour time difference) and then hope to say hi to our loved ones and catch up on pressing business matters - which had pretty much come to a grinding halt during our trip. One business matter was how to transfer money over there (our credit card had maxed out). This wasn't easy either, and in the end God was merciful and some folks helped out and we ate. The phone card exchange rate was bizarre too, in that we purchased in the States these 90 minute phone cards and they were used up in a 15 minute conversation, practically. Small things, but worrying about money or trying to cal home can be somewhat nerve wracking when all the normal ways of dealing with problems are unavailable, and add to that a language barrier. Other observations were everyone drinks from fountains located all around the city. The general fashion designs are different in that Americans seem to wear more clothing. Trying to figure out how to turn our lights on the first day at the hotel was comical in that all we needed to do was insert our key into the slot . duh! Trying to figure out how to flush the toilet in some areas was not as easy as we'd have expected. And Rome seemed to be a smoker-friendly city. Everyone smoked pretty much anywhere they wanted. In the States there are designated smoking areas, in Rome all areas are a go. The red light means nothing. Stopping, yielding, and any other traffic check is optional. You'd have to do something really bad to get a ticket we determined in the end. It was interesting to see police officers holding machine guns/oozies with their fingers on the triggers - out in the public. We did eat at the McDonalds in Rome . not sure if I should mention that.

When it came to breakfast our hotel did the same thing every morning. I still would not be upset if I didn't have to have it again for years to come. They put out rolls and ham and cheese. There was coffee to drink (that was good) and syrupy, tangy orange stuff that was interesting . or you could have the banana syrup juice stuff . they weren't really juices from real fruit it seemed. They tasted like fruit syrup with water. For us breakfast was a priority though, in light of our food woes. We burped up ham all day. In the end I felt like I'd done all I'd wanted to and seen pretty much the sites I'd considered important. I had the joy of going to mass in St Peters, of seeing the Catacombs, the Coliseum, and seeing the Pope during the evening vigil on the 19th. I saw some old friends and met new ones. We were able to play for 7000 people at the catechetical session, 20000 kids at the Word stage (which went fantastic, and the response was incredible in terms of the crowd's participation), and two million kids in Tor Vergata on the 19th. I got to walk through a couple of Jubilee doors, see the Sistine Chapel, walked over the Tiber river; visit a ton of churches, go to confession in the church where the tomb of St Paul is, see the Holy Father live (which may be the only time I'll ever get an opportunity like that again), and eat real Italian food. I feel like I'll remember a ton of other things even after I close up this little note, but at least you get a taste of what it was like for us. We were blessed to have been a part of it and hope to bless others from what we've brought home with us. Spiritually, I made a trip as a pilgrim too. I came wanting God to speak to me and move in me, and I believe he did. I came wanting to make the most out of this Jubilee celebration as possible. I felt like God did awesome things in us individually but also collectively as a group. We'll remember in the end that there's no place like Rome.












The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.