World Youth Day Madrid 2011
Where do I begin?!
I’m back from the most unforgettable ten days of my summer 🙂
Let’s be honest – part of me thought that, at twenty-six, I was a bit old for World Youth Day, but Christ ALWAYS surprises.
WYD has been full of so many diverse experiences. One of the best things was our group: we had a group of 85 amazing, talented, generous and fun young people. They came from many different backgrounds, schools and universities, and it was beautiful to watch friendships developing over the week and the group becoming really close. On the one hand, WYD is an inspiring experience of the universal, worldwide Church. But on the other hand, our group shared a more intimate experience of the Church each morning – we were blessed to have our own chapel in the crypt of the church where we stayed, and here we had a half-hour meditation each morning, followed by Mass, and on some days, catechesis. For me, these were really worthwhile moments of the day – it ensured that World Youth Day was an interior experience for us, as well as the more dramatic, external, exciting experience…
It might seem incredible that, as one person in a crowd of 1.5 million, you can experience the personal call to conversion. You might think that in a crowd that size, you feel pretty anonymous and insignificant. But amazingly, the experience of World Youth Day is the opposite. I was aware, without a shadow of a doubt, that Christ had called each one of us personally to be there. He was intimately present to each young person’s heart, knowing and loving us more deeply than we know and love ourselves. That love is experienced too through the great love of the Holy Father for the youth, who stayed with us in the rain, who did not abandon us. The depth of the call to personal conversion definitely takes you by surprise – Christ wants total holiness from us, not mediocrity, nothing half-hearted. He showed the completeness of his love, and invites us to give our complete selves too.
Finally – the role of suffering in World Youth Day! Yes, the Holy Father offers a plenary indulgence to the pilgrims, surely because the sacrificial aspect is like Purgatory itself! One of the life-giving things about the penitential parts of World Youth Day is that you are all in this together. Nowhere have I felt this more than in Madrid. On the five-hour walk in blazing heat to Cuatro Vientos, there was a severe shortage of water and shade. When we arrived at Cuatro Vientos, there seemed to be even less water and shade and, to top it all, a shortage of toilets. And stampedes of people crushing together whenever you wanted to get anywhere. Several people in our group fainted. Extreme conditions bring out both the worst and the best in people. It humbles you, because you realise how much you need the people around you, and how much they need you. World Youth Day forces you to forget your independence, your needs, and the standards of comfort you expect in your normal life, and to stay in solidarity with others. You have a choice – either you can fight for your own needs over others; or you can let go and realise your solidarity with everyone else who shares the same needs you have.
I believe that somehow, this element of sacrifice and suffering heightens the joy that is characteristic of WYD. The same goes with sleeping on the floor and cold, communal showers for ten days – I am sure our group was closer and stronger because of these things.
Thank you, Holy Father, for being with us, for loving us! ESTA ES LA JUVENTUD DEL PAPA!!!