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WYD 2011: As I sang the Gospel in front of the Pope and half a million youth I saw that the Church is alive

When the Holy Father blessed me, I saw his deep generosity and care for the Church

By on Friday, 19 August 2011

Benedict XVI blesses Deacon James Bradley in the Plaza de Cibeles (Mazur/

Benedict XVI blesses Deacon James Bradley in the Plaza de Cibeles (Mazur/

Just under a month ago I was having supper with a friend when a text message arrived from Fr Stephen Langridge. “James,” it said, “I’ve arranged for you to read the Gospel at the welcoming ceremony for the Pope at WYD. Let me know if that’s a problem.”

Once I had regained consciousness and got back up on my chair, I replied that I would be more than happy to help and yesterday evening, here in Madrid, that amazing opportunity became a reality.

After hours of liturgical rehearsals, sound checks and walk-throughs I thought I was more than ready for the liturgy, but I’m not sure that anything would have adequately prepared me for the sheer joy which echoed around the streets of the city.

As the papal entourage entered Plaza de Cibeles, more than half a million young adults from five continents erupted with cheers of welcome: “Viva! Viva!.” Faithful to the Church, hungry for Christ, and with a deep respect for the papacy, the volume showed just how vibrant and alive the Catholic Church is among the young, and especially how much they love and revere Pope Benedict.

After a welcome from the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid, the Holy Father was presented with gifts from around the world before introducing the Gospel itself. As the Alleluia began, the Book of the Gospels was led by candles, palms and olive branches onto the platform.

Somebody asked me what struck me when I asked the Holy Father for his blessing. All I can really say is that I recognised immediately the genuineness of his generosity and care for the Church. This is something we have all seen in his exemplary renewal of the liturgy and his offer of corporate reunion for Anglicans, not in some distant sense but in a real and tangible way. He is truly a shepherd and pastor and his very person emphasises that.

That sense of unity, and with particular reference to my own new ecclesial situation, was evident too in the providential Gospel text (as Dylan Parry has pointed out). As the Pope’s homily highlighted, we are challenged to build our lives on Christ, within and through his Church; “planted in Jesus Christ; firm in the faith”. It is my prayer that the erection of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham enables others to embrace that call in the fullest possible way.

After the Holy Father had departed for the nunciature, a priest told me that I should think about the experience often, remembering that God had used my voice to let millions hear his word. I know all too well how unworthy I am to fulfil that task myself, but to have assisted in this way – with and alongside the Holy Father and in the presence of so many faithful young Catholics – will always help me to remember that it is with and through Christ and his Church, in full communion and peace with the Rock of Peter, that the work of the Gospel is carried out; may many others respond to his call.

Deacon James Bradley is a transitional deacon of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and is in Madrid with the Quo Vadis? vocations exploration group, coordinated by Fr Stephen Langridge.

  • Anonymous

    Hi James, congratulations on such a great honour. Wow, it must have been amazing. It is also great to see that the Holy See and the Pope are supporting the Ordinariate so publicly. This can only be applauded. I will keep saying the Prayer for England!  Great stuff!!!!

  • Sue Bradley

    Well done, it was a truly amazing sight to see so many young people,showing their love for the Holy Father and the Church. We are so proud of you, and can only see each time we see you taking part in your chosen life, how much you are meant to be doing what you are.

    Sue & Nigel Bradley

  • Natalie

    Congratulations! I am a young parish cantor and it would be my dream to sing for the Pope at a WYD, I can only imagine how you must be feeling right now. I was very touched by what you wrote about how God had used your voice to let millions hear his word – what a privilege for you and a memory you can always treasure and take great joy in. God Bless You. Your experience and your words are inspirational to me, may God continue to work in such wonderful ways in your life. Enjoy the rest of your time in Madrid!

  • The Licensed Fool

    Congratulations. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have felt like. Wow.

  • Anonymous

    How wonderful. I wish you well on your path to Priesthood.

  • Kathleen

    Perhaps this might “encourage” Archbishop Collins of Canada to stop dragging his feet, and to get our Anglo-Catholic Ordinariate on the road.  Canadians, too, look forward to worshiping The Lord under Rome’s authority, and under The Holy Father’s Directive.  Many of Canada’s Roman Catholic Bishops have brought disgrace to the Catholic Church, especially since the Winnipeg Conference, with their disgusting disloyalty and liberality.  Now that the Anglicanorum Coetibus has been established, there should be no reason in the world for the delay.  Many of the current Roman Catholic Bishops we have in Canada have left us with a very bitter taste in our mouths, and when we see the blatant disrespect for The Holy Father, and the childish foot-dragging because they fear the more traditional Rite to which the Anglo-Catholic priests adhere.  Could their problems be based upon the fact that they will be more closely scrutinized by the Church in matters of doctrine and behaviour, and that they will not have authority over the TAC Bishops and priests.  

    The hideous scandals that have been rocking My Church only emphasize what Jesus said in that The Gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church.  Quite frankly, from what I have been hearing from my fellow Roman Catholic Parishioners throughout Canada, most Bishops are neither trusted nor believed.  They are tolerated only through obedience to The Lord, and His Word.  As we are all well aware, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  God is raising up a new army, Holy Unto The Lord, and I, for one, welcome them with open arms.  Praise the Lord for His unchanging Fidelity to His children.

  • D Stables

    I was in Madrid too -; I wrote this article based on the events and would appreciate any feedback. Thank you.

  • André Delvaux

    Dear deacon James,
    I have seen this ceremony on Internet (You Tube) with admiration for your attitude of reverence and deep godliness towards the Gospel. Before so many young people, you have sung a plain and joyful proclamation of the words of our common Lord. My congratulations on your spiritual journey and my best wishes for your futur,
    André Delvaux (76)

  • J Berkley

    Buen Camino!

  • Reno Leigghio

    Congratulations of been able to carry out a great honour.