(Chloe Lopez-Tan, CFC SFL)

Words will never be enough to speak about how moving my experience in Spain was during the Days In the Diocese and the World Youth Day. I haven’t felt the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life as much as I did during my two-week pilgrimage. The generous and hospitable Spanish who took care of us in Sierra de Fuentes; the full-timers and mission volunteers I was with; the trip to Fatima in Portugal; the scorching heat, long walks and less than comfortable accommodations in Madrid; the Catechesis, the Masses, the “Pope-sightings,” the Vigil and other WYD events – all left an impact on me that compels me to remain firm in my faith even after I came home to Manila and everything is back to normal.

I never would have thought that by the end of the World Youth Day I would find myself very sad to say goodbye and immediately missing the people I spent time with in Spain. I’m not a missionary worker unlike most of the people I was with and I didn’t have anyone close to me before going there. I thought at first that I would often be left out. By the end of two-weeks, the CFC-FFL group truly felt like “home away from home.” We went through all the discomforts and all the deepest joys together, with a lot of jokes in between. It was like family. Not only did I gain new friends in the community, I also developed a deeper insight into loving God better because of them. They gained my admiration for their deep love and service for God and how they would go to the ends of the earth literally to evangelize others. It was refreshing and it made me want to have that same fire burning in me too for God.

I also gained another family with the friends we were with for six days in Sierra de Fuentes. The Spanish priest, elders and youth we were with were so dedicated in making us experience the best comforts and have a unique cultural experience in their village. They were so generous with their time and resources always feeding us more than we could eat, driving for us, touring us and taking time out of their regular routine to be with us. Most of them didn’t speak English but when it came to laughter, it was something we all shared and understood (after it had been translated). No matter the differences in our language and in our culture, both the delegates and the locals grew from being with one another. They told us that we are good examples of what Christians should be and that we inspired them when it came to faith. They, on the other hand, showed us what genuine hospitality and friendship between different races is about.

Of all the activities we had in the World Youth Day, the Vigil with the Pope touched me most. Here I felt God’s overpowering presence when He came in the form of strong winds and pouring rain. The rain was so unusual because it was a very hot sunny day in the middle of summer in Madrid. It hadn’t rained for days and all of a sudden when Pope Benedict arrived at 7pm, the skies darkened and raindrops started to fall. It was like a scene straight out of a movie. They said that every WYD, no fail it would rain during the Vigil with the Pope – really God’s way of saying “I’m here.” The experience was so touching that I couldn’t help but cry and find myself singing and swaying to the song “Yes Lord” all of a sudden. I really felt God’s love at that time.

Taking part in the World Youth Day made me feel proud and privileged to be a young Catholic Christian. I was one with so many other young people around the world who share the same faith and who love God too. I also realized and felt blessed to be a Filipino Catholic because I can openly practice my beliefs without being persecuted or oppressed. Because of the overwhelming experience and insights, I knew I had to do my part and share my experience in the WYD just like the Pope had asked.  I readily make kwento what I did in the WYD and how it renewed my faith whenever anyone asks me about it. Weeks after the WYD, everything still feels fresh to me and stays close to my heart. I am still just as inspired to persevere in my faith and to keep that “fire” burning in my heart to keep God within me. Firmes en la fe!

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