I am back home after a really wonderful pilgrimage celebrating the twentieth World Youth Day. God again proved Himself to be a faithful and powerful God. Overcoming problems, transforming difficulties into graces, loading us with surprises, constantly teaching us that his plans are better than ours. He is awesome!
We had many challenges that we had to overcome. He did it all. Even the financial situation that, to put it mildly, was extremely critical, in some way or another was swept away!
We lost one passport, one luggage, two boys (just for two hours!), one airlines ticket, one coach broke down, one of us was really sick, quite a few twisted their ankles on our way back from the vigil, we slept very little… the normal hassles and difficulties of the pilgrim. And yet! And yet! The youth were so happy and enthusiastic… dancing (literally) their way through the journey. Pilgrimage has long been seen as a metaphor for life itself: a life filled with a succession of problems which all pale into insignificance as the journey ends at the celestial City.
We were 244! Coming from Guam, Saipan and Hawaii. Archbishop Anthony Apuron was with us all the way. “One searches God to find him with more sweetness, one finds him to search him with greater ardor”, Saint Augustine once said. This is what we wanted to do.
We told the youth only two things before we started. One, was the basic rule of the pilgrimage namely NOT to grumble, and secondly, to be prepared for the surprises of God. This put us in a very positive attitude all along. The youth edified me by their enthusiasm and fire.
In Manila we were greeted with leis; we felt like children of a King! The brothers were so kind and they prepared a wonderful program for us… A long flight through Brunei and Bahrain. Then in Europe, we had the opportunity and the gift to spend a full day evangelizing in Prague under the rain – so many tourists and local were just staggered at the joy of these youth. ‘Do not be afraid to announce the gospel on the rooftops’, Pope John Paul II said once. This is what the youth from Guam, Hawaii and Saipan !
In Krakow we had the chance to have a personal meeting with Archbishop Stanislaw, who was the secretary of the Pope all during his pontificate. We were in Auschwitz – how much pain. We celebrated the Eucharist in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy and Mother Superior handed a first class relic to the Archbishop. We celebrated another rousing Eucharist at the Infant of Prague Church.
And so on, and so on…
The meeting with the Pope was wonderful. The first time to meet this Pope! His speech was really full of Gospel fire.
“Obviously books alone are not enough. Form communities based on faith! In recent decades movements and communities have come to birth in which the power of the Gospel is keenly felt. Seek communion in faith, like fellow travellers who continue together to follow the path of the great pilgrimage that the Magi from the East first pointed out to us. The spontaneity of new communities is important…” said the Pope in a strong voice during the Vigil. The atmosphere at the Marienfeld with one million youth was electrifying.
The next day another climax with the meeting of Kiko and Carmen and Father Mario, the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way. 100,000 youths took part in the meeting, at which 50 bishops were present. “I always knew you were many, but I never realized you were so many!!!” Archbishop Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council of Laity told us. The kerygma was powerful. One of the most moving moments of the event was a procession, with an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, accompanied by 1,150 priests and students from Redemptoris Mater seminaries. Over 4000 youth expressed their desire to become presbyters or join a monastery.
I am now in Malta. The youth are still on the planes travelling the long journey back. I am sure they will arrive tired but energized to continue their adventure with Him who has proved Himself again so faithful. “Let us go forward with Christ and let us live our lives as true worshippers of God! Amen!” were the final words of the Pope in Marienfeld.
We all now know that real happiness consist in what the anonymous Russian described in the beginning of his book, A Pilgrim’s Way. “By the grace of God, I am a human person and a Christian; by my actions, a great sinner; by my condition as a pilgrim without a roof, of the lowliest species that goes wandering from place to place. My possessions are a sack on my shoulders with a bit of dry bread and a Holy bible that I carry under my shirt. No other thing do I have”.
“The strength of the pilgrim is his return” Cardinal Scola, Patriarch of Venice told us in Bonn… I am sure that God will prove again to be noble in our weakness.
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